Despite the drought of movie blockbusters – not a Star Wars, Star Trek or Marvel movie in sight – San Diego’s Comic-Con has opened its doors for the first time since 2019, with an estimated 130,000 people expected to push through the turnstiles. Pandemic, you ask? What pandemic?
But in a reflection of a broader industry shift, streaming television has overtaken movie marketing as the engine powering the annual pop culture convention. And the star of the show so far is Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, which dropped its official trailer ahead of the four-day event.
What is House of the Dragon again?
The series, set 200 years before HBO’s monster hit Game of Thrones, is based on the book Fire & Blood by author (and series co-creator) George R. R. Martin and explores the civil war within the royal house of Targaryen. In Australia, it will air on Binge from August 22.
The trailer reveals the catalyst for the so-called “Dance of the Dragons”: a division in the royal house between those who support King Viserys’ brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), as the heir to the Iron Throne, and those who back the controversial push for his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) to inherit her father’s power.
But the trailer is just part of the hype. As part of the marketing push for the series at Comic-Con, a large-scale replica of the Game of Thrones setting, King’s Landing, has been unveiled adjacent to the 2.6 million square foot San Diego Convention Centre. Created by the New York-based creative media agency Giant Spoon, House of the Dragon: The Dragon’s Den takes fans through seven stages of a ceremonial “dragon hatching”, concluding in the now-iconic throne room with Game of Thrones’ famous Iron Throne. Cue photo opportunity; next customer, please.
Using an augmented reality app, DracARys, the show’s fans can also hatch a personalised “virtual dragon egg” which they keep and, via the app, continue to care for. Think of it as an infinitely more sophisticated fire-breathing Tamagotchi.
The other big players at Comic-Con
Inside the convention centre, the brands that matter most will command their own panels at the centre’s famous Hall H which seats about 6100 people. (The who-used-to-be-who-and-the-what’s-left of the pop culture A-list get the smaller Ballroom 20, which can hold about 4900 people.)
This year, Hall H will see panels on House of the Dragon, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Warner Bros and Marvel theatrical slates, and the “Star Trek Universe”.
There will also be some nods to nostalgia (including Teen Wolf: The Movie and Masters of the Universe: 40 Years) and several esoteric panels: “Directors on Directing” will feature Tim Miller (the director of Deadpool), Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) and Chad Stahelski (the John Wick franchise), and “Shatner on Shatner” will see filmmaker Kevin Smith in conversation with Star Trek’s iconic Captain Kirk, actor William Shatner.
Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, actor William Shatner, will be at Comic-Con.Credit:AP
But how much power the big-ticket movie-powered panels retain – Paramount, Warner Bros and Marvel Studios among them – remains to be seen.
Paramount, for example, is using Comic-Con as a major marketing spearhead for its new film, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. It’s a big dice roll – pun intended – as syncing the game’s enduring commercial success with a billion-dollar movie franchise has proven a bit of a challenge. (Previous film efforts under the D&D brand have, shall we say, rolled a few ones on the artistic d20.)
Paramount’s Star Trek franchise also lands in Hall H with its two big live-action series for 2022 – Picard and Strange New Worlds – already wrapped and aired. The shifting launch dates of shows which would once have been timed around Comic-Con are a reflection, perhaps, on how monthly-subscriber-dependent streamers need to schedule new content versus the slightly more generous spacing of a movie studio or pre-streaming TV schedule.
The only major Star Trek launches still to come this year are new episodes of the two animated series, Lower Decks and Prodigy.
Fans in costume at Comic-Con in 2018.Credit:AP
Warner Bros, historically a big player at Comic-Con, is momentarily distracted by a corporate restructure following its merger with Discovery. But the studio’s Hall H panel will likely focus on two new films, Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. It could also feature possible updates on Dune: Part Two, and two other projects of Australian interest: the Mad Max sequel Furiosa and Barbie, which stars Margot Robbie.
Hype has been growing around Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie for months.Credit:Getty
Marvel’s Hall H panel, meanwhile, will likely include new information on plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase Four” films. Still to come there: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, The Marvels, Fantastic Four, Blade and a third Guardians of the Galaxy film. The only near-certain thing is that Marvel will use Comic-Con to unveil a new trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
But Marvel is likely holding back some of its firepower. And the same goes for Lucasfilm, which produces the Star Wars films and television series. The reason? Both are owned by Disney and likely focus their marketing budgets at Disney’s studio-owned fan convention, D23 Expo, which is being staged in September. Netflix is holding a virtual fan convention, Tudum, also in September.
San Diego Comic-Con runs until Monday, Australian time.
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