Comic-Con has changed enormously just in the past five years alone. While the arrival of Twilight and Iron Man first heralded a shift towards big movies taking center stage at the annual San Diego event, the evolution of cell phone technology and social media has posed a challenge to studios who aim to share exclusive looks at upcoming films to the fans that have spent lots of time and money making the trip to Comic-Con itself. Footage leaks have been happening for the past few years, but last year things took a bad turn as Warner Bros. unveiled a sizzle reel for Suicide Squad that was intended only for Comic-Con audiences, and was subsequently bootlegged and put up on the internet within minutes. The studio was furious and forced to release the footage online in an official capacity even though this sizzle reel was not how they wanted to first introduce this DC film to the general public.
And the same thing happened with the Deadpool trailer that debuted later that same day. While some speculated that studios actually intend or hope for these leaks to happen in order to drum up interest for their films, former Fox studio head Hutch Parker subsequently explained exactly why studios are not happy about footage leaks so far in advance.
Now, as Comic-Con 2016 is just a few weeks away, there may be a concerted effort to prevent footage from leaking that goes beyond simply telling the 6,500 people in Hall H not to record video. Answering a question on Facebook, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 writer/director James Gunn said new tech may be implemented to prevent footage from the Marvel sequel from leaking:
Well, you might see something if you’re in Hall H on July 23 with me and the Marvel panel. Or if someone secretly films that – which is less likely to happen because of new technology, but I still know sometimes happens – then you’ll see it right after. If not then, it will be a short while.
It’s unclear if Gunn is speaking from a place of actually knowing that this tech is being implemented or if he’s just been told there will be efforts taken to prevent footage from leaking, but the comment comes as companies are toying with technology that would prevent people from using their cell phones during live concerts. Could this be the same tech? Is this even possible to use at Comic-Con, a wild, crowded, breezy event that sees throngs of people coming and going from the 6,500-seat Hall H over the course of the day?
I’m dubious. For one, the days in Hall H are long and most folks have been camping out for at least one night (now sometimes two) just to get in for the day’s panels, which means when people get in, they aren’t leaving. How do you block cell phone service or accessibility for that long? Or perhaps there’s tech that simply disables devices only when footage is playing, but is that tech ready?
Whatever the case, I’m mighty curious to see what the game plan is this year. The studios were none too pleased with last year’s leaks, and now 20th Century Fox and Disney are skipping Comic-Con altogether. Warner Bros. and Marvel are really the only big panels in Hall H on Saturday, and while Marvel traditionally unveils footage during its panels that’s only seen at Comic-Con and is never released in any official capacity later on (I still remember seeing an alt version of an opening scene from Iron Man 3 set to Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”), I’m doubtful that WB will risk yet another leak by trying to run exclusive footage from Justice League or Wonder Woman. If they run anything during the panel, my guess is they’ll also put it online in an official capacity at the same time, which means it will be 100% polished and prepped for public consumption and not just for diehard fans. Which is a shame, because getting into Hall H has become such a drag that those folks deserve to at least be treated to something special beyond the panel itself—which is officially released online later.
So we’ll see. Comic-Con 2016 kicks off on Thursday, July 21st and we’ll have copious amounts of coverage from the ground floor, so whether there’s exclusive footage or not, you can count on our first-hand account of the year’s biggest panels.