Audiences at New York Comic Con this past week were spoiled for choice when it came to exclusive footage: Mortal Engines shared its first 25 minutes to launch its panel at Madison Square Garden; 13 minutes of Dark Phoenix and 22 minutes of Alita: Battle Angel were screened for fans by Fox at an off-site event; a Hellboy sizzle reel was shown that, it was vehemently declared ahead of time, will not be released online; and Sony decided that it was time to share the entire first act of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse publicly, months before the movie’s release.
That’s saying nothing of the television debuts at the four-day event, which included the first two episodes of DC’s Titans, the first episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and glimpses at The Umbrella Academy, The Boys and Good Omens, among other projects. There was, to put it mildly, a lot to see at NYCC this year — which was good news for the convention and those attending…but could there be downsides to this for other parties?
It’s worth pointing out that the amount of extended previews at NYCC this year is unusual; it’s not uncommon — indeed, just the opposite — for studios to present unseen footage or previews at San Diego Comic-Con or New York Comic Con, but those are traditionally individual scenes or, as in the case of Hellboy at NYCC, specially produced sizzle reels.
What was on offer at NYCC was a doubling-down — or ramping up, depending on your preference — of that idea, which has two obvious benefits for the studios involved: It adds buzz for the project (assuming the footage is well-received by the target audience, at least), and the mere potential of it happening again makes future panels for that movie, or merely from that studio, into more of a destination for fans and media alike. Certainly, Dark Phoenix and Spider-Verse’s footage were much talked-about on the New York Comic Con floor afterwards.
There’s a temptation to compare NYCC this weekend to this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, but it’s not a comparison that SDCC would appreciate. For the past couple of years, the California event has felt lacking in terms of exclusive footage that truly wows audiences — not necessarily because there’s little to be seen, although this year was surprisingly light on that front — but also because San Diego Comic-Con is expected to be the destination for fans looking for this kind of thing, and the reality is, increasingly when it comes to genre material, almost certain to disappoint when compared with unrestrained fan expectation.
What happened at New York Comic Con this weekend was significant, in that sense, on two fronts. Firstly, because letting fans see anywhere between 10 to 30-plus minutes of a movie in advance is a significant upgrade from two minutes of exclusive footage, and therefore a way to exceed expectation; and secondly, because it didn’t happen where fans would’ve expected it.
Whether this is the new normal — will all movies feel the need to promote themselves with extended exclusive footage from now on? — or a strange coincidence where multiple studios intended to do something different to stand out from the crowd, only to realize they were all doing the same different thing, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, however: The traditional model for promoting a movie at a convention, with a brief trailer and kind words from the cast onstage, is almost certainly going to be seen as disappointing from now on. Studios, consider the bar raised — and try to work out what the next generation of raising looks like from now on, for next year.