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Screenjabber Podcast: The guys go nuts

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sat, 02/08/2014 - 17:39

Join Katie Wong, Amon Warrman, David Watson and host Stuart O'Connor for some movie chitchat and a look at a few of this week's UK cinema releases: Blackwood, The Nut Job and Guardians of The Galaxy.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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Interview: Hide Your Smiling Faces writer/director Daniel Carbone

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 31/07/2014 - 08:17

Hide Your Smiling Faces is a coming-of-age film that stands out from the crowd. By disregarding a traditional three act structure, the film becomes an enticing meditation on mortality, told through the eyes of two brothers after their close friend mysteriously dies. Screenjabber's Peter Johnson caught up with debutant writer/director Daniel Carbone, while trying not to have a conversation purely about the nature of human mortality and death – which the film does excellently.

Straight off the bat, how did you manage to coerce such remarkably convincing performances out of your duo of young actors, Ryan Jones & Nathan Varnson?
Well, our formula for the film, was not to have one. I'd had mixed results in the past with casting shorts, and they were a lesson in what not to do, so this time we turned to Craigslist and other open auditions to find actors. We were trying to see as many kids as possible and Ryan and Nathan came in, both so mature for their respective ages (10 and 14). The audition process was more of a thematic conversation around the film than a standard audition, we didn't do a table read or practice lines. They didn't fit the archetypal roles I'd written initially, but I was blown away by their honesty and openness.

How did they deal with the script? Did you bring them in at all?
There was a lot of silence and space left in the script, and the more we filmed, the more the kids improvised. Sometimes there would be a piece of dialogue that didn't fit the bill, because obviously an adult writing children doesn't always work, and they'd say to me “I don't the character would say anything here, it doesn't feel right”, so we'd leave it speechless. Instead they would start scrapping, or fighting, or just sit there, and it felt more natural, so they definitely became part of the creative process. It was very natural. They were more like co-writers by the end of filming, obviously it changed a lot in the edit, but they added a lot more to the film, it was better for them, and for the film.

It definitely comes through, almost everything seems to be geared towards simplicity and reality than any sort of constructed drama, could you speak briefly about how you went about that?
Well, I'm happy that came about because I was focusing on making a film I wanted to watch. I'm just as much a film watcher as I am a film maker, if not more so, so I definitely didn't have any sort of masterplan. I think audiences can respond and really lock in to films that make a point of not pandering to the “Hollywood” style, which a lot of coming-of-age films do, with clear 1-2-3 acts. Of course that's not a bad thing, but it's not the film I wanted to make. If a film can take its time and be sure about what its saying, and say it in a clear voice with a clear tone, you feel like you're in safe hands. I know I do when I watch films, so I tried to make something like that. I like to feel like the director has taken as much care as possible in making the film, so I tried to put myself in the audience's position and make a film that would make me feel like that.

Was that always the core of the film, the unique thing that sets it apart from other stories like this, or did that evolve naturally as you grew into the film?
Well, the film started out as a script of a series of important moments, or vignettes and conversations as opposed to fully constructed scenes. I wanted it to feel like the boys were remembering the important events of a summer, rather than everything that happened. I'd say that was the thing I tried to make sure came through all the time.

I definitely got the sense that you were going for the “less is more” approach, leaving lots of space for the audience to project on to the film instead of being spoonfed a narrative. It's almost disorientating, but magnetic at the same time.
Definitely! I wanted to focus on the parts that would've meant most to the boys, because no-one really needs to see the parents shouting at the kids for running off or playing around, that's all implied. The film basically got remade in the editing suite, that's where the more slow-paced, thoughtful side of the boys conversations about death and their insecurities get the weight they do. We didn't have time to film everything, sometimes it would rain when we had planned to be shooting a sunny scene, so we went with what we had, shot what we could, and restructured a lot of it in the edit. Bless the crew for helping us, I called in favours everywhere and the crew and budget were tiny, but they were excellent throughout the shooting – it was pretty hectic.

