Are Comic-Con Trailer Leaks Bad For Business?

Suicide Squad - Jared Leto, The Joker, Warner

Source: Warner Bros.

Leaks have been a much a part of the film and TV industry as anything as the Age of the Internet has taken full hold. Everyone and their mother has a smartphone now, making it so anyone presented with “exclusive” footage can record and upload it to YouTube within minutes of it debuting to a limited audience. Nowhere was this more prominent than this year’s Comic-Con, where leaked trailers found their way online faster than ever.

Hall H was a gold mine for exclusive footage this year, and handheld devices recorded just about every second of it. Why wait for the official trailer release online when you can see a spotty live version shot from 40 rows back? The thirst for even seconds of footage for upcoming releases has taken hold this year more than ever, so of course the quickest path to instant gratification has become the law of the land. But that hasn’t stopped studios like Warner from voicing their frustration concerning this growing trend.

Warner Bros. devoted an entire day in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con to airing never-before-seen exclusive trailers and footage for a slew of upcoming comic book movies. One such trailer for Suicide Squad, found its way online in the form of dozens of leaked videos from attendees, leading to the studio releasing a full-res version they never actually intended to see the light of day. Per an official statement from Warner:

Warner Bros. Pictures and our anti-piracy team have worked tirelessly over the last 48 hours to contain the Suicide Squad footage that was pirated from Hall H on Saturday. We have been unable to achieve that goal. Today we will release the same footage that has been illegally circulating on the web, in the form it was created and high quality with which it was intended to be enjoyed. We regret this decision as it was our intention to keep the footage as a unique experience for the Comic Con crowd, but we cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.

It seems odd to lecture your customers about wanting to see a commercial for a thing the studio will inevitably make hundreds of millions of dollars on. And yet here we are, in a situation where Warner didn’t expect a thousand super-fans armed with smartphones to record and disseminate their “exclusive” trailer. What’s even crazier is the idea that they devoted an entire anti-piracy team to playing Whack-a-Mole with leaks on YouTube, given the relative futility of trying to control Internet piracy in any way.

If Warner didn’t want people seeing their footage a year in advance of Suicide Squad, they shouldn’t have released it in the first place. Every other studio wasted no time in uploading their trailer debuts from Comic-Con directly to YouTube, knowing full-well that it reflects poorly on them if they withhold it just for the live crowd. Look at what’s happening with Deadpool: There’s a mess of pirated footage recorded live on smartphones from Comic-Con, and still we don’t have an official version from the studio for some unknown reason. Have you heard anyone talking about Deadpool since the Con? The answer: No.

The simple truth of the matter is that withholding from your audience only serves to hurt your brand. Warner came out of this whole situation with a sparkling trailer that millions watched and fawned over. But at the same time, they came off sounding like a disapproving parent with no control over their message. Compare that to the well-oiled machine that is Marvel Studios, and it’s pretty clear why DC’s film universe has yet to be anything but a scattered mess.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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