If you weren’t one of the fortunate ones to have attended San Diego Comic Con, that’s alright… every panel you missed and all the “exclusive” footage were all released/leaked online. Short of being able to say you were within a farts distance of Stan Lee, you were probably quite alright experiencing the con and its happenings from the comfort of your computer/masturbation station.
Talking about that quote on quote exclusive footage…
Trailers for Suicide Squad, Deadpool and X-Men Apocalypse immediately leaked online. People who didn’t attend the con (or weren’t able to) wanted in on the goods, didn’t matter if the footage leaked online was recorded on a cell phone and shot from the underside of someguys armpit. Because of the exclusivity of the whole thing, the leaks went viral, as these thing often do. Instead of 6000+ people talking about and hyping up footage for movies a year or so out, it quickly became millions. This begs the question – are studios themselves responsible for these leaks? It certainly seems like a marketing scheme, doesn’t it?
While this cannot be completely confirmed or denied, a writer for Slashfilm posed this direct question to a producer for X-Men Apocalypse.
While on the set of X-Men Apocalypse, Slashfilm writer Russ Fischer asked Hutch Parker the following:
Q: You brought new footage to Comic Con, which was quickly bootlegged. I’ve seen people claim that footage leaks out of Comic Con are designed as part of a marketing plan. As former studio exec and current producer, what are your thoughts on that subject?
To which Parker replied:
Hutch Parker: 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.
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.
“Focus Group”. “Accepted and Embraced”. “Getting Stale”. “Opinion Makers”. Uh, so, did FOX leak footage or not?
I’m gonna go ahead and take the jump and say the answer is “No”.
I think everything Parker has said is mostly true. Cast and creatives do enjoy an early positive reception, giving them the assurance that what they’re doing is working (who doesn’t like a pat on the back?). And, yeah, it is a risk running footage to a critical audience that can sway public opinion (not a whole lot, but enough). I dunno about that last part though, the part about leaked footage making things stale. If that was the case, then why show any footage at all? If things get stale so fast, then why do you have a studio like Warner Bros. announcing a new Green Lantern movie coming in 2019? Why announce something that far out? Because, you can rely on the fans to hold interest and continue to talk about it. Hey kids, today’s magic word is “buzz”.
It can be said that Comic-Con depends on studios being generous enough to give fans a sneak peek at movies to come, as that’s what makes going to SDCC so special. But, it’s really the other way around. Studios want the backing of fans. Getting the geek community to lose their shit, hit up the internet and create buzz…. well, by golly, they’ve got a significant audience doing free marketing! Tell me again, why studios leaking their own content doesn’t make sense? Here, I’ll tell you a more legitimate reason…
I’m not going to rule it out as a very real and likely thing that happens, but the main reason studios don’t leak footage is because of artistic integrity and the desire to show a material in the manner for which it is intended.
While leaks light the Internet on fire, which can be and often is a good thing (unless it’s bad. Have you seen those pics of Apocalypse?) you’ve got people viewing footage that looks like it was recorded by a drunk guy with cerebral palsy. Goddammit, no, they don’t want that.
Ever deal with a professional photographer? Try sneaking a peek at their camera and they’ll bite your head off, man. They want your reaction/opinion based on the edited and prepared for photos, not that glimpse you got from an over the shoulder sneak attack. So, yeah, in that respect Studios and creatives don’t want people viewing butt cam footage. Well, that, and the whole “we told you not record this, but you did it anyway”. No one likes a rebel. I know an empire in a galaxy far far away that would agree with that sentiment.
At one point in time, before cell phones and the ability to upload things to the internet in snap, going to Comic Con use to be about being part of a (significantly smaller and contained) select group of people getting an advanced look at an upcoming movie. It really was for the fans. It really use to be footage no one else was gonna see for several months. I’m sure many people still believe this to be true, but it’s simply not anymore. Make no mistake, there’s always going to be the novelty, that tangible feeling, of being in Hall H and being part of an experience that you just can’t get staring at the glow of a computer screen. Now in the age of Social media and the act of “sharing” is as integral to any experience as simply being there And, the delusion that Hollywood Studios are limiting footage (and announcements) to a room of 6000 people is exactly that, it is delusional. Do they want people viewing crap footage online? No, they don’t. But they’re not mad about it either, at least not really.
Bottom line is, as fun as trailers and preview footage can be, they’re still commercials for a product, and the studios aren’t presenting it to do you a favor. Any extra marketing from social media warriors is more a benefit than a hinderance.
Should studios just go ahead and release official footage online or present paid streaming options? That’s a whole other argument. Feel free to sound off in the comments below.