Forget Cannes, Sundance and the rest: Comic-Con is where the real Hollywood big shots – and big money – can now be found.

This week, the L.A. entertainment industry will descend on San Diego for what’s become the world’s most influential pop culture event. But while not a single distribution deal will be done or acting award handed out during the July 9-12 extravaganza, the studios and networks attending this ultimate fan fest are chasing something potentially far more valuable: buzz.

“Our research shows that among the people who attend Comic-Con are a lot of core influencers,” said Thomas Gewecke, executive vice president of strategy and business development at Warner Bros. “You want to get that audience excited and delighted by a first presentation of your upcoming tent-pole releases.”

With 2,429 press passes issued and countless blogs, tweets and posts from the 130,000 obsessive nerds in attendance, Comic-Con has the power to make or break a new project in a way the more exclusive and industry-oriented Cannes and Sundance festivals can’t.

Hollywood players might go to a film festival to nail down a distribution agreement, but they go to Comic-Con to sell tickets.

“These true believers are the first people in line for a movie on opening night or in front of their TV sets when a show launches,” said Rob Salkowitz, author of the book “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.” “Hollywood knows this event is their essential and best chance to win over that hard-core fan base, whose opinions are respected and followed by the casual fans.”

Stars know it, too, and while the event used to attract just cult celebrities and genre favorites such as “The Evil Dead” actor Bruce Campbell or Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar, it’s become A-list all the way in recent years with visits from the likes of Angelina Jolie, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. This week will see appearances by the stars and filmmakers of eagerly awaited blockbusters such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Batman v. Superman,” introducing never-before-seen footage.

Building buzz

Recent advances in technology have played a big part in making the conventiongoers more responsible than ever for dictating the hype on such big-money projects and the other new TV shows, movies, video games, toys and comic books presented to them.

“Our audience has always been engaged but they’re regarded as more influential than ever now as technology allows for their opinions and views to be immediately broadcast globally,” said David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of marketing.

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