Hollywood studios, networks in force at Comic-Con

Fri Jul 24, 2009 3:25am EDT
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By Gregg Kilday and James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hard-core geeks, "Twilight"-swooning tweens, "Star Wars" nostalgists, pale-skinned comic-book collectors, SpongeBob SquarePants, costumed zombies, Oscar winners including Denzel Washington, Peter Jackson and James Cameron and perennial attendee Kevin Smith are descending on San Diego this weekend for the 40th edition of Comic-Con.

What began in 1970 with 300 comics aficionados gathering at the city's U.S. Grant Hotel has mushroomed into one of the largest promotional bazaars on Hollywood's calendar: For movie distributors eager to sneak genre wares to super-receptive audiences, it eclipses trade events like exhibitors' conferenceShoWest, and this year -- for the first time, as far as TV networks and cable channels are concerned -- it will upstage the annual summer Television Critics Association press tour show-and-tell, which takes place in September, by offering a first look at the fall season.

Attracting 125,000 attendees, Comic-Con saw its $75 four-day passes sell out two months ago, earlier than ever before. This week, they were commanding twice that price on Craigslist.

The Hollywood invasion, escalating steadily in recent years, has been greeted with mixed reactions from longtime participants.

As fans began gathering Wednesday night, one man admitted: "A lot of people bemoan all the Hollywood stuff, but I don't care. I love that stuff." Meanwhile, a young woman who has attended for the past nine years complained: "I'm sick of the crowds. I used to come for all four days, but now I'm only coming for one."


Is all the attention being paid to movies and TV shows muscling aside Comic-Con's original purpose, described in its mission statement as "creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms?"

Organizers of the annual conclave say no.   Continued...

<p>A visitor dressed like the Joker character from the movie "The Dark Knight" walks during the 40th annual Comic Con Convention in San Diego July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>