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When it comes to pop culture events Lance Fensterman,show manager of Reed Exhibitions' New York Comic Con and the inaugural ChicagoComic and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, must be tempted to ask"What recession?"Reed Exhibitions is not only launching a new comics convention in the midst of arecession but also manages a group of pop culture consumer shows that are someof the fastest growing conventions at the company.

For years Reed Exhibitions focused its giganticoperations on presenting trade and professional exhibitions around the world.But after attracting more than 30,000 fans to the first New York Comic Con in2006 and watching that number grow to nearly 80,000 fans in 2009, ReedExhibitions has turned its focus to the management of pop culture consumershows. Headed by Fensterman, Reed Exhibition's Pop Culture Group is not onlylaunching C2E2 in April, but is also producing George Lucas' Star Wars Fan Celebrationconvention in August; the UFC (Ultimate Fight Championship) Fan Expo in LasVegas in May; and the group is working with the Penny Arcade Expo to launch PAXEast in Bostonat the end of this month. Later in the year, look for the newly combined NewYork Comic Con and New York Anime Fest at the JavitsCenter in New York in October. (Publishers Weekly is owned by the same parent company as Reed Exhibitions).

Pop culture conventions have become such a growthmarket for Reed Exhibitions, that in December Fensterman was promoted and handedover the keys to running the venerable book industry trade show, BookExpo America, toSteve Rosato. The move allows Fensterman to focus his attention on a slate offast growing pop culture shows. As the book publishing industry goes throughwrenching changes, BookExpo Americafaces a variety of problems as large trade book publishers question its costs,its utility and its purpose in today's publishing marketplace. Indeed, Fenstermanand others have suggested that BEA become a bit more like a consumer show-perhapsopening the show to the public for a day-a controversial proposal that seemshave as many arguments for it as against it.

But there are no industry reservations over the launchof C2E2. Indeed the show looks to launch with an even bigger mob of fans inattendance than the first New York Comic-con, which became notorious for thecrowds of fans that overwhelmed the facility. Fensterman said that the newconvention, which opens April 16 at Chicago'sMcCormick Place, "is pacingahead of the first NYCC; we're 15% to 18% ahead of the registration for thefirst New York Comic-con. Sobuy your tickets now!" Weekend tickets are $115 and daily tickets are $25 andthe deadline for advance purchase is March 19. Reed has also extended theregistration deadline for professionals until March 19.

Fensterman says C2E2 is shaping up as one of Reed's biggestconsumer shows. "We have a bigger show floor than the second NYCC; Marvel andDC Comics will have huge 2500 square foot booths, and we've exceeded all of ourgoals for this show," said Fensterman. Publishers from Avatar to Dark Horsewill be exhibiting and Fensterman pointed to videogame producers exhibiting aswell as retailers like Chicago Comics and even New York City's Midtown Comics.

"We'll have about 300 people taking space in ArtistsAlley," he said. While there will likely not be as many traditional trade bookpublishers at the show-Fensterman acknowledged the recession has had someaffect-there will be a large section at the show devoted to Web comics as wellas toy companies and movie studios. "Wewon't have the same kind of presence for book publishers as we will in New York," Fensterman said, "but we will have asolid lineup of film and TV studios."

A bookseller before he joined Reed Exhibitions,Fensterman said "there's been as shift from some of the focus at ReedExhibition from B2B shows to consumer shows. Launching New York Comic-con was a crazy idea 5 years ago,but now it's the cornerstone of what we're doing."

Fensterman said Reed Exhibitions plans to build its popculture business around three national pillars-Reed shows in Chicago and NewYork in the Spring and Fall; and the King of pop culture shows, the independentSan Diego Comic-con International, in the Summer. "We plan our year aroundthese three shows. None of the shows are scheduled to step on the others' toesand that gives our clients a chance to reload. We're investing in Chicago to create a show like we have in New York."

But Reed is still looking for opportunities. "You can'treally start shows like these in the U.S.every month," Fensterman explained. "So we're looking for opportunities outsideof the U.S. When you lookaround the world, there are a lot of markets that are interested in shows likethese."