How was shooting with that small crew, and that tiny budget? Did you find it restricting, or was not having a big studio presence liberating, or maybe daunting?
It was a pretty hard sell to a studio anyway, tiny film, no massive star names, no obvious story, no clear overarching plot, so we didn't have much funding, and it my was debut film, but that meant that there was so much less expectation on the film, which is kind of nice for a debut feature. The filming process was pretty innovative, because of the restrictions, everything was a bit more “real”. We had two real boys, and the essence of actual boyhood was still there and they didn't look like they were acting, they were just being boys – which was great for the camera. We left them lots of room to breathe, nothing had to be perfect, so the whole thing was very open and independent.

Kind of like the nature of growing up itself…
Exactly!

Lastly, the obvious one – what's next for you?
I'm making a documentary about a similar subject to this, it's another film about male adolescence in a traditional “small-town” USA setting. It's another slice-of-life type film.

Hide Your Smiling Faces review

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Scar Tissue: Screening Q&A

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Wed, 30/07/2014 - 20:20

By Jessy Williams

The Scar Tissue Q&A took place after a special screening at London's Prince Charles Cinema, and featured writer/director Scott Michell, stars Danny Horn and Charity Wakefield, and composer Mark Ayres...

Mark: I've known you for many years Scott, but where did that come from?

Scott: They say it's always the quiet ones. I don't know, is the short answer. Somwhere deep buried within my psyche, there is obviously some very dark thoughts. Thankfully, I've been kind enough to put it on to paper. But, that story has been in development for 12 years in various guises and I think it got darker and darker.

Mark: I read a few drafts and it started off as more of a pure sci-fi.

Scott: It did. It mutated over a few years and got darker and more character-driven, probably more cerebral.

Mark: And you were lucky enough to get Charity (Charity Wakefield) involved in this.

Scott: Absolutely. We had quite a long search for our Luke and our Sam. We had many auditions, but we were delighted to find Danny who hadn't done that many films. I just felt that he had that duality and touch that would bring both the instant likeability to the character, but also that little bit of darkness. You're going to have a little sense of wonder about him; was he as straightforward and likeable as you think? With Charity, well we needed someone who could capture both elements of the Sam character well; the strength and toughness and scariness, but at the same time, vulnerability, warmth and the pathos making you really feel for this character.

Mark: When Mark said he cast you (Charity) I was like, "that's good" because I remember you, we all remember you, from the costume dramas Sense and Sensibility and such.

Charity: Yeah, it was an amazing opportunity to play something completely different to anything I've done before. I didn't really have very long to get ready for it either *laughs* I had boxing lessons two weeks before getting the job. It's quiet strange watching it, because I don't feel like it's me up there at all.

Audience Question 1: Can I ask Scott, where did you see the film being set? You seem to have avoided all identifiable landmarks and such. Was that intentional; was it supposed to be hyper-real, almost like comic book?

Mark: I think you've answered your own question!

Scott: Yes, that's very perceptive of you. I did very consciously avoid setting it in a particular location. We avoided seeing any London landmarks; we shot the entire thing in London, but didn't want to go down that whole road of shots of the Gherkin, etc etc. I wanted that feeling of decay in society, I didn't want to pin that down, I wanted it to be a world that existed within itself. It's a story that can happen anywhere. The whole style of the film was slightly hyper-real with a very slight comic-book element to it.

Mark: We did that very much with the sound design, as well. We tried to avoid British police sirens, to try and take things out of the space as much as we could. We didn't want a very obvious number 9 bus going by or anything like that. So, Danny, what did you think when you got this part?

Danny: With Luke, a lot of things happen to him. He starts of in a very naïve place and that's how I approached it. A series of ridiculous things start happening to him and from the get-go he's in shock, really. He wakes up to find his friend dead! He doesn't really have time to focus on anything that's going on around him, because something else is always being thrown at him.

Mark: You've come soon out of playing the young Michael Gambon in Doctor Who. Was there a very different approach to this, in-terms of set-up of the film?

Danny: It was quite a different part, yeah. I hadn't done anything like this before or since. I remember reading the script and thinking it was creepy. It's one of those things where you read it for the first time and you try to take it all in. Then you get to the end and you realise that this guy's been clowned from this serial killer and you have to re-read everything. Everything that has come before that has a different meaning. I don't believe in the nature side of things, you decide your own fate. So, I don't think that he is the same as the killer. Nevertheless, he's going to have something there and I tried to work that in in the most subtle way possible.

