I know there are a few panel wrap ups still coming down the pike here and there, but I wanted to essentially wrap up my NYCC coverage with a look a two issues which seem to catch everyone’s attention: the announced attendance of 151,000 and the brand new practice of clearing rooms between panels in the Main Stage.
§ First off, when it was announce NYCC had sold 151,000 tickets, it was quickly assumed by everyone that NYCC was bigger than SDCC, which has an attendance of 130,000. But is this true? In a piece called New York Comic Con Probably Isn’t Bigger Than San Diego Comic-Con Kerry Dixon talks to NYCC showrunner Lance Fensterman who reveals that they count a ticket as a ticket; while SDCC uses the member ID and counts a person as a person. Thus at NYCC a person could buy two tickets and be two people.
“If someone bought a single day Friday and single day Sunday that would be 2 tickets sold,” Fensterman said.
This means, essentially, that New York Comic Con sold 151,000 tickets all combined, but the number of actual, unique attendees is less than that. After all, if even 1,000 attendees purchased two single day tickets, they would be counted as 2,000 people, even though this isn’t Orphan Black and attendees aren’t being cloned left and right.
If even 10,000 people purchased two single day badges (and that number is likely significantly higher)? The system is counting them at 20,000 people.
Fensterman goes on to say
“We have no way to determine who is using those tickets [nor] does it really make any material difference,” Fensterman said. “We theoretically could parse that data in any number of ways depending on how much time and effort and resource we want to put into it. But ultimately the unique ticket sold metric seems to balance giving the most accurate representation of the size of the audience without us going nuts parsing data that really does not add that much value to the customers.”
That’s fair enough, given the way ReedPOP runs shows—they have never been interested in using visible ways to attach a person to a badge—only exhibitors even have an area to WRITE THEIR NAME on their badge—and instead invested in a costly RFID system. For any Kremlinologists out there, I want to point out that when I interviewed Fensterman after the show, he was very careful not to claim that NYCC is larger than SDCC, and while we didn’t get into it as clearly as the USDCCB folks did, he did point out that the number represented “announced tickets sold.”
This is one reason why I have never updated my “biggest cons” chart—some shows use the one person method, some use the one ticket method…and others use a phony method. It’s apple oranges and kumquats. As far as I know, the San Diego folks and the ReedPOP folks have always been very consistent and upfront about their number reporting…it is just a different kind of number being reported.
That said, while it is pretty obvious to anyone who goes to both that more people go to San Diego in and around their Comic-Con, the media narrative will now be that New York’s show is the biggest. I don’t think the CCI folks will lose too much sleep over this, as their show is still the biggest entertainment event in the US.
§ BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ROOM CLEARING???? Was this the last blow against a free society or a new path to enlightenment for people who don’t like to sleep out on the concrete like a homeless person?
As you may recall. this year for the first time at a comic-con, the room where the big showbiz events—Walking Dead, Disney—took place was cleared between each panel. In order to get in you had to line up every morning and get a wristband for your desired panel and then come back later. ReedPOP has used room clearing between panels at some of their Star Wars events so that emboldened them to try it at NYCC, and from all accounts, it went okay. There was one ReedPOP employee caught selling wristbands by a stringer for Bleeding Cool, and that is maybe a bigger issue even as it shows a lack of staff integrity:
Not sure if anyone heard but they caught a volunteer selling wristbands for the walking dead panel on Saturday. Well Reed Pop didn’t catch them it was reported to them by a reporter and they eventually identified who it was but that was after the panel was already over. I think that only actual paid staff should be giving out and allowed access to the wristbands especially for the big crazy panels like the walking dead. Now paid staff could i guess do the same thing but I think someone is less likely to risk their job over making a few bucks selling wristbands then a volunteer would be since really the only thing that happened to the volunteer that got caught is they were banned. The problem wasn’t wide spread but could become so it does show they do need to have a little more controlled access to the wristbands and to who has access and distributes them for next year.
The main improvement over the room clearing system is that you line up in the morning (or overnight) and by noon you know if you are getting in or not and are free to go spend the rest of the day doing fun things. The Unofficial SDCC blog has a discussion of the matter, and commenters seem to think that the more policies you put in place about getting into Hall H, the earlier people will camp out—in fact, someone is camped out for the 2015 TeenWolf panel right now! The logistical problems of having (in theory) some 30,000 people sleep out over night for six or seven panels in HALL H each day would seem to indicate that room clearing is not a no brainer for San Diego. But it did work for NYCC, where crowd control is a work in progress.
There’s more discussion on the room clearing matter at Girls Read Comics:
However, the system isn’t without its flaws. It doesn’t prevent people lining up in the middle of the night to be the first inside the convention center for wristbands. If the success that NYCC had with this year gives Comic Con International the idea to implement a similar system in San Diego, camping out all night for Hall H will just become camping out all night for Hall H wristbands. Yes, the problem of having to room-sit could be solved, but that still means that fans not willing to wait outside at four in the morning will be completely out of luck. That turned out to be the case with the Walking Dead panel at NYCC this year– some convention-goers got in line as early as 5 a.m. to be first in line for wristbands when the Javits Center opened its doors at 10. There were also reports of volunteers offering to sell wristbands to popular panels. There’s also the problem of wanting to see two popular panels on the same day. With NYCC’s current system, you can’t grab a wristband for someone else, so the current system has the advantage there. It’s a win/lose situation, either way you look at it.
§ One last thing, which I’ve mentioned before and in podcasts about NYCC, but the one complaint I heard from many exhibitors was NOT ENOUGH SECURITY ON THE FLOOR. As cons have gotten more crowded, I’ve observed that a visible and active security force is necessary to give an idea of structure and keep crowds in a docile state. NYCC autograph lines are insane, no one knows’ where it’s safe to line up, and it’s a testament to the generally genial nature of the crowd that no one gets hurt. This does need to change, however and the show floor needs to be run in a more strict fashion. Robert Kirkman as signing at the Image Booth on saturday and there was a huge unruly eyebrow of a crowd that needed to be waxed into shape. (The other biggest line I personally saw was for Tiny Rooster Teeth — those guys are huge!)
I also suggested on the PW Comics World More to Come podcast that if NYCC needs to raise revenue, they could raise ticket prices. A four day pass, if you could get one was $95, which seems like a lot of money but really is pretty reasonable. I know that for someone who hasn’t paid to get into a con in 20 years to suggest raising ticket prices is a bit cavalier of me, but the show has as many people as it can handle at the horrific Javits. We’re not dumb here, we know that show is expensive, and the way to increase revenue is NOT to sell more tickets.
All that said, this show had reached a nadir of dread anticipation among almost every pro of my acquaintance, and it turned out…it was pretty good. People had a way better time than they expected. The panels I did went GREAT and the journalism panel was better attended than the San Diego one, with a more engaged audience. If there is one thing that NYCC needs more of it is programming! The panels took a decided turn upwards this year, and seemed to be very well attended. There may well be no place to put more panels, as all the empty space at Javits is used to queue people up—people can’t be lined up outside because of the potential for rain, etc. But where there is a will there is a way.
Finally, there is one problem that I heard addressed only on the show floor—the horrible lines for the ladies restrooms. There are generally way too few bathrooms at the Javits to begin with, but it’s especially bad as female cosplayers use the stalls to change. The ones I was in line with apologized for taking up stalls and time, but said there is no changing room. I did hear that there IS a changing room, but was never able to confirm this one way or another. I understand that setting aside an area for people to change clothes may not be possible from a logistical standpoint, but if there is anyway to free up the immense piddle lines at NYCC, that would be great. That said, don’t wait until the last minute.
And with that, we’re outta here.
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.