It's time to admit Comic-Con exclusive footage is dead
There has been much hand-wringing over the last few days from Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox about leaked footage from their respective San Diego Comic-Con panels. From “Suicide Squad” to “Deadpool,” pirated copies of each trailer — surreptitiously recorded on cell phones — have been popping up on video sites like a geeky game of Whac-A-Mole.
It happened even though San Diego has explicitly banned recording video footage shown during any panel presentation for years. It happened even though this year Comic-Con officials expanded the list, banning everything from drones to Periscope. But holding 7,000 fans — the number of people who fit into San Diego’s infamous Hall H — to the honor system is a losing game.
But there is a solution. Simple. Elegant. Easy to implement. It’s time to retire Comic-Con exclusive footage.
When movies first began to bring trailers and clips to San Diego Comic-Con, it was a different world. When not every single person in the audience was an amateur filmmaker, equipped with a handheld camera and YouTube account. Showing footage to fans who trekked across the country and slept outside all night was a reward of sorts, a way of saying thank you. But as Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a changin’.”
Geek culture is now pop culture. For every fan of Batman sleeping on the ground outside Hall H, there are tens of thousands back home instead of tens. Sci-fi and fantasy are the biggest money makers in the industry right now. But holding the attention of the world modifies the game. It’s good old-fashioned capitalism. Supply and demand. If the demand goes up but the studios won’t increase supply, the fans will take it into their own hands to shoot grainy cell phone footage for the ravenous hordes who didn’t make it to the show.
Lucasfilm knows this. From Star Wars Celebrations to San Diego Comic-Con, they’ve been knocking it out of the park time and time again. Each new piece of footage screened — from the trailer to a behind-the-scenes sneak peek — has gone up on their official YouTube channel as soon as it was shown to fans in the audience. To make up for any lingering resentment from fans who sat out overnight to see what Lucasfilm had to offer, the company pulled an Oprah: every single person at the Comic-Con panel got a lightsaber. Oh, and invited to a free symphony concert of Star Wars music.
But even without knowing these perks were on the way, fans still lined up for hours just to get a chance to see the cast and maybe learn something new about a franchise they love. Exclusive trailers can be nice, but fangirling or fanboying out with like-minded people is the backbone of fandom.
So next year, bring those half-finished sizzle reels and brand-new trailers! Just bring enough to share with the whole class.