With the first full day of the 2008 Comic-Con International in San Diego (mostly) a memory, CCI’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer finally had a moment to breathe. That is, he would have, if he hadn’t taken the time to brief Comic Book Resources about the state of the show so far. CBR News spoke with Glanzer about everything from an unexpected “drapery malfunction” in the Con’s always-packed Hall H to the very un-Preview Night crowd levels on Preview Night to whether CCI will be forced to find a new home.
How goes the show, David?
Well, the first day was okay. Wednesday night certainly was crowded. Today was crowded. I think people are having a good time. I don’t know if you heard about it, but we had an incident in Hall H — the draperies in the back of the hall used to muffle the sound collapsed. That held things up in that room by about 20 minutes. But other than that, it was a successful day.
A 20-minute snafu isn’t bad for a show of this magnitude.
It probably totaled 30-35 minutes, but we had planned for 15 minute breaks in that room anyway. It happened right after a panel so the 15 minute break was taken and it was another 20 minutes to fix the problem, so it put us 20 minutes behind. We attempted to make up that time by shortening the other breaks between programming.
You mentioned the crowds on Wednesday night. A lot of the people I’ve talked to were really surprised by how many people came to Preview Night. Were you?
We knew that we were sold out, so whenever something like that happens, if more people end up attending, it can be rather daunting. I think we had an idea that more people would have done Preview Night than had in the past. I wouldn’t say it was surprise, but it certainly was a lot [of people].
Most of the merchants I’ve talked to were thrilled about it, while many of the attendees were a little overwhelmed. How do you strike that balance between merchants, who obviously want as many potential customers as possible, and attendees, who might want a little more elbow room so they can get from place to place easier and just be more comfortable?
That’s an excellent question. The paramount concern has to be safety. Everyone wants it to be comfortable, and we want to make sure exhibitors have a profitable show as well, but safety is the primary concern. Even before we were asked to have double wide aisles, we did, [even though] that means we’d lose some exhibit space. One of the important things is that we have people who know how to shop. And we’ve been able to move people form the floor to programming, programming to the floor. Our main effort to make things a little more comfortable was by limiting attendance this year – although it was crowded on Wednesday, so we’ll see how the rest of the weekend shakes out.
This year, all four days are sold out, as well as the overall four-day pass.
Well, if one comes here and doesn’t have a ticket, one certainly can’t get in.
Do you regret that you can’t provide access to more spur-of-the-moment attendees who didn’t purchase in advance? My cab driver from the airport told me he was disappointed that he couldn’t just swing by and check it out.
[Limiting attendance is] not something we regret, we think it’s a necessity. We want to make sure people are safe and comfortable. We’re comfortable with the number we have now, 125,000. Are we happy we’re sold out? Absolutely not. No one wants to be in charge of an event that people can’t get to. It’s a disappointment that we can’t expand. When we renewed our contract with the city, we knew we’d be forgoing growth, but the discussion at the time was that the Convention Center was going to try to expand. The Mayor even mentioned it in his state of the city address this year. Expanding the Convention Center is an opportunity not just for us, but for attracting bigger and better cons to the city. Right now we don’t know what the plans are. We haven’t been kept in the loop. It might not necessarily be something we’d be kept in the loop on, but we don’t know where that [plan for expansion] is. We’re in a precarious situation right now where we don’t know if the expansion is happening.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about the show so far?
We’d love to stay in San Diego. I’d say that if the Convention Center started expanding, with new hotels online, it’s the perfect world. That being said, if there isn’t gonna be an expansion, we’re going to have to seriously look at what we can do. One thing I’d say is that we really take our attendeess into consideration, and a couple years ago we heard very loudly from them that they wanted to stay. Now we’re hearing that they can’t get in, or it’s too crowded, so maybe an offer from another city may be an option after all. It’s something we may entertain if we feel we have to, but everyone with Comic-Con hopes it won’t be necessary, because we hope the Convention Center will expand.