227,000 people attended the 2017 New York Comic Con, and show organizers expect this year's event to have over a quarter million.
NYCC has become a staple of New York City life, growing from its environs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to take over Manhattan from the Hammerstein Ballroom to Madison Square Garden and over to Pier 94. Although largely based around comics, it - like virtually every other comic conventions - has grown to encompass movies, television, games, cosplay, and more.
With this year's event a week away, Newsarama spoke with Mike Armstrong, ReedPOP's event director, about what the 12-year-old convention is like as it reaches its teenage years.
Newsarama: Mike, what are you most personally excited about this year for New York Comic Con?
Mike Armstrong: As always, I’m just broadly excited to see everyone! I love walking the show floor during move in so that I can catch up with the publishers and retailers that we’ve been working with for the last 13 years. Once the show starts on Thursday, my focus shifts to monitoring fan experience and the exciting part of that is that I get to talk to fans and get their perspectives on the show.
Nrama: For people who maybe missed a year or two in NYCC, what are the biggest improvements you think people will notice coming in this year?
Armstrong: We’ve really spent a lot of time and money focused on technology this year. It might be hidden to some fans, but a lot of work goes into the features that exist within your badge. We’re continuing to test some virtual queuing with exhibitors so that we could keep people out of lines as much as possible. We’re also using that to help facilitate enhanced fan experiences and exclusive content. We’ve also launched the Studio @ NYCC this year, which features a selection of workshops, master classes and conversations with some talent that might not normally participate at NYCC. There’s a whole lot of great stuff that’s open to ticket holders and non-ticket holders.
Nrama: How many ReedPOP staff does it take to put on NYCC annually?
Armstrong: There’s about 15 of us that work on it full time throughout the year, but on-site, we’ll have about 120 people from Reed.
Nrama: Including third-party agencies, how many people will you have working at NYCC this year? You can estimate, of course.
Armstrong: That’s a good question… I’d estimate that if you include all of our staff, crew members, temps, etc, we’re probably pushing 1,000 people to make NYCC go off.
Nrama: In addition to the Javits Center, what are all the outside venues NYCC is utilizing this year?
Armstrong: Once again, we’re back at the Hammerstein Ballroom and Madison Square Garden (we added Sunday to MSG). We’re also in Shop Studios, Hudson Mercantile, and the Hudson Mercantile Annex.
We’re also excited about our new anime event in partnership with Anime Expo at Pier 94. That’s a separately ticketed Anime experience that we think is going to be huge in a year or two.
Nrama: I've really appreciated the institution of quiet rooms at ReedPOP conventions. Will you be doing them at NYCC this year, and if so, where will they be located?
Armstrong: Yes, they’re definitely coming back to NYCC. It’s centrally located this year in room 1C05.
Nrama: Do you think there is an overlooked part of NYCC that you'd like to bring people's attention to more?
Armstrong: I’ll never not plug Artist Alley when given the opportunity. It’s by far my favorite part of the show and a really amazing atmosphere for fans to meet the people who are putting out the work they love so much.
Nrama: What was the final count on attendance at NYCC 2017, and what do you project for 2018?
Armstrong: Officially, we were at 227,000 fans last year. This year, if you combine our NYCC attendance plus Anime Fest at NYCC x AX, plus our separately ticketed nighttime events, we’re definitely pushing a quarter million people.
Nrama: I know you don't have complete numbers, but how much of NYCC attendance would you say is local and how much would you say is people flying in, percentage-wise?
Armstrong: We estimate that 80% of our attendance comes from the tri-state area which is smaller than it has been in past years which indicates that this is becoming much more of a national event.
Nrama: New York Comic Con is four days this year, plus some events on Wednesday evening - making it effectively four-and-a-half days. Could you see NYCC going to a full five days at some point?
Armstrong: Yea, I can see it, but not quite yet. It’s an interesting debate around the office. Monday usually falls on Columbus Day, so that would make some sense. Give us some time…
Nrama: Big question - when you're in NYCC, where do you eat? Any tips you can give people on some overlooked eating spots?
Armstrong: If you need a quick sandwich, the Sunac on the corner of 42nd and 11th is pretty wonderful. It’s 24 hours and comes in handy when you’re leaving the convention center at midnight and really need a turkey sandwich. I’m partial to the Gotham West Market because they have big tables, good beers and a bunch of different types of food.
Nrama: Thanks for the tip. Final question - what are your big goals for NYCC this year?
Armstrong: My goal is always the same – consistently deliver an amazing fan experience. We do everything we can to give fans the opportunity to see and do everything that they want to. The only number I look at when the show is over is how many fans said they had a kick-ass time in the post-show research. If that keeps growing, we’re doing something right.