Comic-Con: “The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle”

Comics fans have been grousing for years that Hollywood has been taking over the San Diego Comic-Con to promote their superhero, fantasy and sci-fi franchises.  But this year, the studios are marketing outside the genre box, offering up promotions of thrillers, comedies and television series. Some con goers and industry observers are calling it “a tipping point.”

The New York Times is reporting:

There was a time when a movie like “Salt,” a spy caper starring Angelina Jolie, got its publicity pop on the festival circuit, maybe even playing on the splashier side of Cannes.

Yet here it was on opening day of Comic-Con International, the annual convention for fans of comic books and related TV shows and movies, on Thursday.

You get no Croisette, no Hôtel du Cap by coming to the San Diego Convention Center, which is plopped between a Marriott and some train tracks. What you do get are 130,000 fans only too happy to blast the Web with movie chatter, and international media coverage second only to that for the Oscars.

The showcasing of “Salt,” which opens in theaters on Friday, struck many longtime conventiongoers as a tipping point. The movie does not fit into any of the categories Comic-Con has traditionally celebrated: horror, fantasy, superheroes, animation, science fiction. Purists have blustered for years that Hollywood was taking over Comic-Con as a marketing platform. Now, it has become a big, blurry film festival for the little guy, with plenty of television — and some comics — thrown in.

Ms. Jolie’s previous appearances at Comic-Con have been for films that neatly fit its focus — “Beowulf,” for instance. On Thursday she bluntly highlighted why “Salt” did not. Her previous action movies were “always based in fantasy in some way,” she said. This one is “smart, proper, dramatic.”

“Salt” is not the only head-scratcher at this year’s Comic-Con, which runs through Sunday. Also represented here are “Nurse Jackie” and “The Other Guys,” a Will Ferrell comedy. CBS dispatched young women in grass skirts to plug its forthcoming remake of “Hawaii Five-O.”

“I sort of feel it’s like worrying about the weather — there’s no going back,” Marc Guggenheim, the writer of the forthcoming “Green Lantern” movie from Warner Brothers, told the blog Hero Complex. “The genie is out of the bottle.”

Cherry Davis, a fund-raising consultant attending the convention from Los Angeles, wasn’t as forgiving when she spotted the comedian Pauly Shore trying to orchestrate a publicity stunt. “What is he doing here? Has he ever even been in a science fiction movie?” Ms. Davis fumed aloud.

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