One of the coolest things about self-proclaimed uncool filmmaker James Gunn is that he’s a fan of things, and so likes to connect with people who are fans of his. Saturday night via his official Facebook page, the Guardians of the Galaxy director answered lots and lots (and lots) of questions from fans about all sorts of things, the only things off-limits were plot details and possible new characters for Guardians 2. Which is why when he let the following bit of information go, much of the internet went “Wait, what?”
As though it were common knowledge, Gunn said that Marvel Studios, the company that pretty much OWNS San Diego Comic-Con with its news and promotion, won’t be attending in an official capacity. Ever since the first Comic-Con, prior to the release of Iron Man, Marvel’s teasing of upcoming projects have been key to both their success and fan excitement. Can this be true? Can Marvel really forsake the promotional blitz that is SDCC?
Well, kind of, yeah. To be honest, Marvel is big enough now not to need to go to San Diego Comic-Con. They’re one of the most profitable studios in the world right now. They only released two films in 2014 and both of them ended the year in the top 5 highest grossing films in the U.S. People wait with bated breath for the next one to come out, whatever it is (it’s just Avengers: Age of Ultron…that old nugget). And last October they proved that they could call a press conference any old time they wanted to and people would not only be interested, they’d be drooling on the floor in anticipation. This was the October presentation where Marvel ANNOUNCED EVERYTHING, including Captain America: Civil War, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and of course the two-part Infinity Wars that will be the third and fourth Avengers movies. How excited were we all for this? And how much did we talk about it afterwards? At least as much, if not more, than we would if they’d done the same thing at SDCC, and in this instance, all of the focus was on Marvel; they didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else.
Following this, Warner Bros and DC had their own announcement conference, which was part of their annual shareholders meeting, where they laid out the next nine films in their cinematic universe, a clear “Oh, crap, we better catch up!” move to grab some of that sweet headline space. If things like this can happen in October, then why would anyone need to really pimp stuff at the Con?
SDCC has become an enormous (and frankly overblown) media blitz where all anybody’s looking at is what feature film or TV news we might get, as opposed to just going to celebrate things people enjoy. More and more, it seems, this kind of marketing push doesn’t actually need to come from San Diego. Doctor Who was noticeably absent at 2014’s SDCC, a place where they’ve made the Sunday Morning BBC America panel a place for lots of hoopla. This was due to two factors: 1) there was still filming going on and 2) the series was about to embark on a massive whirlwind world tour which took new Doctor Peter Capaldi and companion Jenna Coleman all across the globe, holding meet-ups and screenings in several different countries in one week. That did incredibly well for them, seeing as Series 8 was the most-watched in BBC America’s history.
Hall H can hold 6,500+ people, which is, granted, an enormous number of people; but, it’s pittance compared to the amount of people who actually attend San Diego Comic-Con (most of whom don’t have a chance of actually getting into that particular hall without an overnight camp-out), and it’s a mere drop in the ocean compared to the number of people worldwide who want to know about whatever news might come out of it. So, if you’re Marvel, DC, the BBC, or any big product, why not wait to announce things or show clips when YOU want to show them, and when you’ll maximize the attention?
For Marvel not to go to SDCC this year sets a huge precedent, which I think will actually do both studios and the Con in general a world of good. Last year, Marvel was there and the next film to come out was Guardians of the Galaxy, but by that time there’d already been several press screenings and news of how awesome the movie was was already permeating. Plus–people at Comic-Con are probably going to see a movie like Guardians already; they’re a captive audience. They HAVE US. This year’s post-SDCC movie is going to be Ant-Man, which comes out literally five days after the Con ends. So what real good would any kind of promotion there do? And the next movie won’t be until 2016, which will be Civil War, which we’re all going to see anyway. Do you see my point?
While this is all just based on one off-handed answer on a filmmaker’s Facebook page, it makes a huge amount of sense. Marvel Studios doesn’t need to go to Comic-Con if it has nothing to show because they could show us things on November 8th at 6:45am and we’d all still want to see it. Maybe something like this will take some of the burden off the Comic-Con weekend and things people want to read about won’t get lost in the shuffle. Maybe make it a place for comic books again. I know, that’s just crazy talk.