What If Comic-Con Is Sort of Over?
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? 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.
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). 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.