Movie Studios Backing Out of Comic-Con: Is It Losing Hollywood Appeal?

Since starting with Screen Rant, I have personally been to two San Diego Comic-Cons - in 2009 and last year in 2010. (I've attended two NYC 'Cons as well, but that's a different story.) Ironically enough, my arrival on the scene came just in time to watch the problems start. The issue at hand: Studios were dropping serious bucks to parade their TV and film projects around a convention that was supposed to build groundswell support for said projects - support which would theoretically translate into ratings or box office success. Only that success was getting lost somewhere in translation.

Watchmen, Sucker PunchTRON: Legacy, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, HeroesFringe. These are the names of just a few movies and TV shows that had a heavy presence at the 'Con in the last few years - films and shows that were almost tailored-made for geeks, by geeks. Yet, those same films struggled to find critical and/or box office success when offered to mainstream audiences - even though they were eaten up by the crowds at the 'Con (Scott Pilgrim is well-chronicled as the most surprising and crushing example of this disconnect). The TV shows mentioned all had big debuts at the convention, only to later flounder in the ratings, despite the perceived support of a loyal geek community. In fact, in the last three years or so, one thing has become increasingly clear: Comic-Con is far from being the slam-dunk marketing investment that many studios hoped it would be.

scott pilgrim weak box office

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will re-state very briefly what I've already said in my article, "Should Hollywood Be Courting the Geek Demographic?" Speaking purely from a business-minded standpoint: Comic-Con is not exactly a safe or inexpensive investment for studios. Even when a movie is the belle of the ball at Comic-Con, the overwhelming support from geeks doesn't guarantee mainstream interest (see: Scott Pilgrim). Niche tastes are what make geeks... well... geeks - they like things a lot of other people don't. Secondly, just because a movie or a show has many geeky tropes built into it - superheroes, sci-fi, supernatural creatures and/or swords - it doesn't mean that the crowds at the 'Con will embrace it. In fact, backlash from the oft-fickle fanboy sector can doom a film before it even has a crack at the mainstream (see: the lukewarm reactions to Priest). Geeks can be merciless when it comes to tearing a film apart all over the Interwebs.

Of course, these assessments presuppose the notion that a studio's film is even one of the big attractions geeks are (literally) willing to stab each other to see. If a film doesn't even make a big blip on the Comic-Con radar, a studio can find itself in a half-filled convention room with little press coverage and millions in marketing and promotion already down the drain. When you think about it that way - Comic-Con as a potential high cost, low benefit investment - it makes sense that studios are starting to think twice about how much they want to spend (if anything) parading their films in front of the geek crowd.

Comic-Con will always hold appeal for sites like ours, which were borne of the very same tastes that drive people to go to Comic-Con - and report on those very topics to our fellow superhero and/or sci-fi enthusiasts. The 'Con is also a great opportunity for fans to get some well-deserved acknowledgement  from the powers that be in the comic book and movie industries. After all, it's largely geeks who have supported these characters and genres throughout the years, through good times, bad, clone wars and profit-driven retcons (DC, looking at you right now).

However, while there are certainly cases to be made for why bloggers and geeks deserve a "proper 'Con experience," unless Hollywood can find more effective strategies for turning their Comic-Con marketing and promotional investments into mainstream $uccess $tories, then don't be surprised if the bright lights, glitz and glamour of the San Diego Comic-Con International start to dim with each passing year. Before too long, Con attendees hoping to see that famous starlet may once again have to settle for a pale girl dressed in a homeade version of that starlet's iconic (and revealing) costume. Not that we're complaining ;-) .

The 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International will take place from July 21 - July 24th a the San Diego Convention Center. Be sure to keep up with all our coverage of the 'Con (this year and years past), by bookmarking our official Comic-Con Coverage Page.

Source: NY Times

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