WonderCon & C2E2 Explain The Spring Shift

The comics convention season always brings with it a bit of schedule shuffling -- sometimes dramatic as with this year's epic public debate over where Comic-Con International would land, but most often mundane as various events lock in their weekends for the next go round. However, yesterday some surprising news cropped up surrounding a few of the bigger shows in 2012's spring swing for conventions.

Kicking off the news, WonderCon -- owned and operated by Comic-Con International -- announced that for next year it would move from its longtime home in San Francisco's Moscone Center to the Anaheim Convention Center for a March 16 - 18 event. As part and parcel of the press release, Reed Exhibition's Chicago-based C2E2 show declared they would relocate from their recent St. Patrick's Day weekend plan in order to avoid conflicts with WonderCon, and later in the day announced an April 13 - 15 run at the Windy City's McCormick Place. (Gareb Shamus of Wizard World also announced an additional year of postponement for his already delayed spring show in Anaheim)

The announcements held a rare thread of coordination between major con competitors and also raised questions as to the long term future of all the shows involved. With that in mind, CBR News reached out to organizers at CCI and Reed for the full story.

"As is always the case, we're really dependent on the venue to give us dates," Comic-Con's Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer explained. "We always give them a timeline like, 'We'd love to be in the first quarter,' or, 'We'd love to be in these months,' but it really is dependent upon what the venue has to offer us. In the case of WonderCon and Moscone, we were actually told there would be no dates in 2012 for us because they're undergoing a renovation of two of their halls. So we were basically having to make a decision. Do we look for another venue to accommodate us -- not only in terms of the exhibit space but just as importantly programming space -- or do we just sit it out for a year?"

As a preference for the former plan took shape, Comic-Con reached out to its competitors with the news. "It isn't uncommon -- and we've done this in the past -- that if any of our dates fall close to or on top of another show that may draw either a similar audience or exhibitors for us to call those people and say, 'We're giving you a heads up.' And that has been a long term practice for us, so nothing is new or different in this case," Glanzer said.

When asked whether there were any kind of financial or business arrangements made with other shows to help alleviate scheduling stress, Glanzer responded, "Absolutely not."

Lance Fensterman, Group Vice President of ReedPOP, agreed that it was ultimately in everyone's best interest to make some hard choices. "[Our move] was completely in cooperation with WonderCon. We realized some time ago that we were going to end up on the same dates, and since we're the larger of the second-tier shows, if you want to call it that, we just felt it was not the best idea for our customers and fans. We knew we could work something out. So they worked on dates, and we worked on dates and compared notes until we found something that was good for both of us," he said.

And while C2E2 had publicly declared its intent to make the St. Patrick's Day weekend the permanent home for a show still early in its life on the circuit, Fensterman said that compromise is sometimes in the cards. "Continuity is king. You want to have things consistent every year, but the reality is that WonderCon had no options, and we ended up having two options. So we were happy to accommodate, and we'll be back in March next year. We liked that, even though it was hard on the staff with a few 'casualties' from St. Patrick's Day. But it was good for us, and we'll try to get back there. You've seen how these shows bounce back and forth on the market and in the venues."

While it still doesn't match the sheer size and star power of its San Diego sister show, WonderCon has grown over the past few years both in terms of becoming a destination event for some comic fans and an outlet for Hollywood studios to hock their summer product. Could the same feel hold true with the show relocated to Anaheim? "I think the easy answer is that we really don't know, and for me, that's a scary prospect," Glanzer said. "Will people come from Los Angeles to go to Anaheim? Will people come from San Francisco to come to Anaheim? The fact is that we just don't know. The fanbase in San Francisco has been incredibly supportive of WonderCon, and we were pretty flabbergasted when we were told that we just wouldn't have 2012 dates in San Francisco. I believe it was during the week of Comic-Con that we actually got a note from Moscone saying that they did have dates at their small venus, but the last time we were in that hall was maybe ten years ago. The show was very different, and [that space] just wouldn't be able to accommodate both the people that want to go and the kinds of programs and exhibits that we want to have. It's entirely too small a venue for us. So that brought up the whole question again of, 'Do we sit out a year, or do we find a place that works?'

"We were familiar with Anaheim Convention Center and their programming space and exhibit space, but how that's going to translate -- there really is no way for us to know. I know that there are other shows that happen in Anaheim, and they're supposed to be pretty good. But this is the first time for us."

So for now, both of the major con companies will have to put their focus on their next events and wait a while before Spring 2013 can be finalized. For Fensterman, that means keeping steamrolling for ReedPOP's biggest show, the New York Comic Con set for October 13 - 16. "We've got a UFC Fan Expo event in Houston the weekend before New York Comic Con, but the entire summer, we've had a dedicated team cranking on New York. It's going to be pretty crazy. I hope we'll be able to have news start coming out soon, but I promise that it's going to be really, really cool. I'm giddy right now thinking about it," he explained.

Glanzer agreed that overall, moving shows isn't ideal but for now the events locked into the calendar took priority including October 1 - 2's Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. "We don't want to shuffle anything around. We're really focused on APE right now. I think it's going to be a great show, and then right after APE we have to start working on WonderCon. It's like a totally new show with the new venue. But additionally, we're trying to secure 2013 dates [for WonderCon]. We'd love to be back in San Francisco, and while we have some stuff accomplished, there are still many things to do."

Although, Glanzer did mention the possibility of something to tied over local WonderCon fans in the Anaheim year. "I will say though that we're going to try and have some events in San Francisco next year that we hope fans will take part in. What those are yet, we don't know. We're putting some feelers out. We're not happy about having to leave San Francisco, and we'd like to still try to do something in a much, much, much scaled down way to have fun with the fans."

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