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San Diego Comic Con 2019: Sony is latest studio to snub the event

No Venom, Morbius or Spiderman at this year's event. Likewise The Joker, Harley Quinn and Batman.

Venom won't be appearing at this year's Comic Con. Photo / AP
Venom won't be appearing at this year's Comic Con. Photo / AP

Sony Pictures is the latest studio to announce it will not be attending Hall H at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, which begins in just three weeks on June 18.

Hall H is where the big studios traditionally put on panels with the stars of their forthcoming slate, and offer up exclusive sneak previews of footage to the dedicated fans that show up. Sony joins a list of absentees at this year’s event that includes Warner Bros, and its attendant World of DC cinema universe, and Universal Pictures.

That means, from Sony, we’ll be getting no sneak peek at Jared Leto in its upcoming Morbius adaptation, and no Tom Hardy talking about plans for Venom 2. There’ll also be no Zombieland 2, Charlie’s Angels or Bloodshot.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Hall H perennials Warner Bros won’t be giving us any advance tips about what to expect from any of its forthcoming DC slate, including Birds of Prey, Joker and Wonder Woman 1984. They also won’t be allowing us an early look at Denis Villeneuve’s take on James Herbert’s 1964 sci-fi novel Dune.

There’s no doubt that the annual San Diego shindig is the world’s premiere gathering for fans of comic books, sci-fi and general geekiness, but the big movie studios have been undergoing something of a transformation in their relationships with the con in recent years.

There have been a number of instances of exclusive footage screened in Hall H leaking online – most famously in 2015, when Warner’s decidedly sombre clip from Suicide Squad, which was in direct opposition to the film’s actual, much more light-hearted eventual marketing campaign, was leaked online in grainy, guerrilla-filmed format, forcing the studio to release a hi-res version to deflect criticism of the quality. All the studios have been much warier of screening exclusive footage since that incident.

Beyond this, after a period at the turn of the decade when hype at Comic Con was seen as a high speed ticket to box office glory, studios seemed to begin to notice that the eager acceptance of a niche market of comic geeks didn’t necessarily translate to success with mainstream audiences.

Universal’s Scott Pilgim vs The World, for example, was the buzz movie of Comic Con 2010. It came with an achingly credible soundtrack from the likes of Beck, Cornelius and The Ting Tings, and director-du-jour Edgar Wright at the helm. The film made back barely half of its $90M production budget on release.

Couple the lack of guaranteed box office returns with the financial and logistical outlay of gathering talent, booking space and splashing out on the various sets and general marketing gimmickery required for appearances, and you can understand why the major studios might be reigning in their Comic Con spending somewhat.

It's not all bad news though. There’s been no official announcement as yet, but Disney/Marvel are strongly expected to be in attendance to hype up the post-Endgame cinematic universe, having sat out last year’s event themselves.

Also, DC won’t be completely absent – the comics giant will still be exhibiting in the main halls, while parent Warner Bros is also planning a standalone It 2 event, just not in Hall H.

Paramount have also confirmed their attendance in Hall H, and although they haven’t said what they’ll be presenting yet the words Terminator: Dark Fate can't help but spring to mind.

The small screen is also stepping up to the plate vacated by the majors with some conviction. HBO is pulling out all the stops this year. It’s planning a huge Game of Thrones farewell panel in Hall H with numerous cast in attendance, and also major events for Westworld, His Dark Materials and Watchmen. Netflix will also be giving a big push to season 2 of its horror drama The Order, and with three weeks still to go before Comic Con begins, there’s still time for plenty of surprises yet.

Updated: June 28, 2019 05:57 PM

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