In news that's sure to please fans who lament Comic-Con International is no longer about comics while disappointing those who bask in the annual Hollywood invasion of San Diego, The New York Times contends several major studios, including Warner Bros. and Disney, plan to sit out this year's convention. Even Marvel, whose summer tentpole The Avengers is set to debut next May, is reportedly undecided about mounting a "major presentation."
Sony's Columbia Pictures division, as we already know, will be there promoting The Amazing Spider-Man, which doesn't hit theaters until July 2012, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Universal will also have a presence, making an 11th-hour marketing push for Cowboys & Aliens, which opens the week following the July 21-24 event. Paramount, too, will bang the drum for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, possibly even flying in director Steven Spielberg for the presentation, while Fox is expected to shine the spotlight on Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Why then are other studios seemingly cooling on Comic-Con? The Times points a finger at last year's show, where Warner Bros. and Disney spent lavishly on Sucker Punch and TRON: Legacy, respectively, with a disappointing payoff at the box office. Universal, which will be back this year, got burned on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which was all the talk of the 2010 convention but failed to deliver in theaters.
The newspaper also suggests that Hollywood has come to realize -- only now? -- that the timing of the convention makes it better suited for previewing fall television series, like Fox's big-budget Terra Nova.
Comic-Con officials, however, say little has changed. “We get more and more requests, and have less ability to fulfill them,” David Glanzer, the convention's director of marketing, tells The Times. “Not every studio comes every year.”
The convention doesn't release its programming schedule until about two weeks before the event, so we'll have to wait and see whether studios like Disney and Warner Bros. can really resist the siren call of Comic-Con. It's almost certain that Marvel will be there. After all, the official introduction of The Avengers was one of the high points of last year's show; staying away this year -- even if director Joss Whedon & Co. don't have much complete footage to show -- would start tongues wagging again, but for all the wrong reasons.