Comic-Con went virtual this year, but that wasn’t the only noticeable change for one of the largest film and television marketing and outreach events of the year. The 2020 edition featured noticeably fewer panels on high-profile titles than previous installments of the event: Disney unveiled a teaser trailer for “Helstrom,” “The Boys” got renewed for a third season, a trailer dropped for “His Dark Materials” Season 2, and a new animated “Star Trek” show was announced. But the reveals were a far cry from the announcements that have defined prior Comic-Cons.
Part of this, of course, is due to ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. With release dates for fan-friendly titles like “Mulan” and “Black Widow” pushed out of the range of the Comic-Con halo, it makes sense that studios wouldn’t waste their marketing dollar on a big-ticket unveiling that would take place virtually.
But there is another reason: two of the studios most attuned to Comic-Con now have their own conventions to show off their wares. WarnerMedia is gearing up to host DC FanDome in August, which it has billed as a free virtual fan convention. While Disney doesn’t have a comparable event planned for 2020 — its typically news-heavy D23 event will return next year — the company will likely host some sort of glitzy event for “The Mandalorian” Season 2 on its own terms this fall, even if it has to do so virtually.
DC FanDome will include panels on “The Batman,” “The Suicide Squad,” and Zack Snyder’s cut of “Justice League,” among numerous other projects. None of those titles had a presence at Comic-Con. While there was a panel on “The Mandalorian” at Comic-Con about the titular character’s many gadgets, there wasn’t any news about the popular show’s sophomore season.
Disney and WarnerMedia representatives did not return requests for comment.
The lack of major announcements from these two conglomerates poses questions about what future Comic-Cons could look like. It’s difficult to determine how the other industry events could impact Comic-Con given how destabilizing the coronavirus pandemic has been for the entire industry — but it’s no coincidence that large entertainment companies are beginning to save their major announcements for their own events, according to Brad Gastwirth, Wedbush Securities’ chief technology strategist.
“It brings the focus on them,” Gastwirth said. “It makes sense to see more and more company-specific events because it allows them to basically focus all of the energy on themselves. You control the show and make it about you.”
While it’s unclear how successful DC FanDome will be, as the event is the first of its kind for WarnerMedia, there’s precedent in other mediums for leading companies to divest themselves from industry events. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game industry’s leading annual event, has seen notable companies such as Electronic Arts and Sony step away from E3 in favor of hosting their own events in recent years.
If conglomerates such as Disney and WarnerMedia find success with their upcoming titles without the help of Comic-Con’s promotion, it’s possible Comic-Con’s days as the destination for surprise announcements and major trailer reveals could be a thing of the past.