Is This the End of Big Movies at Comic Con? Some Studios Think So…

Comic Con is so big now that the very idea of losing the annual convention to some other city has San Diego shaking in its boots. Movie studios fly their biggest stars there to wow the kids (and adults pretending to be kids, natch) and show off their wares. And it’s not just about the geeks — it’s also gone so mainstream that you’ll liable to find small movies without a single “geek” thing about them there, too, films that, 5-10 years ago wouldn’t be caught dead catering to an audience that likes to dress up as Boba Fett cause, you know, he’s cool and junk.

According to the New York Times (h/t CBM), that may all be coming to an end. With a rocky economy comes a moment to reflect on just what exactly Comic Con means to the opening of a movie. Certainly, it didn’t help “Legion”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, or “Sucker Punch”, three movies that spent a buttload of money at the Con and had Hall H going ga-ga over them, but didn’t translate in terms of box office. And that may be the reason why studios like Warner Bros., Disney, DreamWorks, and the Weinsteins are taking a pass on this year’s Comic Con. There are also rumors that Marvel Studios, possibly the ONE studio every Con fan is hoping will show off some of their upcoming movies, might also take a flyer.

Comic-Con, as a growing number of movie marketers are realizing, has turned into a treacherous place. Studios come seeking buzz, but the Comic-Con effect can be more negative than positive. The swarm of dedicated fans — many of whom arrive at the convention in Japanese anime drag or draped in Ewok fur — can instantly sour on a film if it doesn’t like what it sees, leaving publicity teams with months of damaging Web chatter to clean up.

I don’t know about the Ewok fur, but the bit about negative reactions can torpedo a film is certainly a worthwhile worry, though it, too seems highly overrated. Last year’s “Green Hornet”, which created a major THUD at the Con, still did nearly $100 million in domestic business on its way to a $227 million worldwide gross. Likewise, Christopher Nolan has never needed the nerdfest to hawk his movies, and he’s done okay. With Warner Bros’ absence, “The Dark Knight Rises” won’t be rising, and neither will Warner’s other big film, Zack Snyder’s “Superman” reboot.

But have no fear, geeks and girls, Warner, Disney, Dreamworks, and possibly Marvel may be saying No this year, but there will be other studios to pick up the slack. Universal will be present for with Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens”, and let’s face it, this movie needs all the buzz it can get. The studio is apparently planning a big “stunt” for the movie, which I predict means guys in cowboy chaps riding around the Con on horses being chased by big-headed Grey aliens. (In tonight’s news, tragedy at Comic Con as horses trample fat Tron guy!)

Paramount will also be accounted for with “The Adventures of Tin Tin”, with a possible appearance by Steven Spielberg himself, and both Twentieth Century Fox and Sony will try to win over Con goers with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Amazing Spider-Man”, respectively.

Also, expect panels for “Immortals”, “The Raven”, “Shark Night 3D”, and unfortunately, the penultimate “Twilight” panel for “Breaking Dawn Part 1″, which means, yes, more long lines filled with tweeners jabbering on about Edward and Jacob and Bella, etc. And as always, besides the big movies, there will be the geek friendly shows, and some not so geek friendly shows that will leave you scratching your heads why they’re even there.

Final Con schedule and panels, as always, won’t be available until closer towards the Con’s July 21st start date.