Jun. 3rd, 2012

lazypadawan: (Default)
Let me preface by saying I still enjoy going to Comic Con and I’m grateful I was at least able to get tickets for two days. Going by Comic Con’s Facebook comments, I’m not the only one with the absurdity of bookending the show (first day and last day).

Still it smarts that this is the first time since I started attending in 2004 that I was unable to go for as long as I wanted on the days I wanted. I saw FB comments from people who had been attending for many years more than I have who are for the first time only able to go one day or not at all. As I noted on my FB, this new system of buying online was like the Powerball; you’ll think it’s great only if you got what you wanted and much of that was pure luck. It’s just one step away from becoming a pure lottery system. You enter and you get what you get if you get anything. Only the very lucky (or the very connected) will get the golden four day pass with preview night.

For the first time, Comic Con will not sell passes for the following year at this show in July. Based on an e-mail I received, it looks like they are contemplating letting those who attended in 2012 first crack at online sales, with the rest of the great unwashed trying for whatever’s left later.

Why has it come to this? To use a common phrase, Comic Con became a victim of its own success. SDCC has been a legend among genre movie and t.v. fans, comics fans, and gaming fans for a long time but it has only been within the past few years that it has become the focus of international media attention. No other convention gets that level of hype. As I’ve said before, it has become a Hollywood junket on the San Diego Bay, a cross between the Cannes Film Festival and the annual t.v. presser in Beverly Hills, but for people who are pop culture and genre junkies. Other comic cons might get some famous comics artists and maybe a few guys who had roles on cancelled shows or second tier stars of popular movies. SDCC gets Scarlett Johanssen. DragonCon, the only other mammoth con of the summer, is basically a big party. It doesn’t have breaking news, sneak peeks, world premieres of anticipated trailers, or glamorous A-listers.

The hype along with the increasing difficulty of getting tickets make people want to go even more. The harder it is to get something, the more one wants it. Even with the economy being what it is, for every guy finding himself too poor to go, there are five people who will happily eat dog food and shut off the power just for the chance of being in the center of all the excitement. If you live in Southern California, Miami, or NYC, you tend to forget vast swaths of the country just doesn’t get the chance to see a big t.v. or movie star, much less sit in the same room with him. I've been saying for years that Comic Con is full of celebrity groupies who just want to see their favorite actors and gossip bloggers.

So, what’s to be done about it? Glad you asked. Here are my suggestions.

1. Get a bigger convention center.

That goes without saying, though expanding the current convention center will take years and it's entirely possible Comic Con could go elsewhere once the current contract expires in 2015. I doubt it would ever leave the state; San Diego offers the advantage of being close enough to L.A. for guests to drop by. But Anaheim and Los Angeles have more space.

2. Make Comic Con a twice-a-year event.

I've heard this idea kicked around a bit and I think it's a pretty good one. If you don't make one show, you can always attend the other. The summer con can focus on the fall t.v. schedule and on movies slated for the fall or winter, while a winter show can focus on spring/summer material. It's worked great for the fashion industry! I've heard also about splitting Comic Con into an entertainment con and a separate con focusing just on comics.

3. Make it easier to sell and transfer unused passes.

Not only were people hosed out of getting Comic Con tickets, other folks were stuck with extra passes they now can't get rid of. I'm not saying we ought to just let scalpers sell tickets for $50,000, but allow an exchange program with the con that can work right up until the con starts.

4. Announce in advance when popular panels are going to be held.

If all I wanted to do at Comic Con was see the Supernatural panel I have no way of knowing this far in advance when it will be scheduled. Friday or Saturday's a good bet, but if I wanted to be safe instead of sorry, I'd buy at least passes for Friday and Saturday if not all four days. I'm certain this is why four day passes and Friday/Saturday passes are the most popular. I realize this will require the level of foresight and planning not known to exist among con organizers, but if those panels could be scheduled first and announced prior to ticket sales, that will take the pressure off at least scooping up the four day passes. It would also help if they mixed it up a little with those panels so not everything worth seeing is dumped on Friday or Saturday. (I've also made the suggestion to offer separate but free tickets to attendees who want to see certain panels to avoid massive lines and campouts.)

5. Start telling Hollywood, "No."

I keep repeating it like a broken record. Hollywood runs Comic Con now and it seems like there's nothing too far afield to promote at the con. Last year, there was a presentation on the "Glee" 3D concert film. Why??? I don't get why Showtime decides to promote all of its shows at the con; most of them have nothing to do with genre. It makes as much sense to promote the next Nicholas Sparks-based movie or t.v. fare like "Hoarders: Buried Alive." With 150,000 people causing the convention center to burst at the seams, you can't argue Comic Con has an outreach problem.

I also think that more passes are being allocated for entourages, press, talent agency employees, and all of their friends, passes that could go to the fans. A number of passes are also given to radio/internet contest winners. Last year, a local dealership was giving out four-day passes to those buying cars. Really?!

They are trying, but ultimately SDCC needs to ask itself a question. Is Comic Con about the fans, as they keep telling us, or is it about showrunners, starlets, paparazzi, and hype? As long as it's about the latter, it will continue to balloon out-of-control.

December 2012

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