This year’s Comic-Con International was another impressive showing. Sold out a week before its opening with huge crowds of fans and a seemingly endless number of comics and Hollywood celebrities, Comic-Con has entered a golden age, and the show attracts more mainstream media coverage than ever before. It often seems as though the biggest problem facing the show is its own dizzying success: Sellout crowds, labyrinthine lines to get into any TV or movie related panel, and more programming events than a fan can ever hope to attend. But all the great features of Comic-Con become moot if you can’t buy a ticket to the show or find a hotel room. After the show, PWCW talked to Comic-Con director of marketing and public relations David Glanzer about some of challenges the show faces.
PW Comics Week: Well, it’s been another impressive Comic-Con with record numbers of people, media and events. But what do you do when can’t sell any more tickets? Where do you go from there? Your costs will continue to rise even if the size of your ticket sales and exhibition space cannot.
David Glanzer: Well the show was sold out, but we’re never happy when people can’t attend. That’s not good. Obviously when we max out space and attendance that leaves us with flat income. Everything else, hall rental and everything else, is going up in price. And like I mentioned to [PWCW co-editor] Heidi [MacDonald] earlier, we’ll probably look to augment our income by adding sponsored signage around the Hall.
PWCW: There seemed to be much more stringent efforts at crowd control around the center than I’ve ever seen before.
DG: We’ve put a lot of effort into crowd control for the last 20 years. We know how to anticipate flow and move people around the facility. Even before we had a 6,000-seat theater we had to deal with halls that were packed with people. Now we know we can manage lines for very overcrowded rooms.
PWCW: I guess you’ve had to answer this question a lot, but what is your response to the general discussion out there that, perhaps, the show should move to another city?
DG: We would love to stay here; we love San Diego and it would make things so much simpler if we stay here. When we signed our last agreement with the city to stay through 2012, we knew we would have to forego growth for a few years. Now there is the possibility of the expansion of the Convention Center by the city. That’s something that wouldn’t just be just good for Comic-Con, but would be good for the city as a whole. They could book shows simultaneously and other things. But we haven’t seen much movement from the city on plans to expand the convention center.
PWCW: What about the hotel situation? It’s getting tougher to find a hotel for a reasonable price. I’m sure you read my colleague Heidi MacDonald’s commentary on hotel prices in San Diego, during and post Comic-Con. What’s your take on the cost of hotel rooms, and also your response to the city of San Diego’s study of the economic impact of Comic-Con, which apparently it says is somewhere around $32 million?
DG: Heidi seems to be the only one who has taken the time to compare hotel prices and, well, we weren’t really surprised; but hotel [prices] certainly seem to be higher for our event and yet the revenue produced by our attendees is supposedly less than other events. We try to work with the hotels and get special rates for our attendees, but hotel rooms are at a premium. We did our own survey about 2 years ago. It doesn’t include what we spend to set up the convention and it doesn’t include what our exhibitors, Hollywood, publishers and other vendors, spend; it’s just our attendees and what they spend on lodging, food and the usual expenditures outside the convention center. We came up with $60 million generated by our attendees and that’s just barebones; it’s not the total you’d get if you factored in what we spend setting up the show and what our exhibitors spend on parties and other things outside the convention.
PWCW: Would Comic-Con consider moving to another city?
DG: We listen to our attendees and we get feedback. Our attendees don’t want to leave San Diego and we don’t want to leave. But now, some of our attendees are saying that maybe we should explore the idea of leaving. We’ve had a city make us an offer in the past and we rejected it. I know people say that we’re using this for leverage but we don’t do this lightly. Believe me, it’s not for leverage.