|Lance Fensterman, Reed Exhibitions VP of Books, Publishing and Pop Culture|
Barely an hour after New York Comic Con wrapped, while dealers and exhibitors packed their inventory onto pallets to ship home, CBR News sat down with Reed Exhibition’s VP of Books, Publishing and Pop Culture Lance Fensterman in our skybox for a talk about how the show went, what fans can expect from an NYCC October comeback nearly two years off, rumor control about the upcoming New York Anime Festival, and more on the recently announced C2E2 comic convention Reed will launch in Chicago in the summer of 2010.
CBR: Here we are with the show floor closing and folks generally wrapping things up. How was the show from your point of view?
Lance Fensterman: It was good. It was great. I’m still waiting on final figures, but we’ll be up over 10% in attendance, which is really cool and a testament, I think, to what we’ve always said: if you build something great that’s fun and exciting and cool, the fans will reward us by coming to the show. And they came in record numbers for us. There’s no great litmus test, but walking around I think the exhibitors were happy, money was spent, most of the events went without a hitch. I’m really, really pleased, and I’m really, really proud of my team.
There’s been a lot of worry about the economy, specifically in terms of New York Comic Con; whether or not people would come to spend money at a con right now. Anecdotally, did you see any evidence that certain areas of the show did better than others?
No. I don’t know that I can say that. I think that in talking to exhibitors, people that felt they had reasonably priced items or smaller priced items did a little better, but I’ll be honest with you, that’s true in any economy. People with lower-priced items always do well. I don’t know that there was an area that I’m aware of that did stronger than another.
The big question in terms of the future surrounds the fact that your next New York show is almost two years away, in October of 2010. Has there been worry about losing momentum and interest in that long gap? Any thoughts on ways to promote the show in its absence over the next year?
It’ll be about 18 months, about a year and a half. Obviously, launching an event in Chicago is no small way to keep our name in front of people’s minds. In New York, we’ve talked about doing some fan stuff. Not any big events but some fan events and activities – bringing in some talent and just having fun, basically.
What are your thoughts on the fact that last year, which was in the spring, drew a lot of Hollywood talent and attention, while this year’s winter show drew less? In October, you’ll be far out from that summer blockbuster season. How does that affect the feel of the New York Comic Con?
It’s interesting. Talking to the studios, it’ll be different. It’ll be a different type of feel we might bring. What we’ve always felt was that if we build a great event and deliver a ton of fans, the studios and television studios will find their way to us when it’s appropriate.
Reed also runs the New York Anime Festival, amongst other shows. What’s the next date of that show, and what do you have coming up over the next year or so?
It’s the last week of September 2009. I oversee New York Anime Fest, New York Comic Con and Book Expo America. So next up in my crosshairs is the largest trade book event in America, Book Expo America, which comes in four months. So I’ll take off my graphic lit hat and just put on my lit hat. And then I switch over to Anime and put my focus on that, and then back to Chicago I suppose.
We heard a rumor that Reed could be combining Comic Con and the Anime Fest here in New York. What are your thoughts on that on a scale of “A Strong Possibility” to “Just Speculation?”
I think it’s both. I think it’s a possibility and speculation at this point. We haven’t decided what to do with Anime in 2010, and our minds are really open. Basically, we just pulled of New York Comic Con 2009, a week before that we pulled off a massive con launching in downtown Chicago, we’ve relocated our Comic Con to the fall; so the feeling was, “We will run an awesome New York Anime Fest in 2009 and worry about what we’re doing from there.”
We’ve got a lot on our plate right now, and we’ll do whatever’s best for the fans. I’ve always said that we respect the community we’ve built for the Otaku and hopefully make it even better in 2010.
One thing we’ve heard often with NYCC is that because it’s in New York and that’s an expensive town, it’s very hard for a lot of independent publishers and other companies along those lines to afford show space at the con. Are you doing something in coming to Chicago to reach out to small press groups who won’t come to New York?
You know, we did it really for two reasons: we heard from our customers that they wanted a major, professionally run con in downtown Chicago, and it wasn’t currently happening. And they wanted it in a time of year that wasn’t going to interfere with any other major cons that they had on their calendar. So we heard that from enough of our customers that I said, “We really need to look into that.” And when we looked at the calendar and the map, we realized there was a fanbase there that was not within proximity of a major con in an urban center of the type that we’ve created with New York Comic Con.
Now, having said that, looking at the type of companies that will exhibit, it will certainly be less expensive than New York, but frankly everything is less expensive than being in New York, and that can affect who we talk to and how we target. But we’ve always tried to be inclusive of everyone possible. It’s in our best interest and its what our fans want. And we might have the ability to do more for the smaller and independent presses, but we’ve been very aggressive in helping small and independent presses be a part of New York Comic Con. And that will continue in Chicago as well.
There are some other shows in Chicago. Wizard has its show in Rosemont and the Windy City Con had a well-received launch last year. When Reed thinks about that, do you think about trying to avoid those shows in terms of scheduling and promotion or in terms of offering what you think they can’t?
I think we’re trying to offer things they don’t offer, and we have a way of doing things that we’ve learned here at New York Comic Con that we plan to apply to that show. We’ve found a fairly decent plan: to really invest in the business. Really invest in the business. Like any small business entrepreneur would, I wrote a business plan and brought it to the president of Reed North America and said, “This is what I need to create an event, a con that my customers and the fans deserve, and it’s a significant investment. I believe that over a period of time, it’ll be a good investment.” And it was green lit. So that’s the way we’re approaching it – that we’re going to be investing in this event heavily, and it’s going to be a top-notch event with top-notch talent. It’s going to be well run and professionally run. No expense will be spared, if you will — within reason. There won’t be any gold toilets of anything… you get the idea.
To end on something fun, what was your personal highlight of the New York Comic Con this year?
You know, this is the lamest thing because it’s not even about talent or anything, but it was really two things. I’m not even going for equity here. The two things I loved most were going to Marvel’s green screen and getting my picture in the Spider-Man pose where I’m swinging through a couple of webs. That was super cool. And the second was the gold Wonder Woman tiara’s that DC was handing out – getting some pictures in those with a couple of guys in my sales team. I’m sure those will surface on the blog in some way.