SDCC ’15: About 60,000 people show up without badges

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Oh yeah, speaking of Comic-Con, there seem to have been an even greater than usual number of investigative reports on the show, what it means, how it works etc. I’ll link to a few below, but my own inquiries yielded a very interesting statistic. I was told by a reputable source that an independent study by a major film studio suggests that some 60,000 people some to San Diego without badges just to hang out, go to the theme parks, stalk celebrities, and march around the Gaslamp Quarter. Someone told me anecdotally that the figure was thought to be even higher this year, with as many as a quarter of a million people, all told, descending on Nerd Prom.

While that number may be an exaggeration, it’s still a huge number of people. On Saturday night all of Fifth St. was closed down and it was a madhouse. Obviously this has a huge impact on how the event works, and how people are going to approach it in the future. I’ll have more in my wrap up report, but here are the other voices, other blog posts links for now:

§ Calvin Reid and I covered the show

 

for Publishers Weekly in depth and there was the usual questioning of “why are we here?” but this time, I think, with a little more resolve:

Bennett said she has “issues with all the big Cons,” but noted that “Comic-Con in particular is too big, overwhelming, expensive, and diffuse, spread out.” She lamented that “the big cons have increasingly become ‘general audience’ shows,” and the fans they attract are not necessarily attending to buy books.

Retailer Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling, Toronto’s premier comics bookstore and cosponsor of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, expressed similar concerns about Comic-Con at the Drawn & Quarterly booth, where he typically works during the show selling artwork for the house and helping with D&Q book sales. Although D&Q had a great show, as always, and sold out of Jillian Tamakis’ new graphic novel, Super Mutant Magic Academy and D&Q’s huge 25th Anniversary anthology, Birkemoe had the same sense of apprehension over demographic changes at Comic-con as Bennett. “It’s harder to get in, and the audience isn’t necessarily here to buy books,” he said.

§ The “leaked” Suicide Squad footage caused headaches for Wb and they eventually had to put it online. While some might say this comes with the territory, Wired’s Jordan Crucchiolla pleaded Dear Idiots, Stop Leaking Comic-Con Trailers

You know that thing where you sit on your new sunglasses and your friend yells at you “This is why you can’t have nice things!”? That’s exactly what’s going on here. With major studios like Paramount and Marvel already opting out of a festival that’s practically become a criteria for relevance over the past decade, we need stop taking these exclusives for granted. Smearing content across the Internet isn’t exactly going to encourage studios to come back next year. And then we won’t get anything.

§ At The Verge, Jacob Kastrenakes asked Hall H of horrors: what is Comic-Con doing about the worst line in fandom? with a harrowing account of fighting off giant water bugs in the night:

But as the day went on, things started to go downhill. The air began to get cold. No one in the area was selling food or water. The convention was supposed to issue wristbands so that we could all go home and come back in the morning, but two hours after they were supposed to arrive, we hadn’t heard a thing. Also, there were cockroaches. A lot of them.
“He’s killed like four so far.” Jill Hanson was sitting in a small group about a hundred people ahead of me. She and two men were all bundled up in sweatshirts, which they’d borrowed from another line-sitter they’d met that night. “It’s kinda disgusting, and it wasn’t like this last year,” Hanson says. “We’ve also seen a couple mice jumping around in the rocks.”

§ There were many complaints about Hall H this year as always. Was it different? Not sure. I do know at least one person told me he got in and found many empty seats inside while a huge line was still waiting to get in, but that could be due to safety measures for crowd control. I would like to draw your attention to this post by Nick Eskey on the Talk Back panel and the subsequent comment threads as it deals with disabled attendees and the line wait. While to some hearing a fellow complain about not having a place to plug in his CPAP machine while waiting for Hall H may seem the height of folly, but you know, physically challenged fans have the same right to experience whatever it is they want out of Hall H as anyone else.

