New York Comic-Con is in an interesting place right now. Because San Diego Comic-Con has capped its attendance rate at 130,000, the east coast mega geek convention, with no cap in place, now reigns as the most attended fan convention in North America, with over 150,000 attending both last year and this year. However, while New York is bigger than San Diego in size of attendees, it’s not bigger in terms of how much time is given over to films. Indeed, while the largest room at San Diego, Hall H, has multiple presentations by all of the major studios showcasing their major releases deemed geek friendly, New York Comic Con’s Main Stage had a grand total of two films with panels dedicated to them.
Those films were The Last Witch Hunter and Goosebumps, both of which will be released within a month of the convention, and neither being the sort of giant blockbuster likely to set the film world aflame. In fact, based on my own observations, the line to get wristbands for the The Last Witch Hunter panel was much smaller than the lines for both the The X-Files panel and the Jessica Jones / Daredevil panel that The Last Witch Hunter got sandwiched between.
San Diego Comic-Con’s existence is probably one of the bigger factors for why films aren’t likely to be covered as much in New York. While New York may now have the larger number of people coming to it, San Diego will always be the older, more established convention. It’s always going to be earlier in the year than New York, which gives it more of a chance to be the premiere of clips and trailers for upcoming films. It’s always going to be closer to Hollywood than New York, allowing more industry professionals to attend.
Another major fact would be the fact that there’s just more genre friendly shows happening on television right now than at the movies. Nowhere is this more true than with Netflix with their new Marvel series Jessica Jones, whose Main Stage panel was by far the hottest wristband to acquire on Saturday. Even Amazon is getting into the action, with November 20 seeing the Amazon Prime release of an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, which has production values and a look equal to many a tentpole blockbuster. And even media which started out as films have now seen their expansion into TV, as with Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, Starz’s Ash Vs. The Evil Dead (after 25 years of fans hoping for a fourth Evil Dead film), and Star Wars Rebels, which was the main Star Wars panel as there was no last minute The Force Awakens panel added to the Main Stage.
It’s a narrative that fits so many think pieces written about how much better TV has gotten and how films are on a downward trend. I think these pieces are greatly exaggerated, but in terms of films that would get your prototypical attendee of a geek oriented convention excited, there were few new things to be excited about. Indeed, one of the few film panels I felt interested in attending this year wasn’t because of the possibility of being introduced to something new and exciting; it was for a documentary about Back To The Future called Back In Time. While the director and producers who were up on stage were very enthusiastic about their work and the time and effort put into it, looking at the footage shown in the trailer, it’s hard not to feel that it’s a glorified DVD extra blown up to feature length.
Yet, in a space meant for fanatics of all sorts, the actual quality of the documentary doesn’t matter as much. In this particular case, the Back In Time panel served as kind of a celebration of fandom itself. With the opening video montage of the creative personnel traveling the globe, going from con to con (including, yes, San Diego), talking about their documentary and their love for Back To The Future, fans get to live vicariously through their success and their access to Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Michael J. Fox. It was a chance to luxuriate in the deep love for a film that turned 30 years old this year and seems to show no sign of its popularity diminishing anytime soon. The fact that everyone got to have a free bottle of Pepsi Perfect to take home and either keep as ceremonial trophies or sell online was just an added perk.
New York Comic-Con this year was not the place to find out what was going to be hyped about the next big thing in film; that was television’s job. However, for at least one panel, it did serve the other purpose of a convention, which is to draw together fans together to celebrate both a particular piece of art one shared love. That is something not to be taken for granted.