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Comic-Con 2011: What the Film Studios Are Planning (List)

Enough with the hand-wringing, already.

The last week or so has been stuffed with suggestions that the major studios are backing away from Comic-Con this year. The approach is always the same: Commentators pose the big question and then proceed to undercut the drama of the hypothesis by pointing out just how flabby it is -- or ignore it all together.

Yes, the failure of Universal's Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World after last year's CC push spooked a lot of people, and it's noteworthy that Marvel is not bringing The Avengers to San Diego (so it says), but otherwise it all comes down to scheduling -- of talent and filmmakers, productions and release dates. But that's hard for drive-by commentators to hang a headline on, and thus begins the slippery slope toward hyperbole.

Apparently it hasn't occurred to anyone that it also comes down to... bluffing. And a caginess on the part of studio marketing crews that is meant to leave room for genuine surprise and discovery. Just ask yourself: How many more attendees will suddenly rush to the Con if Marvel and Disney announce beforehand that the cast of Avengers will join writer-director Joss Whedon on stage in Hall H? None. Because they'll already be there.

Besides, events are still leaking as they are nailed down by studio organizers and sniffed out by reporters. As an example, Heat Vision broke the news that Paramount and Marvel are doing a special Captain America event with star Chris Evans that salutes the soldiers. And Legendary Pictures just unleashed a deluge of projects heading to Comic Con.

So below is HV's current rundown of what's happening, what may happen and what ain't happening. But... SPOILER ALERT: This list will change in the next two weeks...

DISNEY / DREAMWORKS

In Full Effect:

Fright Night (DreamWorks, August 19) fits the right promotional window and talent (Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin) is available.

Unh-Uh:

The Muppets (November 23) -- wrong crowd. Though Zoot from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem may just be there on his own.

Don't Be So Sure:

Both John Carter (March 9, 2012) from co-writer-director Andrew Stanton, with Taylor Kitsch starring, and Whedon's The Avengers (Marvel, May 4, 2012) could sneak something in, no matter what Disney is saying now. And DreamWorks' Real Steel (October 7) could punch its way in to play up the fighting robots from its family drama.

Not Yet:

Frankenweenie (October 5, 2012) from director Tim Burton and writer John August, The Lone Ranger (December 21, 2012) from director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny DeppOz the Great and Powerful (March 8, 2013) from director Sam Raimi and Iron Man 3 (Marvel, May 3, 2013) from co-writer-director Shane Black are too far out to have footage. Although that doesn’t mean Depp couldn’t show up in character as Tonto the way he did at Disney’s own fan convention, D23, last August. (He also turned up as Captain Jack Sparrow two years ago to hawk the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie even before shoting had begun.)

FOX

Highly Likely:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August 5) needs the momentum and fits the window perfectly. Unfortunately, star James Franco won't be there because he's filming (younger brother Dave will be, though, for Fright Night), but the studio isn't going to miss this opportunity. Andrew Niccol's In Time (October 28) is an equally likely candidate -- for its young cast (Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde), its sci-fi concept and its need to overcome the fact that the film's had three different titles before landing on the weakest and vaguest.

Unh-Uh:

The studio says Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22, 2012) won't be making an appearance. Though they have footage already, we believe them.

Don't Be So Sure:

George Lucas' 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (February 10, 2012) and Ridley Scott's Prometheus (June 8, 2012), co-written by Damon Lindelof, seem like sure things for this crowd and could sneak in. Lucas definitely needs the goodwill, and the shrouded-in-mystery Scott project is primed for a nice tease to pump up curiosity (he just plugged it a bit at CineEurope). Speaking of CineEurope, James Cameron previewed 15 minutes of his 3D conversion of Titantic (April 6, 2012) there, so he could slip the same or more into San Diego.

LIONSGATE

In Full Effect:

Conan the Barbarian (August 19) from director Marcus NispelWarrior (September 9) from director Gavin O’Connor and Abduction (September 23) from director John Singleton will all show up in force. Taylor Lautner will now be on hand to shill for Abduction and Twilight, and Dominic Cooper will be in San Diego to plug his violent Sundance drama The Devil's Double (July 29).

Don't Be So Sure:

Writer-director Boaz Yakin's Safe (October 28), which stars Jason Statham, could be there, as could Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods, which the studio picked up from MGM a few months ago. And even though the studio is denying that The Hunger Games (March 23, 2012), starring Jennifer Lawrence, will show, let's just say we find that decision very dubious.

PARAMOUNT

In Full Effect:

The Joe Johnston-directed Captain America: The First Avenger (Marvel, July 22) will be waving the flag around San Diego. And Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (December 23) will have a big presence since it has a lot of convincing to do (the studio is keen on explaining just how 3D motion capture was advanced for this project).

Unh-Uh:

Puss in Boots (DreamWorks Animation, November 4) isn't a great fit, even though DWA brought Megamind (which had a superhero plot) last year. Plus, they hawked the claws out of it at Cannes and CineEurope already. And the studio is saying that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (March 2, 2012) from director Tommy Wirkola and with Jeremy Renner starring is sitting CC out.

