Comic-Con Anonymous: Are Fanboys Still Worth the Time and Money?

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This story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Here we go again, another July, another parade of movie stars and executives heading south to peddle their wares at Comic-Con. But before we all spend crazy money jetting in talent, booking lavish parties and crafting just the right teaser-trailer package, think for a moment: Is the Comic-Con crowd still the best audience on which to be blowing our marketing budget? A decade after Hall H became Hollywood's must-stop venue on the path to the multiplex, what if Comic-Con is sort of over?

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After all, many would argue that the people who attend every year would see a genre movie or superhero tentpole no matter what. And the rest of the moviegoing public increasingly doesn't care much whether the fanboys love or hate something. Three words: Cowboys & Aliens. Last year's toast of the Con flatlined at the box office.

Tron: Legacy? Disney teased the movie three years in a row to rapturous applause, and it still underperformed. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Green Lantern. Jonah Hex. Comic-Con hits, real-world flops.

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The Dark Knight? Biggest domestic gross of all time for a superhero movie, and it bypassed Comic-Con altogether. Preaching to a choir and spending what can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege might not be the best way to go. Especially since a big, splashy presentation has become far less special. It's now the norm -- hardly even a news event. After you fly in your A-list movie stars, put them up in a Hard Rock Hotel suite and pay their $2,000-a-day makeup person and stylist, is their 45-minute appearance going to translate into global ticket sales six or 12 months later? Probably not. Sure, there are examples of Comic-Con presentations that were followed by buzz and big box office (Avatar in 2009, Avengers last year).

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But you could probably still generate that same media attention from a strong trailer or viral campaign via a team of hardworking marketers and publicists. And less competition fighting for ink. Now, if studios want to support Comic-Con as a gift to the fans, good for them. But if they're trying to sell movie tickets -- and isn't that the point? -- save your money for a broader campaign. And may the force be with you.

Anonymous is a veteran Hollywood publicist who has attended Comic-Con for perhaps too many years.

 

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