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What’s the Deal With Comic-Con Leaks? Studios Need to Wake Up and Share Footage Online

Since piracy of Hall H video is inevitable, just post it on the Web right away

On Monday morning, I woke up and watched trailers for Warner Bros.’s “Suicide Squad” and 20th Century Fox’s comic book movies “Deadpool” and “X-Men: Apocalpyse” — all pirated from Comic-Con’s Hall H this past weekend.

Whether you’re a film reporter or simply a fan, you were practically obligated to participate in this act of piracy, because to abstain was to miss the conversation currently dominating the Internet.

I’m not proud of watching pirated trailers, but Warner Bros. and Fox left me little choice. It’s perfectly understandable that those studios hoped to cater directly to the rabid audiences for superhero movies and deliver exclusive footage for the Hall H crowd that spent thousands of dollars getting to San Diego and countless hours waiting in lines. But it’s a sign of the times that Warner Bros. released the “Suicide Squad” trailer after the leak spread like wildfire online. Even Batman and Superman couldn’t contain it.

Studios are in the business of seducing global audiences. While 7,000 fans in Hall H is a good start, you don’t go to the trouble of creating a great trailer for such a small slice of the audience.

Not every studio took a velvet-rope approach to its Comic-Con reveals. Disney and Lucasfilm were clearly aware of pent-up fan demand, releasing the behind-the-scenes footage from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” mere moments after it debuted in Hall H.

Even Warner Bros. posted the “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” trailer immediately following its Hall H presentation. So it’s unclear why the studio didn’t employ the same strategy for “Suicide Squad.” Sure, the movie is still in production, but if director David Ayer didn’t think his footage was ready for a mass audience, he wouldn’t have allowed the Comic-Con crowd to get a sneak peek.

That hasn’t stopped the expressions of anguish over the bootleg copies. “Clearly we are disappointed,” David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for Comic-Con International, said in a statement on Monday. “This leak not only violates the trust of Comic-Con and the studios, but each of the attendees who respect the bond we have long held.”

The studios affected are similarly concerned. “Comic-Con will have to step up security,” an executive at 20th Century Fox told TheWrap. “Otherwise, what is the point of spending millions for material created just for there when it ends up online in unfinished form? Why would [people] pay that money to attend when they can see it all online?”

Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and international distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures, seemed to acknowledge the studio’s bind in her statement Monday announcing the official release of the “Suicide Squad” clip: “It was our intention to keep the footage as a unique experience for the Comic Con crowd, but we cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”

Ayer wrote on Twitter that the “Suicide Squad” leak was “unfair to the fans who waited in line.” Well, what about the 7,001st person in line who spent their hard-earned money to come to San Diego and then didn’t get into Hall H? They sacrificed numerous other opportunities and panels, just for the chance to see “Suicide Squad,” and then a member of the press can show up at the last minute and snag her seat?

Is it worse to devalue the “special” experience meant solely for those 7,000 people or for a studio to turn its back on the rest of its fans? Maybe those who can’t afford to go to Comic-Con are saving up so they can pay for increasingly expensive movie tickets?

Rest assured, studios aren’t required to bring exclusive footage to Comic-Con and it’s not the Hall H crowd’s right to see fresh clips and trailers. It is a studio’s choice and an audience’s privilege.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Studios know that any footage they don’t release themselves will be pirated — and they often count on it. While shaky-cam iPhone footage is certainly not ideal, imagine if no one pirated that “Suicide Squad” trailer? Wouldn’t that be worse, since only the coolest footage gets pirated?

I don’t even think that fans who pirate footage are doing it for selfish interests in the name of traffic. They’re more like digital Robin Hoods who “steal” from the rich studios to give to the poor, or the people who aren’t lucky enough to score a seat in Hall H.

These movies and characters belong to all of us, and studios need to get with the times and understand that so they can make footage available shortly after a presentation. As a reporter, I fully understand wanting a window of exclusivity, but ultimately studios are only doing themselves a disservice.

The trailer for Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” I watched only featured half of the massive Hall H screen, but it gave me the taste I craved as a fan and deserved as a non-Con attendee. You better believe I’m chomping at the bit to see those trailers the proper way.

Periscope added a new wrinkle to Comic-Con this year, one that event organizers should embrace next year. Given all these leaks, SDCC needs to fire its security team, who seemingly couldn’t stop piracy from occurring. You didn’t see anything leak out of CinemaCon, and while that audience is comprised of press and industry professionals rather than fans, its security measures were much more strict. You think fans at Comic-Can will whip out their phones if a laser shoots down from the ceiling outing them in front of their peers?

Eddie Ibrahim, the convention’s director of programming, introduced every significant studio panel with the same vague call for gratitude and restraint. “Let’s let them know how excited we are that they’re here, and how much we want them to keep coming back,” Ibrahim said ahead of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” presentation.

The Oscar winner unveiled seven minutes of footage from the violent Western, and not just bells and whistles — Tarantino beamed with pride over giving fans details like full character names and plot details like how the players are trapped in one location for a significant portion of the film. Interestingly, that footage hasn’t leaked online yet.