The 2017 convention season is in full swing, and Orlando's MegaCon has become one of the largest regional shows with 100,000 in attendance in 2016 and huge expansion plans for this year's four-day event later this month. Scheduled to take place May 25 to 28 at the Orlando County Convention Center, MegaCon Orlando is slotted to have the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show movie, the last Florida con appearance for Stan Lee, and a fundraiser for Love Is Love.
MegaCon is the largest United States convention owned by Fan Expo's Informa plc, and has grown to include a splinter Tampa event each year in addition to its core Orlando event. Newsarama spoke with MegaCon's show director Andrew Moyes, who also works as Fan Expo's Vice President, about this year's festivities, and the 1000 exhibitors, the 1 million square feet of exhibitor/programming space, and the 100k+ crowd expected.
Newsarama: Andrew, what makes this year's MegaCon Orlando unique?
Andrew Moyes: We’re constantly looking to bring new programming pieces to the show. For example, we have an expanded anime track, featuring exclusive screenings and even more programming! In addition, a new manga library and Maid Café will bring Japanese pop culture to the Orlando County Convention Center.
We are offering more special events with comic greats like Stan Lee, Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo, and Adam Kubert. We’ve also partnered with Holy Grail Comics for the first time, and they are bringing in Bob Layton and Chris Claremont for special appearances at their booth as well as in our programming schedule.
A special fundraiser called Love Is Love is being held to support the families of the Orlando Pulse Night Club shooting. Featuring Scott Snyder, Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Jason Aaron, Dan Didio, as well as Love is Love project creator Marc Andreyko, Love Is Love events will raise funds for Equality Florida. Events include sales of an exclusive MegaCon edition of the comic anthology of the same name, a fundraiser cocktail party with some of the biggest names in the comic industry, and a live art auction featuring work from the Love is Love book. The public is welcome to come to the auction on Saturday, May 27 at 7:30p.m. local time, free of charge, to bid on original comic artwork as part of MegaCon’s fundraising activities.
Our costume contest is being revamped to include pre-judging and cash prizes. With our new sponsor GEICO, the whole contest is maintaining its place as one of the must-see events of the weekend.
Nrama: It seems the big guest line-up this year is the cast of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show movie. In the past you've done the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In booking guests in tandem, how do you deliberate on what are your big guests/theme of the year?
Moyes: Naturally our fans love it when we can bring an ensemble of guests, and offer programming to support a reunion or a special event. This year we are delighted to present a very rare appearance with Tim Curry, and it has been made even more special by adding other cast members. Rocky Horror Picture Show highlights at MegaCon Orlando will include shadowcasts led by RHPS fan clubs, panels about props and wardrobe from the movie, and a Q&A with cash members Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, and Nell Campbell. Plus, fans can meet Tim Curry, in a special photo op that includes an extended moment with Mr. Curry.
Our community loves to celebrate pop culture milestones such as finales and anniversaries (we’ve got some of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast in the 20th anniversary year, for example). And often it comes down to securing one guest, and then we’re able to build on that with additional invitations for co-stars from the same project.
Nrama: Stan Lee has said this is his last time appearing at MegaCon - and at any con in Florida. He's done this at several other cons, but what does that mean for you as a con organizer?
Moyes: We love working with Stan Lee and having him choose MegaCon Orlando for his last Florida appearance is a real testament for his love for the MegaCon fans. It’s an honor working with him, and to celebrate we’re hosting a new special event called “Breakfast with Stan Lee.” It includes a hot breakfast buffet, autograph, best selfie ever, and a private Q&A with Stan the Man. There’s only 100 of these packages available.
Nrama: This is the second year MegaCon Orlando is doing four days, and this year you're expanding the footprint with the entire North/South Concourse. What precipitated those moves?
Moyes: We are taking over the entire North/South Concourse, with more than 1 million square feet of exhibit and programming space. This is an expansion from 2016, as we add on more comfort services like food courts, lounges and programming theaters.
Nrama: Getting to the show floor - how many tables/booths do you plan to have - and how does this compare to last year's numbers?
Moyes: The exhibit floor in terms of booth numbers is comparable to 2016, with about 1,000 exhibitors. The great thing about our expansion into the North/South Concourse is that we have more room overall on the show floor for food courts, photo ops, and celebrity autograph area, so the fans will spend more time on the show floor and only need to step away for programming, rather than to go looking for food and seating areas.
Nrama: Speaking of numbers, in a press release Informa is said to be expecting over 100,000 in attendance. What was the attendance last year, and did you cap ticket sales?
Moyes: We had 100,000 last year, and are looking for about 100,000 again. We work diligently with all the key stake holders on our ticket sales. We comfortably accommodated all our visitors in 2016 and look forward to doing this same in our new space this year.
Nrama: ReedPOP and Comic-Con International: San Diego have made moves to begin airing some of its panels live or in tape-delay for people who don't attend the con. Does Informa have anything like this in the works, or have they thought about it at all?
Moyes: It’s something we’re looking at for the future but don’t have plans for it in 2017.
Nrama: This con is taking place on Memorial Day weekend for the second time in a row. Does doing it over a holiday help or hurt?
Moyes: Last year with it being our first year on Memorial Day weekend, some fans were surprised by the change in dates and there are some challenges on the business side. We have seen the fans embrace the change and this year it’s becoming more of a tradition. As we continue with the Memorial Day dates in 2018, we know that our fans will mark it in their calendar and plan around it. Certainly for fans who come with their kids, it’s ideal to have the holiday Monday to recover from a mega weekend!
Nrama: And we can't go without talking about the elephant in the room - MegaCon takes place in Orlando, with many theme parks. How does that work into conventioneering, from luring guests to attendees, or even advertising in the local market?
Moyes: The Orlando-factor is what makes MegaCon what it is. It’s a huge con in a great city with so many exciting things to do. Rather than compete with the parks, we actually work with our partners at Visit Orlando to offer discounted tickets to our fans for park admission after 4:00pm. Fans can purchase these park admission tickets right on site at the Orlando County Convention Center. Hosting MegaCon next to the theme parks gives our fans another reason to come to Orlando on Memorial Day weekend.
Nrama: Last question – it’s been two years since MegaCon was acquired by Informa. You run other conventions outside of this - what do you think makes MegaCon Orlando unique compared to those others?
Moyes: Certainly the size and scope of MegaCon Orlando sets it apart. It is our largest show in the United States. When we acquired MegaCon we also brought on many of their key people in terms of programming – we’re still working with the same great genre leads in comics, anime, and gaming. In fact, we like some of these programming experts so much, that we’re now taking them to our other shows. Ultimately, however, it is the fans and the community that make the show unique. The passion and excitement that our fans continue to approach the show with makes all the hard work for the team hugely gratifying. We can’t wait to deliver another incredible installment of MegaCon this year!