New York Comic Con 2009 Post-Game with Lance Fensterman

When this year's New York Comic Con 2009 went dark on the evening of February 8th, the annual three-day event at the Jacob Javits Convention Center didn't just wrap up for the year, it wrapped up for the next year and ½, as the 2010 NYCC will be held in October of next year.

Newsarama recently checked in with the show's Director Lance Fensterman for our annual convention post-game chat about the successes of this year's show and the things that fell a little short of expectations, as well as a few more words about Reed Exhibitions' ambitious 2010 plans.

Newsarama: Okay, so Lance, you already announced on your blog that you tracked, what, 77k people through the doors over the weekend? Can you show your math for us?

And also, is that “unique” ticket holders that walked through your doors? Is that a raw sum of each day’s attendance, meaning of those 77k, people who came back multiple days were counted twice?

Lance Fensterman: This is a unique industry professional numbers – which is to say it includes, fans, professionals, press, panelists, creators, etc. It’s the sum total of everyone that was at the show this year.

NRAMA: And where did this number fall in with your expectations going into the weekend?

LF: It fell right in line with my best expectations. When you think about it, 15% growth in this economy is an incredible accomplishment and I’m extremely proud of my team. Additionally, it would be very hard to accommodate more people. Saturday was maxed out, Sunday was nearly maxed out so our only day we could’ve accommodated additional people was Friday.

NRAMA: Can you put 77k in perspective for us? As compared to previous years and the best figures available in terms of comic book conventions in general?

LF: We have had tremendous growth each year of the event. From 25k to 50k to 66k to 77k. I challenge you to find another event in our space that has seen that kind of explosive growth. In terms of how it compares to the rest of the industry, I think anyone who has attended multiple cons sees how we approach our numbers in a forthright manner. I’m most proud that we delivered 3 solid days of customers with little or no drop off any one day.

NRAMA: All right, we’re going to balance this out by asking both sides of the question, but let’s start with this - can you name me something that perhaps didn’t come off or go as you planned or as well as it should, and how do you plan to address that in the future?

LF: We held some panels in the 1A area (downstairs) that simply did not belong there. The Venture Brothers, Robot Chicken, Torchwood all should’ve been in the IGN.com Theatre, and in future years, panels of that size will be.

Also, we had one flare up in the autographing area on Friday that we addressed by moving “major” signings off the show floor and to a more secured location. So I actually feel like we addressed that right away. Lastly, we need better directional signage in the building; we will address this for 2010 through investment back into the business.

NRAMA: As promised, the flipside – what exceeded your expectations or what do you think went exceptionally well this year?

LF: Everything else! I mean it, this was the smoothest NYCC to date, while individuals experienced hiccups, and I’m not discounting that, on the whole it was very, very good. Remember, Newsarama and many of the fans come on Friday for the show but our team has been there since Tuesday readying the building and moving in our customers and literally, tons of freight. There is a lot that can go wrong there but it was the best event we have created from beginning to end. Again, I am very proud of my team, they are an awesome crew.

NRAMA: While you no doubt had some heavy hitters in the genre arena, one critique I’ve heard mentioned is the relative level of “star” power the show had this year. Warner Bros. was the only “major” movie studio that made a presentation and even their Watchmen panel didn’t feature anyone from the film. There was no presence for Wolverine, Star Trek, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Land of the Lost … properties one might associate with a major comic book/genre convention. Do you agree or disagree with the premise? Any thoughts on the matter for this year and/or moving forward?

LF: The reality is we can only feature what the studios have ready and present us with. We have proven time and again that when we have the talent and the footage, we fill that 3,500 seat room to the max. We have a strong partnership on the Hollywood side with our friends at IGN.com and we will continue to work with our friends on West Coast to use NYCC as a platform, in the largest media market in the U.S. to launch there properties. This year a number of really exciting properties fell off the schedule near the end due to timing, footage, availability of cast, etc.

Yeah, it’s disappointing, but we can only control what we can control.

NRAMA: Another observation relayed to us was the congestion in the halls outside the programming/panel rooms, particularly on Saturday or Sunday. In a way we suppose that’s a good “problem” to have, but again, any issue with the premise and what if any plans are there to address it in the future?

LF: More space and better planning. As I said, we had a few panels that we should have housed in a bigger room, and in the future we will.

NRAMA: Have you gotten any feedback yet from your retailer exhibitors about how spending (the lifeblood of the con, or at least one of them) on the floor was?

LF: All feedback has been very, very positive. Some of the higher end dealers did not do as well as in years past, but the majority of the feedback filtering in to my team has been positive!

NRAMA: One question I failed to ask in our last conversation about next year’s 2010 October dates is the effect – if any – on Anime Fest. You’ve made it clear your new dates give you the room to grow in Javits. Is there any thoughts on combining the shows, or if not, will Anime Fest continue and will it also be 4Q next year?

LF: We will address that before NYAF in September as we simply have not looked at that yet. No matter what we do though, it will honor the great community of Otaku that we have built.

NRAMA: Venue issues aside, given the launch of C2E2 next April, and the long period there’ll be between NYCC’s, what new thing did you learn this year at NYCC that will inform your shows in the future?

LF: It’s nothing new this year it’s a principal we have always held – invest in your shows, make them the best you can, don’t do it on the cheap. Own your mistakes and improve on them. Listen to your customers, honor your fans, care for your guests and never think you know better, always have an open mind. If you do those things, you can build a great event.

NRAMA: Funniest, most unusual, or scariest con story you’ll be telling friends over dinner for the next 6 months?

LF: I didn’t technically happen at the con, but it’s this blog post I got via a Google News Alert this past week:

http://antickmusings.blogspot.com/2009/02/great-names-in-our-time.html

NRAMA: Okay Lance, it might be a while before we talk for the record again, so any parting thoughts to last for a while? An idea or impression you want to leave as you begin work on what's going to be a big and pivotal 2010 for Reed and the comics/genre community?

LF: Look for a party in Chicago in about 2 months. We are going to kick off C2E2 in a big way with a year of announcements and fun!

And lastly thank you to everyone that came to NYCC and made it the best event I have ever been a part of. Thanks to the talent, the fans, the exhibitors, the kids, everyone. I always try to make myself as accessible to all of my customers as I can and it was your suggestions and support that made this an amazing event that I am extremely proud to be a part of. Thank you!

Related:

New York Comic Con 2009 Video Page

New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage Index

Reed Makes 2010 Chicago Con and NYCC Move to October Official

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