Stan Lee, co-creator of “Spider- Man” and “Iron Man,” used to stroll almost unnoticed among the booths at the Comic-Con International convention.
That was before Hollywood studios morphed the annual gathering of more than 120,000 comic-book fans at the San Diego Convention Center into a promotional vehicle for movies, including many that have nothing to do with comics.
“You almost cannot move on the floor,” Lee, 86, said in a telephone interview. “If you’re someone they recognize, and they seem to recognize me, it’s very tough.”
Studios will preview more than two dozen films at Comic- Con, according to the schedule, including thrillers, fantasies, science-fiction and teen pictures designed to appeal to the young and young-minded. Those not based on comics include “Sherlock Holmes,” from Time Warner Inc., and Sony Corp.’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” from the children’s book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett.
“It can be a game changer,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing at Time Warner’s Warner Bros. in Burbank, California. With communication through blogs and Twitter, “You can instantly go from obscurity to national awareness in minutes.”
This year’s convention opens tomorrow and runs through July 26. Warner Bros. is previewing new television shows tonight.
Last year, Comic-Con hosted cast members from Summit Entertainment LLC’s “Twilight,” a film based on the Stephenie Meyer books about teen-age vampires. The picture went on to produce $382 million in worldwide box-office sales, according to Box Office Mojo LLC, an industry Web site.
Another not based on comics, Sony’s teen comedy “Superbad,” was introduced at a Comic-Con in July 2007, and took in $170 million in theaters worldwide after its release the next month, according to Box Office Mojo.
Summit, based in Santa Monica, California, is returning this year to introduce a sequel to the vampire movie, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” according to the schedule.
Previews of major films, with appearances by stars and directors, are held in a 6,500-seat auditorium. Buzz can build quickly. Bloggers and Twitter aficionados can relay their thoughts on movies during the presentations.
“If something screens well or doesn’t screen well, the word gets out quickly,” said Marc Weinstock, co-president of worldwide marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, in Culver City, California.
Robert Downey Jr. will take part in a panel discussing “Sherlock Holmes,” according to Warner Bros. The film is scheduled for release in December, according to Box Office Mojo.
James Cameron will show footage of the sci-fi film “Avatar,” his first feature film since the 1997 release of “Titanic.” The film is scheduled for release by News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox in December.
“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson will make his first appearance at Comic-Con to talk about the science-fiction thriller “District 9,” according to Weinstock.
Jackson produced “District 9,” about an alien race that visits Earth. Sony will release the movie next month. The studio is also introducing “Zombieland” and “2012,” about apocalyptic events that threaten to destroy the Earth.
The schedule also includes previews or panels on television shows, including “Lost,” which airs on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network, and “Fringe” from News Corp.’s Fox.
More than 126,000 people attended the convention last year, according to Comic-Con’s information hotline. Many come dressed as characters, such as Wolverine. Fake weapons must be checked by security, according to the Web site.
The first Comic-Con was held in 1970 with guests including authors Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt, according to the site.
Lee, who made cameo appearances in each of the three “Spider-Man” movies, said he has learned to avoid crowds by using the center’s underground passageways. He is attending this year to promote “Time Jumper,” a comic created by his Pow! Entertainment Inc. for mobile phones and other devices.
“It’s an event that brings together the most rabid fans of comics and movies,” Lee said. “It’s a place where you get a huge group of people who share the same taste. They all love the world of fantasy.”