Has Comic Con Lost Its Luster? Some Studios Planning To Skip This Year, But 'Cowboys & Aliens' Will Premiere At Con

I'd answer the headline question with 'no,' but there might be a more measured approach to the Con from various movie studios. The New York Times has an article today that points to the fact that movie studios are reassessing how they'll spend money and time at Comic Con. The paper says that Warner Bros. and Disney and DreamWorks are not bringing films to the show this year, and notes that Marvel is trying to decide whether to do a big panel in 2011. So what's going on with Comic Con?

Let's start with the big one: The Dark Knight Rises. Anyone who really expected Christopher Nolan to make a big showing with the film hasn't paid attention to (a) his general working method and attitude towards early press and (b) the way The Dark Knight was handled at Comic Con. That film had a viral presence, but no big panel. We can likely expect something similar this time, but the fact that there won't be a big TDKR panel is far less of a surprise, frankly, than if one was announced.

Going beyond that, there are likely a few factors at work. With respect to Marvel, while the studio might show up with an Avengers teaser reel, beyond that what do they have to show? Perhaps an Iron Man 3 panel, though that was just preempted by the Hero Complex festival last night. The studio's slate after Iron Man 3 isn't yet set, and if it isn't going to be set by the end of July, there might not be a lot of material for a panel. Other studios have skipped Comic Con in the past when they didn't have much to show, so seeing some miss the show this year isn't a big red flag.

Beyond that, there's the question of whether the Comic Con buzz really helps a film in the mainstream marketplace. That question isn't new, and the answer has been debated for years. And negative buzz isn't something that studios are seeming willing to risk right now. There is also the example of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which Universal spent a mint to market at Comic Con last year. The result was a lot of fun for attendees, but didn't do anything for the film when it went into wide release shortly after the con. That money might have been better spent elsewhere, and it is probably safe to assume that it will be a while before we see a studio mount the sort of Con-wide promo push that Universal did for Scott Pilgrim.

But Universal is definitely bringing one movie to Comic Con: Cowboys & Aliens will have its world premiere at the show, according to the LA Times. That makes a lot of sense, as director Jon Favreau is perhaps more adept at managing Comic Con audiences and buzz than any other director. The film is a very Comic Con friendly project, and Mr. Favreau told the LAT, "And not only are we going to premiere it there, we're going to find a way to include as many of the fans as possible. I feel like they've come out for me, they've supported me." (Comic Con runs July 21-24, and Cowboys & Aliens opens wide on July 29.) [NYT]