5 Reasons Comic-Con Is Hollywood’s Cannes for Blockbusters

James Cameron previewed “Avatar,” Johnny Depp made a surprise visit, Jon Favreau reigns … here’s why you need to be there

Some things really do get better with age.

There’s Scotch, Hillary Clinton and, 40 years after it first modestly opened its doors in San Diego, Comic-Con.

Comic-Con has become the Cannes of blockbusters.

(See: Scenes From "Preview Night" — a Slideshow)

To many, it’s the only film festival that matters. Sure, more snippets than full films are screened, a few purists declare it actually has gotten too Hollywood — and the populists wish the geek stain would finally wash off.

(Also read: "Top 10 Things You Must See at Comic-Con.")

But it undeniably has become one of the most important stops on the Tinseltown circuit.

Why?

Unlike what fills the schedule at most film festivals, Comic-Con is where the movies that most of the world will actually see make their debut. And it’s no longer just comics and movies. Comic-Con also features TV – hello, Seth McFarlane! — collectables and merchandise, anime, and videogames — all things that thrive in American youth culture.

This year, from Thursday through Sunday, over 100,000 fans and exhibitors in a variety of mediums will be packing the halls and corridors of the San Diego Convention Center.

Here’s why you should be one of them.

1. THE STAKES

Do the math — the studios do. Comic-Con is where the movies that keep the lights on and the flames burning for Hollywood see their first light of day. Mainlining the tip of their target market iceberg, the studios and stars have learned that good buzz from the fanboys at Comic-Con can translate into stellar box office down the line. 

Last year, James Cameron talked up “Avatar,” Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Faverau previewed “Iron Man 2,” “Twilight Saga: New Moon” revealed its fangs and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp hyped “Alice in Wonderland.” 

Those four movies have made over $1,690,737,928 domestically and $5,079,845,630 worldwide. Was it all thanks to Comic-Con? Of course not, but Comic-Con certainly fueled the fire — and that flame, to put it mildly, burned very bright.

2. THE SPECTACLE

Getting a glimpse of Ryan Reynolds’ “Green Lantern” suit in Hall H on Saturday is something. But just wandering around the cavernous San Diego Convention center and seeing dozens of Darth Vaders, Vikings, Wonder Women, Steampunks, leather bound forces of Cobra, Ninjas, Cookie Monsters — and my all-time favorite from 2009, the Boba Fett bikini — is something pretty special. 

3. JON FAVREAU

Cameron might be King of the World — and All-time King of the Box Office,” thanks to “Avatar’s” $2,730,924,867worldwide haul — but there’s no doubt that Jon Faverau is the King of Comic-Con.

The director won over a skeptical crowd with “Iron Man” previews in 2007. He blew the frothing crowd away in Hall H with “Iron Man 2” in 2009. Always a crowd pleaser, he also deftly praised Comic-Con for the success of the first armored avenger movie. This year, Hollywood’s most underestimated Renaissance Man is bringing the still filming  “Cowboys and Aliens,” starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, before his people on July 24.

Oh yeah and if that doesn’t seal his reign, Faverau’s consulting on both “Thor” and “Captain America” and executive producing “The Avengers.”  Add up all those past and future box offices and you’ll see why King Faverau has the Comic-Con golden touch.

4. THE FUN

Most film festivals are good for dealmaking and full of “worthwhile” movies, but you’d been hard pressed to call them fun. Comic-Con’s a feast of fun. And we’re not just talking Boba Fett bikinis. There are four days of pool parties, boat parties, dance parties and private after-party parties to keep Hollywood’s royalty entertained. There’s gift bags. There’s “Machete” director Robert Rodriguez taco truck party and outside screening on July 22.

It’s the biggest stars around letting their hair down and venturing out past the talking points.

5. GEEK ZEITGEIST

In America in 2010, the former four-eyes who used to get beat up in high school by the cool kids run the show. Steve Jobs, Pixar, “Glee,” “The Big Bang Theory” and the Mom-jeans wearing Commander-in-Geek himself, Barack Obama.

Comic-Con was geek before geek was cool. In the years since, as Hollywood and corporate America have discovered just how much disposable income the Geek Nation has, the fest has emerged as a primary influencer and indicator of where the culture is going next. It was all over vampires years back when they were just a glimmer on “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer and “True Blood” creator Alan Ball’s unfanged teeth — which is exactly why both have played to the San Diego crowd.

As for superheroes … ummm, as the great Stan Lee would put it, “Nuff said.”