Audience Question 2: I think there was a bit of Blade Runner in this, perhaps in one of the police characters.

Scott: I would be very happy if you thought that and any allusion to Blade Runner is one to be welcomed. There were a whole host of films that were influential when I was putting this together; Se7en was one of them which also had that thing of not being set in particular time or place. I was impressed by that element and the incredible claustrophobic, seedy flavour of the whole thing. Blade Runner, absolutely, with the hyper-real feeling and the colour palette. Although, we couldn't quite match the value of Blade runner *laughs*. I suppose The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is another influence, with the strong female lead character and the overwhelming darkness and twisted humanity.

Mark: One of the things where I think we were really lucky was with our art department. They were just astonishing. Luke's flat is actually the morgue a couple of days later, that's how good they were at doing an enormous amount with very little.

Scott: Absolutely, at times they were working 24 hours a day. They were sleeping on-set and building things through the night. They did an absolutely phenomenal job.

Mark: Alarmingly, the fetish club was rather how we found it.

Scott: Yes, as part of the prep for the film we had to tour some seedy London clubs, which was interesting. That probably wasn't one of the seediest. There were much, much worse ones.

Audience Question 3: Does the music come after you've seen the film the first time or are you writing the music as you read the script?

Mark: It's a bit of both. Scott and I have worked together over a number of years and I've read this script in various incarnations. I did some writing in response to the script, but only about 10 minutes in total. I knew early enough where we thought it was going and that saves me a lot of time. Most of it was written afterwards. What I had written had to be, pretty much, re-written anyway as the synchronisation changes. I like working with a director from the start. All you can really do is react to the film, if you've actually been involved with it. If I've been on-set when Scott has been shooting a scene, I don't have to ask him what he's trying to do with the scene, because I already know.

Audience Question 4: Scott, how difficult was it to you to go to the producers and go, "Hey! This is my film, can we make this?"

Scott: Pretty much everything in the British film industry is tough. Right in the beginning we tried to get off the ground and get the money. There's not many things in life where you go, "Give us...well, in our case, not a lot." It's a heck of an ask for something that's just come out of your head. So yeah, it's a long and difficult process. But, obviously, this is a fairly low-budget production and we managed to get it off the ground. Once we got started it barrelled along pretty quickly, we only had about 2 months prep and it was all madly coming together at the last minute. It actually moved quite quickly which is very very unusual for the film industry. Making the film is only half the problem. Once you've finished post-production you've got the other task of getting it out there and persuading people that this is something that they should buy or ship around the world. We really really wanted to get it in to cinemas. All the way through we very strongly tried to make it a cinematic project, so we tried for very long to try and get a distribution deal that, at least, got us in to some cinemas. Finally we're here, it's long road.

Audience Question 5: Were there any real serial killers that you got inspiration from?

Scott: No, thankfully I don't spend my days studying serial killer reports. It's more more of an overarching sense.... When you read newspapers or watch the news reports will come on and you will be just be watching them open-mouthed being like, "How on Earth does someone do something like that to another human being?" You just cannot relate to it. You just can't get in to that type of mind. I think that that general sentiment, what does make people do these things or turn them in to monsters was important. There wasn't one typ eof inspiration, just more of an over-arching sad feeling about the stories you see every day. Not just serial killers, everything you read every day.

Audience Question 6: Were trying to to get this in to a major film distribution or were you trying to aim this to an independent market? Awards like Sundance, Cannes etc.

Scott: That's an interesting question. I guess we sometimes thought that the British Film Industry sometimes feels a bit small, The cinematography is a little bit grey sometimes, the soundtrack is a little bit muted. So yes, I think we were thought, we'll push this and we'll try and make this a big, loud, cinematic experience. Just go that little bit further. At the same time, to expect a small British film like this to make a massive sum of money..you never expect this. But we were aiming for it.

Mark: We don't really have a British Film Industry. Every film is a start-up and the start of a new business. We do the best we can with the best we can get, really.

Audience Question 7: Charity, your character is a bit unstable, as you call it. How did you prepare, thinking about your previous roles as well?

