March-May is the mad busy con season with shows piling up like bumper cars in the corner. Two recent showrunner interviews give us a few more facts and figures on two, this week’s C2E2 in Chicago and Portland, OR’s Stumptown in TWO weeks.
• C2E2 is in its make or break third year—or as we call it, “The Mark Sanchez Year”—and it’s make or break not just because after three years you have an idea if this thing is gonna fly or not but because Reed signed a three-year deal with McCormick Place. After a plucky but underperforming first year, and a chipper but not quite up to potential second outing, this year, show runner Lance Fensterman reports, looks like things are up quite a bit.Ticket sales are up 50% and exhibitor space has doubled; Artist Alley has nearly doubled.
“Year one was good, we expected more attendance but we were optimistic going forward,” said Lance Fensterman, ReedPop group v-p and manager of C2E2. “Year two was solid, we had fewer exhibitors but more fans,” he said. “This year we want it all to be up,” Fensterman said, comparing the show to an adolescent, “Year three is pivotal. We’ve invested heavily in the show, we’re not making money and its time for the kid to get a job, stand on its own feet and pitch in.”
According to Fensterman, all the signs point to a profitable 2012 show, including attendance by the major comics publishers, including the Chicago-based distributor IPG representing its clients, and major programming aimed at librarians. “We work closely with ALA, which is based in Chicago, and librarian registration is up 40% this year,” Fensterman said, “and we’ve got a bunch of panels designed for them.” Artist Alley, the section of most comics shows that feature independent artists, will have more than 400 artists this year, up from the 286 that rented space last year.
400 artists! Bring a sketchbook!
• Meanwhile, over at Stumptown, showrunner Indigo Kelleigh says this show has also expanded, but they are hoping for more people to walk through the doors:
IK: The floor is a bit different. Last year was the first time we tried having booths in addition to tables. We got a good response, so booths were added as an option this year. The show isn’t in the same hall: last year we were in Hall A, now we’re in Hall B. It’s closer to the main entrance and box office, so people don’t have to walk as far. The other benefit is that the workshop and panel rooms for Hall B are bigger. Hall B is slightly smaller because of the main doors’ orientation, but not significantly.
PCBE: What’s the ratio of applicants to available tables?
IK: We have 130 tables and about 45 booths, and got over 300 applicants, so about two to one. We decided not to increase the floor space this year because if we doubled the square footage, but got the same number of attendees as last year (3000), it would have felt like an empty show. The energy has to grow, from both the fans and the exhibitors. If we get closer to 5000 attendees this year, we’ll expand.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.