Okay, okay, clutch your pearls and grab the smelling salts–for the first time in recent memory, Warner Bros will not be holding a massive Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. It will, however, still host a Scare-Diego offsite panel to promote its upcoming horror fare, including the highly anticipated IT Chapter 2. This is bigger news than HBO skipping last year.
As first reported by IGN, “WB will be specifically focusing on its horror movie slate during the yearly convention, foregoing any sort of Hall H panel presence as has been a staple in years past. As a result, WB will not be spotlighting its upcoming superhero slate as it has in previous years, with the studio’s Hall H panel having showings of Wonder Woman 1984 and Shazam in 2018.”
So, what does this mean? Well, for starters, there’s on open spot at 11 a.m. Saturday morning in Hall H this year. What can fill it? If past Cons are any indication, the Friday night slot will be filled by Lucasfilm, with STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, taking over Hall H in an attempt to win back the fans who were turned off by Rian Johnson’s divisive The Last Jedi. If the stars align, we hope that Saturday night will see the triumphant return of MARVEL STUDIOS, with a Kevin Feige-led panel to announce the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We suspect that The Walking Dead, beleaguered as it is, will likely nab a Saturday afternoon spot, along with a big panel from HBO, perhaps returning with either a Game of Thrones salute or a Westworld preview (or both!). That leaves a big gap on Saturday morning, usually the most reliable spot in the schedule. My guess would be that maybe–just maybe–we’ll get a Disney+ panel, featuring Jon Favreau’s massively epic new live-action Star Wars series THE MANDALORIAN. It will be joined onstage by a slew of Marvel stars, such as Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johanssen, Sabastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany who will likely be promoting their big new Disney+ limited series–Loki, Black Widow, Falcon and Winter Soldier, WandaVision (weird name). Disney is going BIG with their new streaming service, and it makes a lot of sense to showcase it in a very big way. AND, if Marvel Studios is holding a Hall H panel that Saturday night, then a number of these stars will likely already be in town for Marvel’s big phase IV announcements.
WHY IS WARNER BRO SKIPPING?
Of course, the question that begs an answer is “Why”? After such a long partnership, why would Warners bail on San Diego Comic-Con’s 50th anniversary year? There are a couple of possible reasons, actually.
- Perhaps the most obvious answer is this: They don’t really have much to show. Fans are excited about Wonder Woman 1984, that we know. But besides that, what do they have to show? They already trotted out SHAZAM! in a cool arena panel at Wondercon. So that’s in the can. But what about James Gunn’s rebooted The Suicide Squad? It doesn’t come out til 2021, so we can hopefully expect it next year in Hall H. There is Todd Phillip’s JOKER, staring Joaquin Phoenix, but from what we’ve seen, it’s not gonna be the crowd-pleaser that most Hall H films are. Birds of Prey seems like an obvious choice, especially considering its early 2020 timeslot. But maybe it’s just not ready to preview yet. THE BATMAN, out in June 2021, just landed its star (hello Mr. BATinson), but like Suicide Squad, we’ll likely see it next year. Everything else, including Aquaman 2, The Trench (Aquaman spin-off), The Flash, Batgirl, etc etc, is a few years off. Soooo, maybe there’s just not enough currently in production to field a massive panel this year.
- Another reason for the no-show may be the fact that Warner Bros Studio itself is currently going through some upheavals. With an empty CEO chair, and an ongoing integration by AT&T (clearing regulatory hurdles), the business side of Warner Bros is kinda chaotic right now. Also, Warners is focusing its energy on launching its own streaming service to challenge Netflix and Disney+, so maybe a Hall H panel at Comic-Con is just not one of its corporate priorities this year.
- Another possible reason? Maybe they just don’t have their ducks in a row and they don’t want to be embarrassed. This is closely related to the first reason above, but if Marvel shows up with a slick, polished, not-to-be-missed presentation, and Warners just has a ho-hum lackluster show, then the fans will spread the word, and that equals bad press. With the failure of the DC shared universe (Justice League was quite a dud), Warners might just be taking a year to re-group, lick its wounds, and come back stronger than ever.
- The final possible reason is an idea that’s bandied about every year, and one we hope is not true: Hall H just ain’t worth the expense. Warners has been the single most reliable Hall H presenter for years. However, with the exception of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, most of their Hall H wares have failed to catch on at the box-office, or with fans. Of course, the obvious rebuttal to that statement is: it’s because your films haven’t been very good. True. But studio execs aren’t always as attuned to such obvious truths. All they know is that a film arrived in Hall H, and then disappointed at the box-office, so naturally it must mean that Hall H is a waste. Dumb execs. Can we just say this to Warners? MAKE BETTER FILMS. Take this year to regroup. Hire the best writers and directors (hooray for James Gunn! Go get Joss Whedon back). And let them work their magic.
So those are our best guesses as to why Warner Bros aren’t coming this year. It sucks, but hey — maybe Saturday’s line won’t be the all-night campout it usually is…. hmm, wishful thinking.
But we do think that Warners will return in 2020. They’ve got a much stronger lineup to showcase, and by that time, all the corporate unease should be worked out.