San Diego Comic-Con is always host to debuts of brand new footage from huge upcoming films, some of which is intended as “Comic-Con exclusives”—a first look for SDCC fan eyes only. But more and more it seems like these kinds of sneak peeks are being leaked onto the internet, sometimes within a matter of minutes of the actual Comic-Con panel ending. This year’s Comic-Con premiered the first footage from three huge upcoming superhero movies, Deadpool, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse, and all three Comic-Con reels leaked onto the internet, despite the fact that they reflected films that are still in production with no finished effects.
After trying to play the world’s largest game of whack-a-mole, Warner Bros. eventually caved and released an official version of the Suicide Squad reel online, but they accompanied the release with a statement reiterating that the footage was intended to be a special treat for fans and that the studio didn’t intend to officially release it online at that time. This was greeted with skepticism from some who claimed that in the name of marketing, the studio’s plan was always to either leak or release the footage.
I visited the set of X-Men: Apocalypse this week and got to speak with producer and former 20th Century Fox executive Hutch Parker in a roundtable setting, and given his background (ie. intense familiarity with marketing and Comic-Con from a studio standpoint), he was asked about his thoughts on the leaks and those who claim they were intentional:
“I’d say it really isn’t intended to be leaked. It’s really intended to excite a core. From a marketing perspective, what they want is to share it with the most discerning eyes that are out there for this material. It’s the biggest and probably most intense focus group any of us ever have.
You hope that you excite a level of interest that they will express and celebrate it. But it’s a scary-ass deal, because they’re not shy. If they don’t like it, if they aren’t feeling it, they’re going to let you and everybody else know. [Showing footage] is something people do with trepidation, but with hope. We make a movie and you want to believe it’s going to be great. The reality is, not all of them are. But you have to believe that going in. We go in wanting to be accepted and embraced, and ideally even acknowledged for having done it well.”
And as someone who’s incredibly familiar with the marketing process himself, Parker weighed in on why intentionally leaking footage this early doesn’t make much sense:
“The problem with the theory about the marketing is, I don’t actually think it’s good marketing. Leaking footage a year in advance of a movie’s release is not such a good thing. The reason you don’t see footage out that far is you run the risk of it getting stale. Generally speaking, and I can’t speak for other studios — I can’t even speak for Fox any more — but I don’t believe their intention is [for footage to be leaked]. I think their intention is to get the most important opinions and opinion-makers in this community engaged in the promise of what’s coming.”
Parker’s reasoning makes sense, especially given the fact that these footage teases were reels, not out-and-out trailers. They were meant for consumption by a very specific kind of audience, without the usual regard for marketing towards a wide and sometimes uninformed audience — at least when it comes to the source material.
I’ll have much more in my full X-Men: Apocalypse set visit report here on Collider at a later date. The film opens in theaters on May 27, 2016.