With resurgent interest in comic books, attendance at conventions has soared to record levels in recent years. Earlier this year, WonderCon in San Francisco was shut down for a short while on Saturday by the city Fire Marshall. The New York Comic-Con infamously shut down on a Saturday for an extended period of time when capacity had been reached.
The convention floor during Comic-Con International was a mad house Wednesday through Friday and came close to being shut down as WonderCon and the New York Comic-Con had been.
“Today [Saturday] at about noon we made the decision to stop selling memberships on site, because the fire marshal had concerns we would reach capacity in the building, but we didn’t actually reach capacity,” Comic-Con International’s Director of Marketing David Glanzer told CBR News Saturday night. “We were able to honor people who had pre-registered.
“We work very closely with the fire marshal. It didn’t get to a situation where we had to close sections of the building. We were able to control the flow by stopping on site sales.”
On Friday afternoon, CCI closed down online ticket sales through their Web site.
“It used to be years ago that Saturday was just a huge day, but now the difference between any given day is not that noticeable,” continued Glanzer. “I know people think that one day seems to be far busier than another, but we haven’t noticed that to be true. On Friday, we knew that our sales were doing well online and we had a lot of people in the building, adding that to who would be buying memberships on-site on Friday, so we decided to take our online sales off on Friday.”
Glanzer said they had no estimate as to how many people they had to turn away Saturday afternoon. The massive crowds attracted by the show not only affected the convention center itself, but also surrounding portions of San Diego.
“Not only was the show floor crowded, but so was downtown. Traffic got really backed up,” said Glanzer. “It became more of a challenge than any of us could have anticipated. We’re very grateful to the local media, both news and radio stations, who when we made the decision to stop on site sales, they were very responsive in getting the word out.”
Glanzer currently believes it should be business as usual on Sunday.
“Online sales aren’t up yet – we’re still deciding whether or not that will go up – but on-site sales will start as usual,” Glanzer said. “Considering we had our online sales down most of the day today, we should be fine tomorrow.”
Comic-Con International already uses the entirety of the recently expanded San Diego Convention Center. With attendance setting new records yearly, Glanzer is already making plans on how to avoid a shut-down at next year’s convention.
“There are a variety of ways to deal with it. We’ll have a very big debriefing after the show. We do always anyway, but I think it’s going to involve a lot more people. We’ll get people together to think about what we can do in terms of the facility itself and in terms of the city to avoid having this happen again.”
Comic-Con International 2006 in San Diego continues Sunday afternoon.