Heading into this year’s giant Comic-Con International pop culture convention in San Diego media watchers believed Hollywood might play a smaller role because some heavily promoted movies there last year fizzled at box offices.
However, as Thursday’s opening day nears, this year’s gathering of comic book readers, sci-fi lovers, fanboys, fangirls and pop culture watchers — many costumed as space aliens or invaders — appears bigger, glitzier and more crowded than ever.
Forecasters predict anywhere from 130,000 to as many as 200,000 people will invade San Diego, California, over the four-day convention, although numbers are difficult to track given the volume of people who come just to be part of the scene.
Perhaps the most accurate indicator of the show’s growing popularity in recent years is that while it took six months for four-day event passes to sell out in 2009 and two months last year, this year those passes were gone in a mere seven hours.
Moreover, rabid fans likely won’t be disappointed with the number of events and starpower at the show nicknamed, “The Con.”
There are numerous panels for directors and stars to talk up films such as Twilight: Breaking Dawn and The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as several science-fiction TV shows. Even the cast of hit musical Glee will be on hand.
Although similar promotional events last year failed to have a big impact on the commercial prospects of some films and TV shows hyped here, such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hollywood’s studios and networks are back in force.
“I don’t think there is a direct relation between box office and what you do at Comic-Con,” said Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures.
“For Total Recall, Ghost Rider and The Amazing Spider-Man, we’ll be showing footage no one has ever seen. People are going to be very, very excited,” he said.
However, there is a difference this year, which boils down to timing. Generally speaking, Hollywood has used past Comic-Cons to build early buzz for movies and TV shows opening months away, but this year the big promotional bucks are being spent on films opening around the same time as the convention.
For instance, Marvel Studios is teaming Chris Evans, star Captain America: The First Avenger, with US troops in a made-for-media event to coincide with Friday’s release of the movie. Universal Pictures’ Cowboys & Aliens, which opens on July 29, is holding its world premiere on Saturday in San Diego.
Comic-Con stargazers will hardly be disappointed. Besides Steven Spielberg — at the show for the first time to promote his new film The Adventures of Tin Tin and collect an award — others attending include Taylor Lautner, Jeff Bridges, Francis Ford Coppola, Justin Timberlake and Charlize Theron.
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