I have received a couple of emails from Fox insiders who have explained to me what happened with Fox at Comic Con this year. What I’ve been told is that after last year’s Borat presentation, which had that scene of Borat and friend fighting in the nude, relations between San Diego Comic Con and Fox were strained. Says one of my scoopers:

They told Fox that there was absolutely to be no R rated materials during the presentations.  The trouble with that is that all of the film’s on Fox’s slate are R rated, with Aliens Vs. Predator finishing up a red band trailer.   (I’m not sure about Jumper’s rating, but in typical Liman fashion that film has a long way to go before the editors can make sense of it.) Anyway they said the cost of a couple hundred grand just wasn’t worth it when they could just release all the stuff on the internet.

So it seems as if I couldn’t have been more wrong: the truth is that SDCC is coming down hard on Fox for wanting to show hardcore stuff to the fans. Now that’s an interesting turn of events.

For the record, here’s the original version of the story:

Just seven days before people start showing up in San Diego for the long Comic Con weekend, Fox has pulled the plug on their appearance, canceling presentations for Jumper, Aliens vs Predator, Hitman, Babylon AD and The Dark is Rising. This is a bit stunning, but really not that unbelievable; Fox has long seemed to be at odds with the fanbase of its own genre properties.

"The material wasn’t ready and we only want to go out when we can put our best foot forward," Sean Dudas, the studio’s vice president of national publicity told the LA Times, but how credible is that? I’ve sat through some incredibly sketchy stuff at Comic Con, and as long as they have some footage and some talent to parade across the Hall H stage, the fans will be happy.

What’s amazing about this decision is how very last minute it is. I’ve spent much of the last two days scheduling interviews and parties for Con – everyone involved is in full swing right now, getting ready for five days of chaos. A week out and Fox only just realized they didn’t have materials ready? The studios begin talking about Con at the start of the year, and a number of the films Fox was bringing to Con either finished shooting or are far enough along in the shooting process to have something for the fans.

Could it be that someone at Fox looked at their line-up and decided they’d be doing nothing but generating bad buzz? For me Fox pulling out of Con means less work, and considering how hectic that weekend is, I’m okay with their decision. But fans should feel slighted; as Con has become a bigger part of the marketing process, Fox is turning their backs on the core fans of many of their properties. I don’t know what kind of studio Fox wants to be, but I get the impression that there’s some executive-level self-loathing going on. This all certainly fits in with reports of Tom Rothman’s distaste for the X-Men films.

It’s ironic that this story broke on a day when I had been praising Fox marketing. In fact, someone on our boards mentioned what a good marketing summer this has been for Fox, with their brilliant Simpsons strategies, the Die Hard ads that read ‘Yippie Kay Yay Mo’ and the Silver Surfer quarters. And then they do this. Sorry you won’t be in San Diego, Fox. We’ll just have to have a great time without you.