Charity: Yeah it was very different. I found myself being quite angry on-set all the time. She's in a constant state of anger and wanting to fix things, that she's totally unable to. A) because she's not really capable and B) she doesn't have the information. All the way through the script they can't work it out and it's an obvious concern that she's making everything up in her head. All she's been thinking is killing this guy and getting revenge fr years and years. It wasn't very unenjoyable in a weird way, it was very hard for her. I quite enjoyed playing a character that doesn't let everything out all the time, I've done lots of really emotional parts and she keeps everything back. I really enjoyed the switch of gender stereotypes. It's really rare to get a part where you lead the action and the male character is left running behind. It's quite unusual and odd to play, and you realise that that very rarely happens on-screen. That was great. I suppose she sort of did get rescued sort of at the end, but that was kind of played around with.

Mark: Both of you, do you find it hard to leave a part like this at work when you go home at night?

Charity: Not hard at all, no. *laughs*

Mark: I find writing music for something like this, when I go to bed it's still churning around in my head.

Charity: I think did have some nightmares when I was shooting, because we spent all day in these grimy scenes that you saw. Even though they were sets, they were based around all the same parts of London.

Mark: It was only in a little art studio off Cable Street where we shot it, so it was really run-down area. There were lots of little studios in this one courtyard and yeah, it was a run-down area.

Danny: We shot quite a lot of it in an abandoned hospital, as well. Occasionally you;.'ll walk down a corridor and there'll be a few fake kids. *Laughs* It was a creepy place and we spent about a fortnight shooting there, didn't we?

Mark: There was a dungeon area we actually shot in, in that hospital and it wasn't very nice.

Scott: It felt like it had ghosts, so it was a great place to film something like this. We invested the day in that sort of spooky, menacing feel that maybe came through on-screen. It was an ideal place to shoot something like this.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Tue, 29/07/2014 - 14:59

Lucy shows more muscle than Hercules

By Rich Matthews

Feminine thrills beat out masculine machismo this weekend at the US box office as Scarlett Johansson's sci-fi-boosted heroine Lucy debuted to $44m while Dwayne The Rock Johnson's mythic Hercules came second with $29m.

Lucy is now something of a triumph for director Luc Besson, and represents a return to La Femme Nikita and Leon form. Produced by Besson's EuropaCorp and distributed by Universal, Lucy is the latest in a string of female-focused movies that have out performed expectation, including Angelina Jolie as Disney's Maleficient. Whether it can match La Jolie's legs or will decline quickly, like The Fault In Our Stars, will be one of next weekend's points of interests.

Meanwhile, Paramount and MGM's Brett Ratner-helmed $100m-plus swords'n'sandals epic, Hercules, did reasonable business, and is the first true test of Johnson's leading man potential post-Fast & Furious. Following the increasing trend, Hercules has already grossed $28.7m internationally for an opening global gross of $57.7m.

However, the success of both films still hasn't stemmed the summer's overall decline, which now stands at 20 per cent down from last year. The other two new releases landed a distant eighth and tenth, with Rob Reiner's silver surfer rom-com And So It Goes starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton grossing $4.6m and A Most Wanted Man, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, $2.7m, respectively.

At three, Fox's Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes declined 55 per cent with $16.4m, taking its domestic tally to $172m and its worldwide haul to $354m. Spots four to six were populated by some of the low grossers that have contributed to the summer's malaise – horror sequel The Purge: Anarchy ($9.9m, $51.3m), Disneytoon sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue ($9.3m, $35.1m, $56.1m global) and Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel disappointment Sex Tape ($6m, $26.9m, $37.1m).

At seven, Michael Bay's not-really-a-reboot Transformers: Age Of Extinction took in another $4.6m for a US tally of $236.4m, which remains a good $60m less than the first Transformers at the same point (not adjusting for inflation) and a hefty $100m-plus behind the two atrocious sequels. However, globally, the fourth entry in the franchise is already nearing the $1bn mark (with $966.4m) thanks in no small part to being the first film to gross more than $300m in China. That makes it the biggest film of the year by more than $200m, while domestically it remains $20m off the top spot, behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The LEGO Movie. Finally, nestled in between the two low-performing new releases at nine, Melissa McCarthy's Tammy laughed up a further $3.4m for a homegrown tally of $78.1m.

