The news hit on Tuesday – registrations for San Diego Comic-Con (or Comic-Con International: San Diego) are sold out. All registrations were sold online this year, and no on-site registrations will be sold at the show itself next week.
Not exactly – we spoke with Comic-Con International Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer about the coming crowd, how much longer the show will be in San Diego for sure, what could make it move, and why a sellout isnt a good thing.
Newsarama: David, obviously, the big news is that the show's registration is completely sold out. Nuts and bolts, what does this mean, and did you anticipate this happening?
David Glanzer: The biggest impact is that we will not have onsite registration this year. In the past many of our attendees would purchase their badges onsite.
We did anticipate running out of badges early this year, so we have tried to inform the public that the only way to register for the show would be online.
NRAMA: Historically speaking, this did happen last year, correct?
DG: Yes, ultimately we did sell out of badges last year. That was the first time in the history of our event. I believe the first day was Saturday and that occurred about four days prior to the first day of the show.
NRAMA: How did the timeline of the sell-outs work? Four day registrations went first, correct? And then what days followed?
DG: Four day badges sold out about two weeks prior to the show, then Saturday, followed by Friday, Thursday and Sunday.
NRAMA: In terms of the expansion and popularity of the show - was there a watershed moment when you saw that this day would come, that you knew that one day, you'd be looking at a total sell-out?
DG: When we opted to extend our contract with the convention center that committed us to San Diego until 2012, we knew we would have to face this situation. Because so many attendees, and we ourselves didn't really want to move out of the city, we made a conscious decision to forgo growth.
I should say, however, that decision was based on the understanding that the convention center was looking to expand and that expansion would be complete on or around 2012.
NRAMA: In terms of attendance, what does the sold out registration mean? Can you give a figure as to how many registrations were sold?
DG: Attendance will vary from year to year. As the configuration of the floor changes, so does our ability to accommodate attendees. As an example; if the exhibit floor was comprised only of single 10 foot by 10 foot booths, and all our aisles were 10 feet wide, we would have a good idea of how many people we could accommodate from year to year.
This obviously isn't the case with our show. The floor is ever changing, and therefore numbers will change from year to year. I can say that I don't expect our total attendance to vary much from last years' 125,000. However, there are still some areas that are technically open, such as Professional Registration and there may be limited Press Registration on site. So there is no way to know exactly what our final number will be.
NRAMA: What's the number of registrations based on?
DG: Total registration is based upon total badges. So that number would include attendees, volunteers, press, exhibitors, professionals and complimentary passes.
NRAMA: As attendees have commented over the years as attendance has climbed, the convention experience itself often pays the price, with long lines for panels, standing room only and capacity panel rooms, and a crowded show floor. What steps, if any, are you taking to make sure expectations of folks at the show remain realistic?
DG: Well I think the first is to limit registration.
We have also increased some of our aisles to accommodate attendance so that, hopefully, will make for a better experience at the show.
NRAMA: Gut level - is a sold out show a desirable thing?
DG: Absolutely not. I know this goes against most business planning, but we have never looked at this as being a plus. The fact is there are going to be people who want to attend the show who won't be able to and that is a situation, I'm sure, no one wants.
NRAMA: We've spent a time on the downsides of the sell-out...what are the upsides of such a well-attended show?
DG: More people being exposed to comics and popular art.
It's a little difficult to remember, or imagine what comics and even science fiction and film appreciation were like in 1972. Few people then realized that comic books were a unique American art form. In regard to film, it wasn't always treated as an art form, and while Congress has established a film registry, it's amazing that the registry was only created a little of 10 years ago.
I think there is a great deal to see and learn at Comic-Con and I think the more people we can expose to this, the better.
NRAMA: What does a sell-out a week before the show opens mean for the future? Are you anticipating an earlier sell-out next year?
DG: There is really no way to tell. Though we are going to try and encourage people to register early.
NRAMA: That brings us to the ever-lingering question of expansion...You fill the convention center space wise, and I'm sure you have more requests for floor space and panel rooms that you can meet...where do you go from here?
DG: Ideally groundbreaking on the proposed expansion will occur soon.
If the expansion is held up, or somehow put on hold, then I would find it difficult to imagine that we would remain in San Diego after our contract expires, having to deal with the same kind of issues we have now.
Having said that, I know a majority of our attendees would like us to remain in San Diego. We would too, we would just need to find a way to make that possible.
NRAMA: Would expanding the show to five days alleviate any of the crowd problem in your mind?
DG: Conceivably it could. But then we would be asking exhibitors to take one extra day away from their stores, or business, for generally the same attendance. I don't know if that is something they would agree to.
And, also, even at four days, the show is quite grueling for exhibitors and staff. I don't know that adding another day to the mix would make the situation better, or not, to be honest.
NRAMA: Your best advice for folks coming to town next week?
DG: Have fun. Not only is there a ton of programs and exhibitors at the show, but San Diego has some wonderful sites to see. My best advice is to enjoy yourself...and be sure to drink plenty of water. You'd be surprised how often people forget to stay hydrated.
NRAMA: And for those who are eyeing next year?
DG: Register early!