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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

question of the day: Is Hollywood afraid of fanboys?

The Hobbit

In yesterday’s QOTD, I asked about how we might tame the excesses of fanboy culture, in connection with the shitstorm at Rotten Tomatoes over negative reviews of The Dark Knight Rises. (This has now made the mainstream media, which is a first, I think.)
Also happening this week: The New York Times suggests that Hollywood is afraid of fanboy wrath. From “Hollywood Acts Warily at Comics Convention”:

SAN DIEGO — Peter Jackson arrived at the Comic-Con fan convention here on Saturday and wowed the crowd with 13 minutes of highly anticipated footage from the first of his two ultraexpensive “Hobbit” movies.

But he also played it safe — very safe — by not so much as mentioning, much less demonstrating, the filmmaking wizardry at the heart of the project. That left big questions about the movie industry’s future unanswered and added to a theme of this year’s Comic-Con: Hollywood has come to fear this place.

[O]ne might think that Comic-Con would be a relatively low-risk place for Mr. Jackson and his studio backers, led by Warner Brothers, to take 48-frame-projection for a test drive. This is a crowd that has been starved for a successor to “Avatar,” a movie that was supposed to herald a transformed moviegoing experience that has so far not arrived.

Still, Mr. Jackson, one of Hollywood’s boldest directors, made the unexpectedly timid decision to present “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in a standard format here — it was not even in 3-D — because he feared an online outcry that could hurt box-office results.

Mr. Jackson was far from the only one holding back in San Diego this year. Three of Hollywood’s six major movie studios — Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox — decided not to come at all rather than risk showing footage for distant movies with still-unfinished special effects.

Entertainment companies come to Comic-Con with the goal of igniting controlled brush fires on the Web — a burst of positive Twitter, blog and Facebook chatter that spreads to the mainstream and creates new fans. But the Comic-Con crowd is a discerning one and frequently refuses to cooperate. This can create difficult (sometimes impossible) messes for studio marketers to mop up.

What do you think? Is Hollywood afraid of fanboys? This would seem to run counter to how Comic-Con looks from the outside, as I suggested last week, that is it nothing more than a PR blitz for Hollywood. If the industry is afraid, is it right to be? Or is it letting itself by bullied by a fan culture that, at least in some small and vocal part, has no compunctions about raining death threats down on those it feels has wronged it? I don’t think we need to worry that Hollywood will stop pandering to fanboys, but how might its approach change in such an environment?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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