We can be pretty certain that Lucy's rise to the top will be halted next weekend, with Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy pretty much a sure thing to take number one – the question is by how much? Something of an unknown quantity, even to many comic-book fans, Guardians is one of Marvel's biggest gambles yet, so it's not likely to hit sequel numbers, but anticipation is pretty high, especially with hopes that it will be one of the few "good" summer blockbusters on offer this year.

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Guardians of The Galaxy: London press conference

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Tue, 29/07/2014 - 07:48

Listen to the hilarious London press conference for Guardians of The Galaxy, and learn why Chris Pratt wants his character, Star Lord, to kill Iron Man. And whether the lovely Zoe Saldana found it easy being green ...

Listen to and download the press conference

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan and Djimon Hounsou, with John C Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio del Toro as The Collector. James Gunn is the director of the film with Kevin Feige producing. Guardians of the Galaxy is out in UK cinemas on July 31.

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Trips of the Week

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 27/07/2014 - 19:33

By Stuart O'Connor

Each week, the Screenjabber inbox gets overloaded with emails containing new film trailers, or clips of films or upcoming Blu-ray/DVD/VoD releases. Here are a few of those trailers and clips (hence trips) that caught our eye this week ...

 

Mad Max - Comic-Con First Look

The Simpsons/Family Guy Crossover

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Red Band Trailer

Let’s Be Cops clip: Controlling The Situation

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham trailer

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Screenjabber Podcast: No guts, no glory

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 27/07/2014 - 14:30

Join David Watson, Amon Warrman and host Stuart O'Connor for an aural workout as they take a look at a few of this week's UK cinema releases: The Purge: Anarchy, The House of Magic, Joe, Earth to Echo and Hercules.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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INTERVIEW | Filmmaker Joe Swanberg

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 24/07/2014 - 21:16

Screenjabber's Stuart O'Connor chats with writer-director-actor Joe Swanberg about his new film, Happy Christmas, working again with Anna Kendrick, why men in Hollywood are out of ideas ... and why Jake Johnson is his perfect leading man.

You can listen to and download the interview – plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

Check out Happy Christmas on iTunes

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 21/07/2014 - 20:46

Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes holds strong while The Purge: Anarchy, Planes 2 and Diaz's Sex Tape fail to score

By Rich Matthews

Fox's sequel hit Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes kept a tight grip at the top of the US box office this weekend, declining only 50 per cent to grab $36m to build its domestic tally to $139m and it's worldwide gross to $241m. On home soil, that places the performance-capture sequel, once again starring Andy Serkis as lead chimp Caesar, more than $30m ahead of the original reboot, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

The other blockbuster release in the top five, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, tumbled down to fifth, taking $10m to bring its US gross to a still hefty $227.2m, by far the lowest grossing entry yet by this point, with even 2007's first flick running some $60m ahead at the same point. However, Extinction is a global behemoth, currently standing at $886.3m (more than $200m of which comes from China alone), so it looks likely to pass the magic $1bn mark based on international grosses alone.

In between the monkeys and the robots, two sequels opened lower than their progenitors and an R-rated comedy failed to impress. At two, horror The Purge: Anarchy grossed $28.4m, some $7m behind the first Purge, while Disneytoons Planes 2: Fire & Rescue only just off the ground with $18m. The Bad Teacher reunion of stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel with director Jake Kasdan, Sex Tape, could only manage a prudish $15m at fourth, with studio Sony now hoping for a slow-burn rather than the expected big splash.

From six to 10, Melissa McCarthy continues to defy poor reviews in Tammy ($7.6m for a US gross of $71.3m, $77.4m), Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum keep soaking up all the laughs for Sex Tape in 22 Jump Street ($4.7m, $180.5m, $268.8m), Dreamworks underperformer How To Train Your Dragon 2 ($3.8m, $160m, $384.6m), Angelina Jolie rewriting Disney history in hit Maleficent ($3.3m, $228.4m, $697.2m) and Relativity Media's E.T.-lite Earth To Echo at the back of the pack ($3.2m, $31.8m).

One positive is down at number 15 in the chart: Richard Linklater's beautiful 12-year passion project Boyhood climbed to a domestic total of $1.8m and a global haul of $4.8m. While this is relatively small fry, the labour of love only cost $2.4m and is only playing in 33 theatres, which makes it a bona fide arthouse indie hit.