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Don't Be So Sure:

Just look at what Paramount has on the docket: The Martin Scorsese-directed animated adaptation Hugo Cabret (November 23); Tom Cruise and Renner in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (December 16) from director Brad Bird and producer J.J. Abrams; Abrams, Kurtzman, Orci and Lindelof again with a Star Trek sequel (June 29, 2012), though it's looking increasingly unlikely that the film will hit that date, and Jon Chu directing G.I. Joe 2: Cobra Strikes (August 10, 2012). Any and all of them have reason to play to the CC crowd. And we can't ignore the low-budget found-footage spookers Area 51 and Paranormal Activity 3 (October 21), which could slide under the door. With Avengers, M:i4 and Witch Hunters, Renner will pretty much own Comic Con this year if he shows up, though his publicist is saying that isn't going to happen.

SONY

In Full Effect:

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012) from director Marc Webb. Duh.

Unh-Uh:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21) from director David Fincher isn't quite the right fit. (And anyway, it doesn't need the help.) Same with Rod Lurie's remake of Straw Dogs (Screen Gems, September 16) and the animated Arthur Christmas (Sony Pictures Animation, November 23).

Highly Likely:

Attack the Block (Screen Gems, July 29) from writer-director Joe Cornish has screened well at several festivals, including the recent LAFF, and the studio is eager to get the word out. Underworld: New Dawn (January 20, 2012) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February 17, 2012), starring Nic Cage, are too obvious not to show and have dedicated CC fans. 30 Minutes or Less (August 12) from Ruben Fleischer also has potential appeal given its young, geek-oriented cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari).

Don't Be So Sure:

Colombiana (Stage 6, August 26), from the improbably named director Olivier Megaton and writer-producer Luc Besson, could use the bounce from a well-timed Zoe Saldana appearance (which could also help the Star Trek sequel). Men in Black III (May 25, 2012)? Who knows. But why not?

Not Yet:

Total Recall (August 3, 2012) from director Len Wiseman and Elysium (March 1, 2013) from Neill Blomkamp will be primed for teasing next year.

UNIVERSAL

In Full Effect:

Cowboys & Aliens (July 29). Jon FavreauRoberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Daniel Craig. It's like the Avengers of geek entertainment. Its premiere will take place Saturday night of the Con. The studio behind Scott Pilgrim is not exactly backing off.

Unh-Uh:

Even with Craig as star, Dream House (September 30) won't find a home there. Nor will Tower Heist (November 4) from director Brett Ratner, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, the studio's remake of The Thing (October 14) from director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and the Peter Berg-directed Battleship (May 18, 2012).

Don't Be So Sure:

The Rupert Sanders-directed Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1, 2012) is ripe for some Comic Con play even though it doesn't start shooting until mid-August. Stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemworth all have major superhero or other Con cred -- Twilight, Hancock, Thor/Avengers, respectively -- and the studio needs to get its version stuck in fans' heads to distinguish it from Relativity's forthcoming Snow White project (March 16, 2012). And what about Relativity's take? It just started shooting in Montreal and could decide to show up with some surprise force/footage. That would certainly fit the tit-for-tat back-and-forth between the competing projects thus far. 

Not Yet:

Hasbro's Untitled Ouija Project (November 9, 2012) from director McG47 Ronin (November 21, 2012) from director Carl Rinsch and Joseph Kasinski's Oblivion (July 19, 2013) are still in early stages. Then again, Ronin shot all Spring, so maybe we shouldn't be too sure it, or star Keanu Reeves, won't be there...

WARNER BROS.

In Full Effect:

Final Destination 5 (New Line, August 12) and A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (November 4) will be in the CC house. Guillermo Del Toro and his cast will pimp Pacific Rim (July 12, 2013), Jeff Bridges will talk about Seventh Son, director Alex Proyas and star Bradley Cooper will hawk Paradise Lost and screenwriter Mark Protosevich will discuss Mass Effect at a Legendary Pictures panel, though most don't even have a release date.

Unh-Uh:

The Steven Soderbergh-directed Contagion (October 21) won't be there, nor will Happy Feet 2 in 3D (November 18) from director George Miller.

Don't Be So Sure:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (January 27, 2012) and Clash of the Titans 2 (March 30, 2012) could all tease something. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012) doesn't really need the early hype, and director Christopher Nolan likes to keep tight control over how his movies are promoted, but it would be just plain fun to create a giant stir. Which any kind of footage or appearance (video or in-person) most certainly would.

Not Yet:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MGM, December 14, 2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (MGM, December 13, 2013) from Peter Jackson are too far out and don't really need the play. Jackson could, however, show up via video or in person since he's a major player in Paramount's Tintin, too.  And while it would be provocative to see something teased from Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (May 11, 2012) and Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Killer (June 15, 2012), they both are likely to miss San Diego by being both too late for this year and too early for next.

THE REST

Killer Elite (Open Road Films, September 23), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict, August 26), Lockout (FilmDistrict, February 24, 2012), Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (Dimension, August 19), Apollo 18 (Dimension, September 2), Piranha 3DD (Dimension, November 23), The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes (Dimension, January 27, 2012), Shark Night 3D (Relativity, September 2), Immortals (Relativity, November 11), Haywire (Relativity, January 20, 2012), The Raven (Rogue, March 9, 2012), Twixt (American Zoetrope, 2011), The Three Musketeers (Summit, October 14), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit, November 18), The Darkest Hour (Summit, December 23) and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing, September 30).

All in all, it doesn't exactly seem like the Convention Center will be abandoned.