SAN DIEGO – They come for anime and original comic-book art. They come for video games, collectible figurines and to show off their "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" costumes. They might even come to buy a winged helmet or a suit of armor.
But many of the 120,000 fans who descend on Comic-Con, the nation's largest pop-culture convention, come for a glimpse of Hollywood's latest offerings and biggest stars.
"This has really turned into an entertainment extravaganza," said Michael Triplett, 36, a sword-seller attending his fifth Comic-Con. "It allows industry professionals to get a feel for what people are into as far as heroes and sci-fi, and it gives the fans a chance to be the first to see the new stuff."
The four-day festival, which began in a hotel basement in 1970, fills the San Diego Convention Center. The floor buzzes with big screens flashing trailers for upcoming films and TV shows. Stations where players can try new video games are wedged between booksellers and T-shirt shops. A life-size Lego Batman sits in one corner, a replica ship from "Pirates of the Caribbean" in another. Collectible figurines of all kinds, arranged in museum-worthy displays, watch the action from behind glass.
Fans snap up freebies such as postcards, stickers and graphic novels, hauling huge tote bags through the crowded convention floor. (Some waited in hour-long lines for the free totes.)
And Hollywood is everywhere.
Paramount showed early footage from "Beowulf," set for release in November, and promised a peek at the anticipated "Indiana Jones 4." Warner Bros. planned to feature five upcoming films, including "Get Smart," due next summer. Lionsgate had four films on the docket. The Walt Disney Co. was set to screen first-look footage of its new "Narnia" film and the latest Pixar project, "Wall-E." New Line and Universal were also on hand, as were a slew of TV networks touting new shows.
Celebrities slated to appear include Jessica Alba, Nicolas Cage, Edward Norton, Clive Owen, Josh Hartnett, Robert Downey Jr., Dane Cook, cast members from TV's "Lost" and "Heroes," and Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons."
They make the two-hour drive from Los Angeles for a chance to speak directly to viewers, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
"Comic-Con is like ground zero for the fanboys, and the box-office clout and influence that audience has is very significant," he said. "If you're a Hollywood studio and you're not down there, you're going to miss out on some important insights as to what properties and projects you should be pursuing."
Jemuel Balangcod, a senior at San Diego High School, said he and his friends came to the convention to see "all the new stuff, but mostly movies and new trailers."
The 17-year-old, who said he's most excited about the preview of "Indiana Jones 4," bristles at the event's nerdy reputation.
"When people hear Comic-Con, they think it's kind of geeky, but it's really an entertainment expo of all mediums," he said.
Entertainment attorney Marc Greenberg, 54, said he and his wife come every year for the movies, the artwork and the overall spectacle.
"It's a massive display of pop culture in America," he said. "This is the home of all the geeks, nerds and aliens. This is the best you're going to get. We make it an annual pilgrimage."