But back to the biggies – all in, this marked another soft summer weekend, so Hollywood will be hoping that they have as boffo a final third of the year as they did the first just to get back on track. Next weekend we'll see if Dwayne Johnson is Rock enough to properly launch swords-n-sandals epic actioner Hercules (directed by Brett Ratner), if Scarlett Johansson can parlay her Avengers and Captain America kickass pedigree in Luc Besson's sci-fi actioner Lucy and whether Michael Douglas/Diane Keaton old farts romance And So It Goes is actually clever counter-programming after all.

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A brief history of San Diego Comic-Con

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 20/07/2014 - 20:21

By Mark Searby

Most of us will, by now, know San Diego Comic-Con as the place where the cast of The Avengers first got together as a group, or where Tom Hiddleston came onstage dressed as Loki, or where the entire cast of Twilight turned up to do a panel and the Twihards camped overnight just to see them, or where the first episode of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield TV show was screened, or... well, you get the idea.

If you consider yourself a nerd, a geek, a fanboy or any of the other such word associated with this entertainment than you’ll know all about how important San Diego Comic-Con is. But now the film/TV/comic/games studios have realised that to break their product they need to convince, and sell it, to the biggest consumption audience on the planet. Where better to do it than at SDCC. But where did San Diego Comic-Con International start? What’s its origins? Let me take you on a journey in time...

The first SDCC took place at the beginning of August 1970, but it was called Golden State Comic-Con and its venue was the US Grant Hotel. It was attended by just a few hundred enthusiastic nerds, although I am not sure that word applied back then. Admission cost $3.50, or $5 on the door, for the entire three days. The big names at the first convention included Jack Kirby, Ray Bradbury, Forest J Ackerman and the 1940s Superman actor Kirk Alyn. The event was a success, so plans were immediately put in place for another one the following year.

The second year of Comic-Con was held at Muir College, part of the University of California, in La Jolla - a short 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego. Attendance more than doubled this time with more than 800 guests through the campus doors. 1972 saw it revert back to central San Diego at the El Cortez Hotel and also received a name change to San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention. The Sheraton Hotel hosted the newly renamed San Diego Comic Con in 1973; it was also the first five-day event. From 1974-78 SDCC was firmly rooted in the El Cortez Hotel, with each year growing in numbers. 1974 saw the world premiere of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad at Comic-Con and also the annual costume contest called Masquerade got under way. In 1976, Lucasfilm gave its first ever presentation about an upcoming movie called Star Wars. Also Mel Blanc (voice actor for Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and many other Looney Tunes) made his first appearance.

From 1979-87, the convention flitted between hotels – the US Grant, El Cortez, Hotel San Diego – finally ending up at a Holiday Inn. Numbers were steady (between 5,000 and 6,000) but not vastly improving. Lucasfilm’s return in 1982 to screen a special preview of the next Star Wars movie – Return Of The Jedi. 1983 saw the first area solely aimed at computer gaming. The now famous Toucan design for Comic-Con international was introduced for the convention in 1985. The same year saw Alan Moore’s only appearance at a US convention. The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards began in 1987, and are now seen as one of the greatest accolades an artist can receive. 1988 saw attendances at around 8,000 for the convention set inside the new venue of the Omni Hotel, situated right in the Gaslamp area of San Diego and adjacent to the baseball stadium – Petco Park. With more room to expand at their new venue, 1989 was a massive uplift in attendances as packed in for the entire first weekend in August. First timers included Matt Groening and George RR Martin.

The 1990s came around and SDCC continued to move venues for the first few years. Locating to a Holiday Inn, then Pan Pacific Hotel, two years running held at the DoubleTree Hotel and finally onto the Hyatt Regency situated on the waterfront of San Diego. The number of attendees had more than doubled in those years as the con moved homes and was able to sell more badges than ever before. It had also started to utilise rooms and areas in the newly built San Diego convention centre. Neil Gaiman made his first appearance in 1991 and has been a regular fixture ever since. It was around 1993 that the main floor of the convention centre started to turn into what it has become now, a full scale exhibit hall that showcases what each company/individual has to offer. DC was the first to erect a huge structure as an eye catching piece. They also flew in special guests to meet attendees, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Mr T.

