Its legend makes it seem like Hall H has been a part of San Diego Comic Con forever. But the convention only got use of the space in 2004. And it’s only been 10 years since Zach Snyder made a splash with footage from 300. That presentation, and the ticket buyers the buzz it created brought in, made a Hall H presentation look like the savviest piece of promotion ever. Talking to a willing, captive audience in a venue just three hours from Hollywood was more cost effective than spending millions of dollars in print, TV and radio ads around the country. The word of mouth they got was priceless.
Hall H would eventually become a spectacle. You had to see the panels because something spectacular might happen and you might miss it. Fans would have to camp out all night if they wanted a seat on any of the panels. But along with this spectacle came grumbling. Fans who wanted to see a panel in the morning often times would not be able to see it because all the seats were taken up by Twilight fans waiting for its panel in the afternoon. And people who want to attend the con couldn’t get tickets because they were taken by people who only wanted the Hall H spectacle. San Diego Comic Con started to become a less a comic con and more a Hollywood promotional tool, and many old school con goers wish things would go back the way it was.
Well, those fans might soon be getting their wish. The Wrap states that 20th Century Fox will not be holding a panel in Hall H this year, and might be followed by Disney in taking the year off as well. This follows a year where Marvel, Sony and Paramount passed on hitting Hall H, with no word in whether or not they will return this year.
The Wrap quotes sources that say Fox is dropping out because leaks of their promotional video presentations cannot be prevented. This reason rings frustratingly hollow. Many industry watchers operate under the belief that the leaks are encouraged by the studios. But even if this is not the case, the problem with leaks are ones the studios they themselves have created. They create an unimaginable demand and curiosity for what they show in Hall H, yet show it in a space that is not big enough to house all the curious. This of course opens up the door for piracy. And I fail to see the logic in getting this upset over leaked footage, especially when the same footage will be part of official trailers and ads released in the weeks after the con anyway.
Footage from Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse was leaked last year but it definitely did not affect the former’s grosses or expectations for latter. However, Fox’s San Diego Comic Con presentation in 2015 was lead off by Fantastic Four, a film that took no momentum out of the con and died a horribly quick death in the theaters.
This plays into the conventional wisdom as to the real reason why Hollywood is backing away from its yearly San Diego Comic Con visit: promotion there no longer guarantees high box office grosses. Be it great films like Scott Pilgrim vs the World or horrible ones like Fantastic Four, a full Hall H does not translate into full cineplexes. This makes the trip to San Diego Comic Con expendable.
Add to that the fact that many of the major studios have other venues for promotion under their own control, such as TV networks, theaters, viral marketing or even their own fan conventions, they don’t need San Diego Comic Con as much as they did in the late-00s.
No one at Fox would confirm The Wrap’s story, and people at Disney denied it outright (but added that their plans were not yet made). And there is still Warner Brothers, Lionsgate and Dreamworks to fill Hall H. But Fox’s exodus might indicate a sea change that will return San Diego Comic Con back to comic fans as Hollywood has become done with it.