Comic-Con has become a strange bird to Hollywood studios. Bringing talent and previewing footage can give tremendous hype and word of mouth to eventual blockbusters (“Django Unchained,” “Gravity,” “Iron Man”) or it can end up providing false hope for genre films hope will be smash hits (“Cowboys and Aliens,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). That means it can be an expensive endeavor if things don't go well and, moreover, you might not realize that until six months later on your opening weekend.
2013 had few outright failures though besides “I, Frankenstein” and the under-performing box office of Edgar Wright's “The World's End.” Outside of that? It might have been the most successful Comic-Con on the movie side ever (granted, the embarrassingly delayed “Seventh Son” won't hit theaters until Feb. 2015).
This year's run of movie panels on Thursday, Friday and Saturday have some impressive selections from Daniel Radcliffe's first appearance to the return of Channing Tatum and whatever Marvel Studios has up their sleeve. That being said, there is still room for a number of surprises on this year's schedule. For example, what Paramount will preview during its Thursday hour is not 100% clear. Warner Bros. has 2 hours allotted to a “Hobbit” panel which means a minimum of an hour for other films that have not been announced. 20th Century Fox has more than enough time in its own 2-hour block to bring out an unexpected guest (or four).
Scouring the schedule, however, does confirm a number of expected films that won't make the trip to San Diego and it also includes a few participants we didn't think would grace the Hall H faithful with their presence. Let's review, shall we?
No panel for “Divergent” sequel “Insurgent”
Considering Summit Entertainment, er, Lionsgate wants to make sure “Insurgent” is an even bigger hit than “Divergent,” not having new box office superstar Shailene Woodley work her magic in San Diego this summer seems like a mistake. But, they aren't the only YA franchise missing from Comic-Con this year…
No panel for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”
…that's because Lionsgate also decided not to bring down the “Hunger Games” crew (aka Jennifer Lawrence and company) for “Mockingjay, Pt. 1.” Considering they made the trip down for “Catching Fire” its somewhat odd. The studio has stuck with their model of big events at Cannes and Comic-Con up until now. Perhaps Lawrence was serious when she said she wants to take some time off and Hemsworth or Hutcherson were busy with other projects. At this point, we can only speculate that they'll likely return in 2015 for one last gasp before “Mockingjay, Pt. 2” (maybe). [Update: This post previous noted that “Hunger Games” did a panel for the first film. That is incorrect and the post has been updated to reflect it.]
Radcliffe on hand for “Horns” and not “Frankenstein”
“The Chosen One's” long awaited Comic-Con debut has been an open secret for a few months. What was surprising was that he came down for the Radius-TWC release “Horns.” The indie pickup has a genre component, but most assumed he'd be on hand for a 20th Century Fox panel for “Frankenstein.” That film's new release date of Oct. 2, 2015 has clearly made a 2014 Comic-Con tease unlikely. Guess it means Radcliffe might make it back again next summer.
Dreamworks Animation returns to Comic-Con
Jeffrey Katzenberg's animation powerhouse has rarely come down to San Diego. The company last appeared in Hall H for a great “Megamind” panel in 2010 (and we don't just say that because HitFix's own Drew McWeeny hosted it), but found itself relegated to a much smaller room for a “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and “Peabody and Sherman” tease last year. This time around the studio is back in the big room for “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Home.” And the former means none other than Benedict Cumberbatch will be on hand for all his screaming fans.
No Disney Animation or Pixar…again
Pixar used to be a staple at Comic-Con. In fact, it's been so long since the studio has been to San Diego that we've lost track of when it actually was. Was it “Toy Story 3” in 2009? Most likely. We get that Disney is more invested in its own profitable D23 franchise, but maybe in an off year you might show that “Inside Out” footage you've shown already at CinemaCon and the Annecy animation film festival to 6,000 Hall H attendees who can start some real word of mouth? Just sayin'.
No Rogen or Franco panel for “The Interview”
Seth Rogen hasn't officially been at Comic-Con since 2010 and we're hoping it's not because of “The Green Hornet.” He'd previously attended with buddy Judd Apatow for “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” There was some speculation that having a major comedy coming out in October – “The Interview” – might prompt both Rogen and James Franco to return to San Diego to promote it. Nope.
20th Century Fox comes back in a big way…again
Fox has taken a few years off here and there, but the studio that brought “Avatar,” “Prometheus” and last year's historic “X-Men: Days of Future Past” panel is back in a bigger way than many thought. Not only are they ruling Friday afternoon, they are bringing at least five films to preview including “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (based on the Mark Millar comic book), “Hitman: Agent 47,” “The Maze Runner,” Guillermo Del Toro's “Book of Life” and the late summer comedy “Let's Be Cops.” Oh, and maybe something with their a Marvel property reboot, but that appears to be only rumor and innuendo (really).
“Jurassic World” won't roar
After showcasing “Riddick” last year, Universal is skipping Comic-Con all together in 2014. That means no sneak of “Jurassic World” which hits theaters in June 2015 before the next Comic-Con. Granted, the movie is in production, but with a new director and cast there was some thought maybe a satellite event of some kind could occur. It also didn't seem out of bounds that the studio might bring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels down for what would have been a hero's welcome for November's “Dumb and Dumber To.” Clearly, that wasn't meant to be.
Comic-Con 2014 runs from July 24-27. Look for complete 24/7 coverage on HitFix during the entire convention.