After a satisfactory launch in 2010 and a significant boost in attendance in 2011, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, better known as C2E2 and scheduled for April 13-15 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, is looking to establish itself as one of the major pop culture exhibitions in North America in its third year. With the show drawing close, C2E2 reports ticket sales are up nearly 50% over last year and exhibitor space will double from last year.
Launched by Reed Exhibitions in 2010 as part of its ReedPop division, an expansion into pop culture consumer shows by the B2B exhibitions organizer, C2E2 attracted just over 27,000 fans with only minor grumbling from exhibitors and fans about the location of the show, branding and the level of attendance. Last year C2E2 rebounded, drawing more than 34,000 fans to the show, coupled with hosting the Diamond Distributors retailer summit, an annual meeting of retailers held just before the show opens, that will also take place at this year’s show.
“Year one was good, we expected more attendance but we were optimistic going forward,” said Lance Fensterman, ReedPop group v-p and manager of C2E2. “Year two was solid, we had fewer exhibitors but more fans,” he said. “This year we want it all to be up,” Fensterman said, comparing the show to an adolescent, “Yearthree is pivotal. We’ve invested heavily in the show, we’re not making money and its time for the kid to get a job, stand on its own feet and pitch in.”
According to Fensterman, all the signs point to a profitable 2012 show, including attendance by the major comics publishers, including the Chicago-based distributor IPG representing its clients, and major programming aimed at librarians. “We work closely with ALA, which is based in Chicago, and librarian registration is up 40% this year,” Fensterman said, “and we’ve got a bunch of panels designed for them.” Artist Alley, the section of most comics shows that feature independent artists, will have more than 400 artists this year, up from the 286 that rented space last year.
Exhibitors will increase significantly, he said, and paid exhibitors space will double from 30,000 square feet to 55,000 square feet.Ticket sales are up and Fensterman estimates the attendance could rise as much as 50%.He also said the first two shows identified areas that ReedPop needed to improve. The show was moved to another space at McCormick Place, the giant convention complex in Chicago, and many fans complained that theydidn’t know what “C2E2”, its catchy acronym, was about, resulting in new signage that made clear the complete name and subject matter of the show. “We rebranded last year and literally spelled out what we are,” Fensterman said. “People need to know what we are and have us on their calendars.”
Despite being located in Chicago, Fensterman said the show had to overcome reluctance of fans to come to downtown Chicago because of parking problems as well as McCormick Place generally holding business trade shows, rather than pop culture consumer shows. To deal with that, the show runs a free shuttle bus, “The Nerd Express,” from the Loop direct to the show, and Fensterman said about 35% of show attendees take the shuttle. “We’re going to increase the shuttle, but these are some of the challenges we’re had to deal with if we plan to have a killer event.”
Fensterman said the plan is to create a “massive pop cultural event,” in Chicago. “For some of the leading publishers C2E2 represents the only time they come to Chicago and I think the level of their participation in our show in terms of booth size, as well as their involvement by bringing celebrity guests and creators and arranging special events, indicates the excitement they feel at being here. We are looking forward to making Chicago a center for the pop culture universe for many years to come.”