Today is the day that the San Diego gate swings shut. Four-day and single-day tickets are sold out. Pro registration closed on May 5. And today, June 8th, is the last day that press can register to attend. With the size of the existing San Diego Convention Center placing a physical limit on how many people can attend the eagerly-awaited event, demand for a ticket to the big show is higher than ever. As we do each year, we checked in with CCI’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer to get a status report on the present and future of the four and a half day comic-con that has become one giant carnival.
One thing of note in the interview: there may still be some passes that go on sale closer to the show. Read on for details. Many thanks to David for taking time out to answer our questions.
THE BEAT: Were you surprised the show passes sold out so far in advance this year?
David Glanzer: Yes. We hadn’t done any real advertising for the show so we were kind of taken aback by the brisk sales.
The Beat: What do you think contributed to the fast sellout?
DG: I think people are just planning ahead. From what we’ve heard it seems that while some people are cutting down on vacations and travel, they’re opting to keep open bigger trips and I think Comic-Con falls into that category.
The Beat: Everyone is surprised that In This Economy the show is still going gangbusters. Do you think that the economy and, in particular, California’s precarious finances will have an impact on what has been called “the fantasy economy?”
DG: Well, we’ve actually always done fairly well in slumping economic times. I think people enjoy getting away from all the doom and gloom for a few days and Comic-Con is a perfect place to do that. You are right, however, that California is experiencing some pretty dire economic times. But, so far, it looks as though people are planning on attending, we’ve given very few refunds so I think we’ll be okay.
The Beat: When the Con first started selling out you explained that this is a fiscal problem for the show, as it is capping your income. What are you looking at this year as a way to increase revenue, seeing as booth floor space and physical badges have no way to grow?
DG: We’re trying to expand our sponsorship opportunities. In the past we could count on exhibit sales and attendance to defray the costs of much of our expenses. Now we’re looking for sponsorships to defray many of those costs. This year we can all expect to see additional signage from sponsors at the show.
The Beat: I recently ran a story on the convention center’s planned expansion. This seems to be underway in many ways for the benefit of Comic-Con. Do you have any insight into the chances of this expansion getting underway, given all the budgetary issues? Also…can Comic-Con really get BIGGER?
DG: I think one of the most important factors in the expansion is that it will benefit the city. San Diego is an anomaly of sorts in that while other big convention cities have seen diminishing conventions and events, in contrast, San Diego has had a fairly robust few years. The only limitation, it seems, is the size of the facility. Expansion will hopefully allow us to stay in San Diego, but for the city, it will allow them to hold concurrent events and larger events which, in the end, is a good investment.
The Mayor has appointed a task for to review the feasibility of the expansion. It is our understanding that he will abide by whatever decision they make, and we expect they will issue their recommendation some time in September.
The Beat: In a recent editorial by Don MacPherson he worried that scalpers and people who aren’t even planning to attend have hogged a lot of badges. Is this something you are worried about? Are there any steps you can take to cut down on scalping? (I head four-day passes are going for $350 already…can’t imagine what it will be closer to the show after the celebs are announced.)
DG: The scalping issue is something that is certainly of concern to us for a number of reasons. I would like to say that this year we will be selling badges closer to the show as they become available. By that I mean there are always cancellations from people who planned to attend but can’t, and this year we plan to make those available to the general public. We don’t yet know how many passes those will be but they will be sold at face value.
The primary concern with scalpers is that many resell their unique barcode. Each person who registers for a badge or is given a pass is assigned a barcode. We’ve noticed that many people simply copy and resell that code. The problem is that the code is only valid once. And once it has been redeemed, the registration system then invalidates that unique code.
As for people purchasing batches of passes, that really hasn’t been the case this year. We may have to limit how many badges a person can purchase in the future, but this year there really wasn’t a run on multiple badges. Also the badges are non transferable which may have cut down on people hoping to buy badges for resale.
The Beat: Complimentary Pro Reg was capped last month, and Press reg ends in a few days. How is the adjustment going to affect the huge press presence at San Diego every year and pros?
DG: We have really tried to warn both press and pros that this was coming down the road. Since admission to those individuals is free, there really is no reason not to register early. I’m happy to say that both departments have had a great response in early registration.
The Beat: Is there any advice you would give to people who for one reason or another, aren’t able to to plan far enough in advance to get their registration but still need to come to the show?
DG: Well, I think anyone who needs to come to the show could probably contact the company that is sponsoring them. In unique cases those companies may have planned for those types of situations. As for a fan who may want to attend last minute. We have made some passes available as giveaways to a variety of contests as well as radio stations in San Diego and the Los Angeles market. And, of course, we’ll augment that with some sales that I mentioned earlier.
The Beat: I think I ask you this every year, but I will ask again because it is tradition: is there any way for fan, pro or media to walk up to the show on Thursday morning and get in?
DG: Sadly no. There is no real mechanism to handle onsite sales.