This is that guy that only slept 16 hours and needed his CPAP machine. You apparently only caught part of what I was saying, which is, that if they had not removed the outlets I could have used my CPAP machine and slept outside just fine. Besides that, however, you missed the point completely which is not everyone with disabilities can sleep outside. Because of that they should be given special consideration for their placement in line. What other convention gives ADA this sort of consideration? Try Emerald City Comic Con and PAX Prime, both in Seattle and both allow ADA to ALWAYS be first in line. Try DragonCon in Atlanta, where ADA have volunteers that will guide them through the convention, hold their spot in line and generally assist them in whatever way needed. I was on the BoD for OkCon and we bent over backwards to assist our ADA. Maybe because we had people on the board with disabilities.


§ Finally, comics writer Van Jensen went back to his journalistic roots with a brilliant piece for Grantland: How’s Your Show? A Comic-Book Writer’s Thoughts From on the Ground at a Rapidly Changing Comic-Con

“How’s your show?”

It’s the default conversation starter among those of us who attend Comic-Con International as professionals — writers, artists, publishers, agents, and retailers. Over five days in San Diego last week, I lost count of how many times I heard the question or asked it. The question — “show” is industry shorthand for convention — normally works as a quick way to ask several questions at once: How have your sales been? Have you had any luck networking? Did you line up any big meetings?

This year, conversation after conversation, that question took on a new subtext. It became: How is the convention? Doesn’t the attendance seem light? Aren’t there far fewer big advertisements and displays? What is happening to Comic-Con?


I’d hesitate to say that 2015 was more reined in than 2014 because the off-sites were huge. Was the anxiety just the usual or the sign of something new? I welcome your comments.

8 COMMENTS

  1. There has been numerous documentation of people showing up 45 minutes before opening and getting into Hall H.

    So, sorry CPAP guy, sleeping outside is not necessary. It’s all one giant dick waving contest about who is the biggest fan.

  2. I wondered how many people show up to hang out that don’t have tickets. I imagine a lot of the street team activity might reach more people than a booth on the show floor. Syfy is a good example of that with their annual cafe and the various giveaways in the Gaslamp. The number of offsite events, especially things like Nerd HQ, which you also have to wait in line for online makes it possible to see things that you may not be able to in the actual convention venue.

  3. 250,000? That means that there are almost as many people outside (120K) as inside (130K).

    My Facebook feed did not have much grumbling from the many comics professionals. (One had a bad experience with a jerk, but not with the show.)

    I would like to see someone map out the various off-site events during Comic-Con, almost like a map to the Olympic Games, with icons denoting various types of events. If someone makes an app for this, or other crazy festival events like SxSW, they’ll make millions.

    Here’s the big elephant from that report about 60,000 voyeurs…
    Let’s say I’m an exhibitor at Comic-Con.
    There are 130,000 attendees. (Is that unique attendees, or do multi-day passes count as individual attendance like a turnstile?)
    There are another 60,000 who can’t get in. (An extra 50%!)
    So… why exhibit INSIDE when I can hold an event OUTSIDE?
    Inside, a giant booth (50x70ft) might cost $50,000 on the show floor.
    Why not rent a space offsite which is open to everyone?
    A space where I control the content, the programming, the hours of operation?

    Hall H is nice. CCI provides all of the setup, with amazing multimedia support.
    Does CCI charge rent for each panel in Hall H? What about elsewhere?
    What if DC/Warners decided to host a festival within the festival? They gain exclusivity to one hotel, and everything on the programming schedule is at that hotel. This makes it easier on the staff and VIPs, who don’t have to walk miles to panels. The panels require a badge. The exhibits (the transplanted booths and stores from the convention center) and the artist alley are free and open to the public. Also, Warners can plaster the hotel with advertisements (elevators, facade, bar, room keys).

    Is there a licensee? Offer them a free space at the hotel, to duplicate what’s going on over at the convention center. Let them judge the turnout, and maybe next year they schedule events at the booth or in the hotel meeting rooms.

