Every July, San Diego turns into the massive geek mecca known as Comic-Con — but despite having an impressive lineup of fan-friendly films, it looks like 20th Century Fox won't be participating in the show's bombastic Hall H presentations this year. The Wrap reports that Fox is stepping away due to concerns that it won't be able to protect the exclusive footage and trailers that usually debut as part of the panels, and there's legitimate reason to worry. Last year Warner Bros. debuted a Comic-Con trailer for Suicide Squad, as did Fox for Deadpool, and in both cases unauthorized video of the footage made its way online soon thereafter. The Suicide Squad leak picked up so much momentum that director David Ayer was forced to release the official version on YouTube just two days later.
Of course, Comic-Con is largely just a big promotional event, and one could argue that any footage leak builds buzz and is therefore a good thing. But it also interferes with a studio's ability to control the rollout of its own promotional campaign, an issue when movie trailers alone have evolved into event-style releases themselves, with teasers, teases, and teases of teasers all used to hype fans before footage finally arrives. Couple that with the fact that Fox has a lineup of brand-heavy films that arguably don't need a lot of selling — including Assassin's Creed, Alien: Covenant, and another Wolverine sequel — and it's easy to see why the studio might balk at San Diego if exclusive footage is a de facto expectation.
"As any fan of Comic-Con knows there are a great many things that go into making a great panel presentation. For television networks and movie studios sometimes that includes exclusive footage, and while we have been very diligent in trying to prevent footage from being leaked, the truth is today's technology makes any guarantee difficult," a Comic-Con spokesperson said in a statement. "We are working with our friends at the different studios and networks in hopes of finding a remedy that will be beneficial to them, us and most importantly the fans who make Comic-Con the best convention of its kind in the world."
Following in the footsteps of Marvel and Disney
In a very real way, Fox's move is just following in the footsteps of what Disney has been doing in recent years. In 2015, Marvel skipped Comic-Con in favor of promoting its movies at Disney's own biennial D23 Expo. And somewhat suspiciously, this year's Star Wars Celebration — the fan event that Disney used to debut the "Chewie, we're home" trailer for Force Awakens last year — is scheduled just a week ahead of Comic-Con. With so many sci-fi and superhero movies competing for attention in San Diego over such a limited span of time, Fox's move could mark the beginning of a trend as studios opt to promote their films on their own schedule with all of their footage safely under their control.
Update, 7:18PM ET: Added San Diego Comic-Con's official response.