In 1995, Comic-Con officially changed its name to Comic-Con International and introduced a new logo that features an animated human eye. It also permanently relocated to the convention centre that year. Attendee figures continued to grow steadily and by the end of the decade it was being visited by more than 40,000 people a day. Notable guests  during this time included Francis Ford Coppola (promoting Dracula), Jean-Claude Van Damme (TimeCop), David Hasselhoff (Nick Fury), Vin Diesel (Iron Giant) Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers). Kevin Smith and Sammo Hung both made their first appearances in the summer of 1997. The first fanboy (as we know it nowadays) mega-event was in 1998, when Joss Whedon and the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer had a panel (the SDCC flyer for 1998 has Joss Whedon’s name spelt incorrectly – Josh Weiden). The Jim Carrey/Cameron Diaz film The Mask had a preview showing at Comic-Con; also, Natural Born Killers and Blair Witch Project were both shown during their release years. The new millennium would see nerd culture slowly take over the world, and with that came a bigger SDCC each year.

Firmly entrenched in the convention centre, Comic-Con International was now seeing moe than 50,000 visitors through the door each day. In 2001, the convention centre had more work done to double the size of the facility. More rooms upstairs were created – including Ballroom 20, which seats nearly 5,000 people. 2004 saw CCI finally take the last empty room in the centre, a 6,500 seating area called Hall H. The first programme in the new hall was David Goyer and Cillian Murphy talking about the forthcoming reboot of the Dark Knight – Batman Begins. By this time, Hollywood film/TV studios had started to sit up and take note that SDCC was not solely focussing on comics (it never had). Lost had its pilot episode debut at Comic-Con in 2004. The exhibition hall was now being completely used – more than 800 metres in length.

SDCC had become a place to be seen, and to sell your products. In 2005, attendance figures hit more than 100,000. The cost of an adult weekend badge back then was $65. Welcome to the modern day CCI in San Diego! 2008 saw badges for multi and individual days sell out before the event for the first time ever, with a cap at 126,000 people per day. 2009 was the 40th Anniversary of Comic-Con International and with it came bigger growth as they sold out of all badges months in advance of the actual weekend. With more and more people clambering for tickets, the decision was taken by Comic-Con International in 2010 to use nearby hotels The Hilton Bayfront and Marriott Marina to hold some of the panels and screenings in a couple of their conference rooms. Preview night tickets for 2010 had sold out a few months after 2009’s convention had finished, and all badges had been cleared out by the March.

Edgar Wright screened his film based on a comic book Scott Pilgrim vs The World that year, and star of the film Michael Cera took to the stage in a Captain America outfit. The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogan, also had a panel that year, alongside another green panel for The Green Lantern. However, that year was slightly marred by two people getting stabbed with pens and others being led away in handcuffs due to seating issues (Fanboys be crazy). 2011/12/13 continued the massive uptrend of people from around the world wanting to attend the convention. Weekend badges selling out in a few hours in ’11, the following year badges sold out in less than 90 minutes.  2013 saw passes completely wiped out within two hours (blank screens caused several issues for those trying to secure the golden tickets); also it was the first year that CCI expanded again. This time they held panel discussions in the Lyceum Theatre which is located a short walk from the convention centre. Price for a full weekend at SDCC as an adult in 2013 was $175.

With San Diego Comic-Con showing no signs of decreasing in numbers, what does this mean for the operators? CCI are committed to staying in San Diego till 2015, but after that will they look at moving the biggest nerd fest on the planet to another city just so they can accommodate larger numbers? Alternatively, there has been a plan put in place by San Diego to expand the existing convention centre. Initial plans show a third story with queues likely to congregate on the roof before being led into the new rooms. One thing is certain San Diego Comic-Con and Comic-Con International have built one of the greatest brands for studios to be associated with. Also generating over $200 million in revenue for San Diego and its businesses.  It has taken over 40 years for it to reach the general public, rather than just the fanboys, but now it’s our time – the geeks shall inherit the Earth.

It’s all thanks to a small group of people – Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Towry and Greg Bear.

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