The way film studios promote their biggest tentpoles is continuously evolving; and at last year's International Comic-Con in San Diego, there were signs that perhaps studio executives have begun re-thinking their strategies, when it comes to using the biggest annual Comic-Con event to build anticipation for upcoming movie releases. Jump to the present and Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn has indicated so much may be true, at least when it comes to Marvel Studios.
Marvel has generally put on a big show every year at the International Comic-Con in recent years, though the studio's SDCC 2014 presentation was more toned-down and devoid of major announcements. At the time, the studio had Joaquin Phoenix in negotiations to headline Doctor Strange (those talks eventually fell apart and the title role went to Benedict Cumberbatch instead) and was in the midst of working out other details for Phase III of its Cinematic Universe - not to mention, getting Ant-Man back on track after Edgar Wright stepped down as director. Ultimately, though, the Phase III dealings were not ironed out in time for SDCC 2014, which is why that event's Marvel panel focused solely on the final two Phase II movie installments.
Marvel Studios won't be attending SDCC 2015 at all, though; or at least, that's what Gunn (who is currently working on the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 script) said during a Q&A he conducted via his Facebook page (with MCU Exchange being the first to pick up Gunn's comments), saying "Marvel isn't going so I'm not sure I will either."
Truth be told, the idea that Marvel Studios might pass on Comic-Con this year doesn't require a huge stretch of the imagination. The studio essentially dominated the news cycle for a day in October last year, when it unveiled its Phase III movie release schedule during a special press event held at the El Capitan Theatre; and less than a month ago, Marvel made headlines most everywhere by announcing a deal with Sony to have Spider-Man be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios is successful enough right now that it can comfortably pass on working to compete for attention at the International Comic-Con and make its next major announcements at a different time/place instead. (And with Phase III all laid out, there aren't any "huge" announcements for Marvel to make right now, save for Spider-Man casting - which ought to happen well before Comic-Con this year, anyway.)
If Marvel Studio is passing on SDCC 2015, then the next major update on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might arrive during the 2015 D23 Expo in mid-August; the latter event might also be when Walt Disney Pictures does its major push for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. It's not a move that will be welcomed by the hardcore comic book and geeks attending Comic-Con - for whom the Marvel panel is one of the highlight (if not the highlight) of the convention. But again, just from a business perspective, it arguably does make sense for Disney to save its big guns for a different event (like D23), where they will be the main focus.
On the plus side, if Marvel Studios does end up passing on the 2015 SDCC, that leaves an opening that Warner Bros. and DC can then fill - and put on all the bigger and more attention-grabbing a show for their own Shared Cinematic Universe. Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will no doubt make a significant appearance at the 2015 'Con (since it opens in March 2016), but it's also plausible that the first footage from David Ayer's Suicide Squad - which will have begun production by then - could debut at the 2015 International Comic-Con.
Similarly, with the Wonder Woman solo movie set to begin shooting this fall, Jason Momoa's Aquaman having been officially unveiled, and the Justice League main cast having been officially confirmed save for the actor who's playing Green Lantern (who is expected to be revealed in the near future), there's enough going on in the DC universe to justify a whole panel itself during the 2015 SDCC. It could also be a great opportunity for WB/DC to follow Marvel Studios' lead and feature the entire Justice League squad together onstage - maybe even with future Shazam antagonist Dwayne Johnson - in Hall H.
Will it happen? And what exactly are Marvel Studios' plans for promoting Phase 2016 releases Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange this year (besides trailer marketing, etc.)? Only time will provide the answers...
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in U.S. theaters on May 1st, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17th, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6th, 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4th, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5th, 2017, Spider-Man on July 28th, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3rd, 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4th, 2018, Black Panther on July 6th, 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2nd, 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3rd, 2019 and Inhumans on July 12th, 2019.
"Marvel Cinematic Universe" artwork by ImWithStoopid13 @ DeviantArt