A Comic Convention, By The Numbers

Long Beach Comic Con
Credit: Long Beach Comic Con

As we’ve mentioned before, comic conventions are a crazy-burgeoning business, with costs and concerns behind the curtain that consumers often don’t see.

Well, now you can see them.

The Long Beach Comic Con did online consumer surveys after their February's Long Beach Comic Expo and shared the data exclusively with Newsarama.

The numbers show what people like, what they don’t, and how a convention tailors itself to hopefully give the people what they want.

What (and who) exactly is Long Beach Comic Con and Long Beach Comic Expo?

Martha Donato is the owner and operator of MAD Event Management, the company that puts on the Long Beach cons. LBCC has been in operation for eight years, with growing attendance each year that exceeded 30,000 in 2015.

“We began with modest attendance and have grown respectably each year, so we’re thrilled with the pattern,” Donato said.

The next Long Beach Comic Con takes place September 17 and 18.

Donato shared both the questions, the data, and what it means to the con.

Credit: Zachary A. Pennington


Long Beach is still in growth mode, fueled by first-timers.

“It's been a priority for us to bring in new attendees, so this is great,” Donato said.

The con has grown with outreach to non-traditional enclaves. Over the last three years, Long Beach has done major promotions with Girl Scouts of Los Angeles County, and the Columbia Memorial Space Center in nearby Downey, California. The latter has resulted in a large “Space Expo” exhibit on the con floor, which has brought in a new crowd.

Credit: Long Beach Comic Con

Austin Barrial was a first-time attendee in February. The 33-year-old steamfitter from Lynwood, California brought his whole family including two young daughters to the February Expo. He found out about the con through the Space Center.

“We loved it,” Barrial said. “It had wide aisles, was very family-friendly, and didn’t seem too big, like the pictures you see of Comic-Con [International: San Diego],” he said. “And my daughters loved seeing all the people in costumes.”

The con has its loyalists as well, and even offers lifetime passes. “We release a few lifetime passes at each show, but it's extremely limited,” Donato said.

Credit: Zachary A. Pennington


Credit: Long Beach Comic Con

Among survey participants, 71% said the exhibit floor was their favorite or one of their favorite parts of the show. That number held at 69% for Artist Alley. Donato said her general takeaway is that “people really like these shows for the core comic book content. There’s a strong interest in the creative side.”

Scott St. Pierre is interested. The 39-year-old photographer and webcomic creator used to live on the East coast, where he attended Wizard World’s Philadelphia and Boston shows, and ReedPOP’s New York Comic Con. He now lives in the Los Angeles area, and picked up a $15 weekend ticket as a promotion from GoldStar Tickets. He was itching to get back into the con swing. It had been five years.

“I just knew I wanted to be back in that creative atmosphere again, with people pushing what’s in their hearts,” he said. “I like talking to creative people, usually the people no one even knows about.”

Long Beach's conventions do not hide its Artist Alley away. It’s typically right in the center of the floor.

“We made Artist Alley a focus for us right from the first show, and people have responded to it,” Donato said.

Credit: Long Beach Comic Con

Space Expo and the Long Beach conventions' dedicated Cosplay Corner are on the grow as well.

“There are a respectable amount of people who like the new additions to the program, but things take time to develop an audience,” Donato said.

Credit: Zachary A. Pennington


Welcome to 2016: You hear about things online, and your friends. Down in “other,” a whopping one person heard about the Long Beach Comic Expo from the local newspaper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram. And yes, that was provided as a response.

Donato thinks the spread is a good one.

“To me, it says we're doing a lot of the right things to maintain healthy, long term events in Long Beach,” she said. “We always use this data to assess whether we're on track or need to make adjustments, and find it to be an accurate reflection on what attendees want and the paths they took to get here.”

Credit: Long Beach Comic Con

Some attendees said their path was “following cosplayers,” usually on Twitter or Instagram. That’s how Saanvi Patel, a 29-year-old production assistant from Los Angeles, found out about the con.

“The cosplayers are usually very, very active, and they want you to know where they’re going to be,” she said. “I saw enough about the Long Beach con from cosplayers that I follow, that I thought I had to check it out.”

Credit: Zachary A. Pennington

On this totally open-ended question, responses ran the gamut, with the larger and bolder terms seen in this word cloud getting the most play. Another common request? Free Wi-Fi. Attendees often said, "Hey, we can #LBCC all day long and that's good for you." But everything has its price.

“The cost to us to provide Wi-Fi in the exhibit halls is approximately $5,000,” Donato said. “Until convention centers stop making this a profit center - most do it, it's not unique to Long Beach - it's not a reasonable option for us.”

Along with price, quality of experience is an issue as well.

“Once too many people are on the server, it slows way down,” Donato said. “So it's as much a capacity issue as cost.”

And… everyone gotta eat! The Long Beach Convention Center is surrounded by restaurants, but on-site options are sparse. The con is working on it.

“We were able to get food trucks just outside the main entrance for the February show, and it looks like we'll be good for September too,” Donato said.

—Similar articles of this ilk are archived on a crummy-looking blog. You can also follow @McLauchlin on Twitter.

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