People spend hours, if not days, waiting in line and/or camping out to be part of the Hall H action at San Diego Comic-Con International. But between the glamorous celebrity appearances and trailers, what is it really like spending a full day on the ground in Hall H? I kept a diary of my time in Hall H (along with The Beat’s own Kyle Pinion) to document what happens on the crowded auditorium floor.
9:45 a.m. – I’ve been up for hours and waiting a while, but that doesn’t really count. At 9:45 it’s official: We’re in! Our seats are very good. Everyone just seems happy to be here and relieved. We’re seated next to someone we sat next to last year. What are the odds? We take a selfie to document how excited we are.
10:30 a.m. – Nothing has happened in the last 45 minutes. I’ve scrolled on Twitter, checked my email. I’m a little interested in getting up and walking around, but people are still aggressively pursuing open seats and I don’t want mine to get stolen or taken by security. This little metal chair is mine to guard and loathe for the next 8 hours.
10:40 a.m. – Two people have come by and methodically asked everyone in our section what time we plan to leave so they can secure better seats. Everyone says they are not leaving at all or not leaving until after Marvel.
11:05 a.m. – Oh. I thought this started at 11. I was wrong. We have another half hour. Seats seem pretty settled though. Time to get a drink and use a restroom.
11:15 a.m. – Well, nevermind. Both the line for food and the bathroom looked like they’d easily be 45+ minutes. Back to seats.
11:37 a.m. – A member of SDCC staff comes out to welcome everyone. He calls us a “little sedated” for a Saturday audience. Time for Star Trek.
1:10 p.m. – Star Trek is over! As a big Next Generation fan I thought that was spectacular, and I’m ready for Picard. Patrick Stewart even cried. Only a few minutes of a break ’til Westworld.
2:17 p.m. – During the Westworld panel, they handed out little tickets that we can redeem for some swag after the panel. I’m worried I’ll lose mine, so I ask Kyle to stash it with his. And now there’s a 30 minute intermission. I feel like I have a choice: bathroom or concessions. I know there is no way I’ll achieve both. I pick concessions because I really need a drink. I moved as fast as possible but there are still probably 100 people in front of me. The line looks never-ending but it’s still shorter than it was this morning, so I opt to wait. This picture only shows about half of it.
2:41 p.m. – Still waiting for that drink and guessing I’m about halfway through. The lesson here? Pick a panel you don’t mind missing and use the restroom / grab snacks during the programming. It’s impossible during intermissions.
3:10 p.m. – Finally! Beverage acquired! And pizza! I can’t believe how grateful I feel to have paid an arm and a leg and waited an hour to acquire con concession food. I guess I needed a break from sitting in that chair. Time to try to find my seat in the dark.
3:31 p.m. – I just caught the tail end of a short film and the entirety of the last short in the Animation Show of Shows panel. It was called One Small Step, and it made me cry. I’d like to blame it on Hall H delirium, but I think it was just that good. Plus it’s the anniversary of the moon landing and it was about a girl studying to be an astronaut?
3:34 p.m. – I mean really. I feel like that short film came out of nowhere and punched me in the face (in a good way) during a panel I thought would be more like relaxing downtime. A really surprising treat of a panel.
3:38 p.m. – Audience Q&A for the animated shorts panel. Audience Q&As are always where my attention is lost. Fatigue is starting to set in fast and hard. My back hurts. So does my head. What is time? Hall H is my home now. We have an ecosystem of our own here. I notice a security guard sleeping while standing up and I feel bad for being tired of my chair.
3:45 p.m. – The Q&A is over and we have a short break before the Women Who Kick Ass panel. Staff announce that if you get a pass to leave the Hall H area you may not be able to get a seat when you come back because capacity is maxed. We have hit the literal point of no return. Everyone is just waiting for Marvel at this point. I think that’s mostly been the case all day, which puts a lot of pressure on that panel.
3:59 p.m. – In between reporting panels I’m writing this Hall H journal in a note on my phone, and I feel like Creed from The Office typing random notes into a non-existent “blog” in a void that no one is reading.
4:15 p.m. – I decide this is my last chance to try to get in the bathroom line. A little after the start of the Women Who Kick Ass panel I join a hoard of more than 60 women waiting patiently in a snaking line to the restroom (note that Kyle got in and out of the men’s restroom in 5 minutes). I hoped the line would be short since I went during programming instead of an intermission, but I was wrong.
4:30 p.m. – The bathroom line gets unruly when someone suggests the line logistics are inefficient and need to change. A woman dressed as Uma Thurman‘s character in Kill Bill disagrees. Arguments ensue. I keep my head down like a coward and wait for my turn, joining neither side. The line looks terrible but moves quickly and only takes about 30 minutes.
5:05 p.m. – Almost time for Marvel! The energy in the room has noticeably changed. Many people have been waiting for this moment all day. There had been a sort of quiet lack of energy for some panels before, but now the whole room is buzzing and cheering the moment any SDCC staff come out onto the stage. It feels like a sold-out concert.
6:46 p.m. – … And wow, did Marvel deliver. I couldn’t keep up with the announcements because they came so fast and there were so many, but Kyle’s live-blog has a great write-up of everything that went down. There’s still one more panel, but many, many people (myself included) are choosing to end their long day here. They gave everyone a Black Widow hat and another little swag ticket, so we decide to go redeem them. We take another selfie and we look much more haggard and worn than we did the first time. This day has aged us.
8:15 p.m. – It took a while to get out of Hall H, and then we stopped to quickly film a reaction video. We take our swag tickets to a hotel about a mile away and exchange them. For Marvel we get a pack of character cards, and Westworld gives everyone a poster, T-shirt, and small bag. There was, of course, a line for that too, but it wasn’t too bad. Hall H has put lines in perspective for me.
With that, our full day Hall H experience is over. I’ve been in Hall H before for one or two panels, but since I’ve usually got other assignments, I’ve never been able to spend a full day there until now. Highlights of the day, for me, were Picard, the short films, and obviously Marvel, which knocked it out of the park. Low points included trying to do literally anything besides sitting — a massive line is all but guaranteed.
When I got back to my hotel, another argument about lines broke out: this time for the hotel elevator. It was silly, but it also reminded me that Hall H isn’t an anomaly at this show. Hall H IS the essence of San Diego Comic-Con: long lines, short tempers, and crowded spaces, mitigated by intense bursts of unbelievable enthusiasm and excitement. Just make sure to pack a snack and keep bathroom breaks to a minimum.