Back in my movie studio days, I worked quite a few Comic-Cons. This was back in the early days of movie studio involvement. These days when Lionsgate goes to Comic-Con, they buy a massive booth space and fill it with props, posters, memorabilia and other massive promotional items. When I went there with Lionsgate in 2002, we shared a single-table booth with an indie comic book company.
While the studios were still trying to figure out what to do on the booth floor, however, they had already figured out how to take advantage of Hall H. See, the top floor of the San Diego Convention Center is diced up into smaller rooms in which companies give presentations, show off upcoming work, hold press conferences and generally promote their wares to a captive audience. Hall H is the largest room with over 6,500 seats and naturally attracts the biggest and most anticipated news.
I don't know how it was back before my time but even back in 2002, the movie studios were already taking ownership of Hall H and, as far as I can tell, they haven't given it back since. Every time you hear about a new movie trailer or new footage from an upcoming movie that got premiered at Comic-Con, chances are it took place in Hall H. Did Angelina Jolie show up? I promise you she went directly to Hall H, did her Q&A and then left Hall H and went directly back to her limo where she sped out of town as fast possible.
Hall H is where you make your mark. It's where you get noticed. It's where the fanboys and fangirls affix their eyeballs and wait with baited breathe for whatever morsel you throw their way.
Of the hundred of movies that have been promoted in Hall H over the past decade, I'd feel confident saying that roughly 75-80% perform, at best, adequately at the box office. And many of them outright bomb.
Those same movies whose trailer premiere made thousands of people go apeshit in excitement failed to make its budget back once it came out in theaters six months later (See: Firefly). How the heck does that happen?
Because for all the pomp, all the circumstance and all the fan fervor, what happens in Hall H has absolutely no affect whatsoever on how good or bad a movie will do at the box office. Absolutely none.
If you're a movie studio and you are using Hall H to promote a movie that's coming out in a few weeks, you are wasting time and money. Opinions have already been formed. Decisions have already been made. And there's nothing a bland Q&A with the star of the movie is going to do to change them by pretending to like comic books for an hour.
The key, of course, is to use Hall H for the movie you're releasing 16 months from now. That's where the power of Hall H is. It's the launching pad for the hype that will hopefully sustain interest as it snowballs into something that catches fire a year and a half later when the film actually comes out (and spawns three sequels, three prequels and an ill-conceived TV show).
Hall H is all about laying the foundation for what's going to happen in the years to come. And in that sense, that's what these MetLife Stadium games are all about. They're not about what happens today and they're not about what happened Saturday. They're about where Syracuse Football should be five, ten years from now.
All due respect to Syracuse fans (and I'm one of them) but this isn't about us. It's not about making us happy (and that was made clear). These games are about media footprints, recruit awareness, New York City association and national publicity. They're about being to say we play USC, Penn State and Notre Dame in an NFL stadium just outside NYC and you don't.
Does it matter that the game drew 39K (announced) and that most people would tell you it felt like there were just as many USC fans as Syracuse fans in attendance? No, not really. I'm sure DOC Gross and SU Athletics had to know they weren't going to draw much more than this. It's a long term strategy and the fan support in Year One of this plan just doesn't matter.
Just like with the platinum uniforms for the basketball team and neon yellow socks for the lacrosse team, this isn't about pleasing fans. Your immediate happiness is sacrificed so that the program can, in theory, be where USC is ten years from now.
Of course, the flip side to all of this is that Syracuse fans revolted this past weekend the only way that they can actually make an impact. By not going to the game. By not opening up their wallets. This wasn't about "supporting the team," it was about saying that since we're not the priority, then it's not our priority to shell out the money to be there.
We can argue the merits of it and whether or not SU fans should have attended in droves. But the fact is that when you take a home game, move it 300 miles away and jack up the price, you're going to get push-back no matter what your justification. Throw in the unintended consequence of the daily deals, which may have helped inflate the attendance, but royally pissed off early ticket buyers who watched seats similar to theirs go for half the price, and you've managed to annoy just about every fan who isn't making six-figures.
While I realize it's not about the attendance, one can't help but wonder about next year. The hard fact that SU Athletics is willing to face is that Syracuse is not the draw in these games, the opponent is. When we start playing Notre Dame, you'll see that impact. But as for the Penn St. tilt, who's gonna show up for that? Penn State looks to be atrocious this season. Even if Syracuse makes it to a bowl game this year and finishes with 6-7 wins, what unaffiliated person is going to buy a $60 ticket to watch that game?
Basically, Syracuse Athletics is asking SU fans to bear with them as they do what they think is the best thing to turn the program into a powerhouse. That's understandable and appreciated. But there's a difference between bearing with it and shelling out a ton of money to watch a home game in NJ, not to mention the added kick in the pants of heading back to Syracuse the next weekend for a true home game against...Stony Brook.
I see both sides of the coin. In the long-term, SU Athletics is saying the only way to pack the Dome for years to come is to play big games far from it. In the short-term, it's asking fans to put down-payments on a future that we're not sure will actually come about.
Everything looks amazing in Hall H at Comic-Con. The trailers blow you away. The exclusive scenes feel special. The appearances are exciting. You walk out of there thinking every single movie is going to be huge.
Then you actually see the movie and, four out of fives times, it doesn't live up to the hype.
That's Syracuse Football's MetLife problem in a nutshell. And I'm not entirely sure they'll be able to crack it.