  4. “So… why exhibit INSIDE when I can hold an event OUTSIDE?”

    That’s already happening, and increasingly so over the past few years.

    It does seem that almost every sizable parking lot or stretch of blank grass in downtown San Diego was given over to various brands–Adult Swim, Call of Duty, and many others that I’m not remembering offhand–who offered up experiences (I’m pretty sure) open and equally directed to non-SDCC attendees. Plus, you’ve got folks like the Syfy network who, while supporting SDCC programming, didn’t exhibit on the floor but rather took over a downtown cafe to promote their wares (primarily, The Expanse.) I’m sure there are other brands that have taken similar approaches to their SDCC presence. In any case, exhibiting-off-the-exhibit floor is nothing new for SDCC. Heck, in some ways, San Diego is particularly conducive (in terms of climate if nothing else) to this sort of mini-state-fair-amusement-park on every open space.

    “What if DC/Warners decided to host a festival within the festival? They gain exclusivity to one hotel, and everything on the programming schedule is at that hotel.”

    It’s an interesting idea, but I suspect an existing SDCC exhibitor/partner really wanted to do *more* than they are able to do within the current SDCC system (and that’s certainly no given,) then they might rather pursue creating their own separate event entirely. That seems to be part of the spirit underlying why things like Image Expo, Star Wars Celebration, and even D23 Expo have become more important to those companies’ promotions. (Plus, pragmatically, I wouldn’t be surprised if most hotels with sufficient conference facilities to support such a festival-within-a-festival have already committed those resources to support SDCC in some fashion, so may not be readily available to a company trying to put together a festival-during-the-Festival event outside the existing SDCC structure. But that’s just a guess)

  5. I have to say it’s great to see the expansion of vendors out into the Gaslamp. I’ve told quite a few of my local friends that you can see just as much outside the con as you can inside by just walking around downtown. If there’s been a serious growth of fans taking advantage of the free stuff outside, it had no impact on the size of the crowd inside.

    This was my first year working in the booth for UDON Entertainment and we had a fantastic show. Social Media played a very significant role in our success. Friends of mine in Artist Alley also had solid responses to their social media feeds. So the message there is: Promote Heavily and Often to your audience or no one will remember you.

    Line Management is something that can always use refinement. Maybe it’s time that CCI considers special event ticketing, and room clearing. I’ve seen this used in places like Miami Book Fair International to great success. It keeps the issues to a minimum and from the fan’s perspective, I’d rather see a lot more of the show without having to spend 1-2 days waiting for a one hour panel.

    However, the long lines do mean less people in the exhibit hall….

  6. So great to see smart marketers, like KFC, understand the passion of fans & consumers outside the walls of the convention hall and market directly in downtown San Diego.

  7. @Ali:
    Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough…
    The idea would be for DCE/WB to continue to support CCI (instead of hosting a separate show, thus gaining brownie points). Instead of spreading all of their Con programming around the various sites, they would consolidate everything (aside from Hall H) in the one hotel. It would still be part of the Con, the hotel would still get their traffic and reservations, and might even gain extra revenue from marketing at the hotel (facade, hotel keys, private parties).

  8. As I said, Torsten, it’s an interesting idea. To clarify my comment, my instinct is that what benefits a DCE/WB (or similar brand) might reap during CCI by siloing all its activities (perhaps excepting Hall H events) into a single offsite hotel location might be deemed only modestly incremental, and that any such company that really wanted to focus on concentrated attention to the breadth of its wares might be equally as likely to pursue creating their own event than so explicitly partitioning itself at CCI.

    But even if this sort of a festival-in-the-festival is somehow appealing for DCE/WB or similar major & multi-faceted exhibitors, I’m not sure it would make for a better *CCI attendee* experience. And I’d imagine (I’d hope!) attendee experience would be a foremost concern both for the exhibitor and CCI management.

    Of course, I’m not a decision-making marketer at any of those companies, so this is just idle speculation. But fun speculation, as always.

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