The economy may be slow, but there’s one place that’s going strong with near-unlimited demand: Comic Con 2011. I knew it was already going to be off the hook when I was in the office a few weeks ago and got a call from an anxious would-be Comic Con 2011 attendee. It was the day the Comic Con site opened for online purchasing of badges (in effect, tickets) to its show, then still a good 8 months in the future.
I told him we were ComicBase, not Comic Con, but he explained to me their site had gone down, and he was wondering if we, as regular exhibitors, had any kind of in with the organization to help him buy a badge.Certainly, I thought to myself, it shouldn’t be that hard to get a badge 8 months in advance. While I was on the phone with him, I checked out the Comic Con site myself and was thoroughly surprised to see the 4-day badges had sold out in July at the 2010 Con. And due to massive demand for the remaining badges (which might only give access for a day or two), Comic Con had had to shut down its purchasing site until further notice. It was a revelation to me, and unfortunately, all I’d be able to do is get him in touch with exhibitor services–who’d just put him on a long wait list for a booth he didn’t need. Since some badges are still available, I assume he eventually got in, but I can’t help but wish he and those like him had had a shot at the 4-day passes, without the worry about whether he’d be able to see the show at all. I remember watching agog last year as the badges sold out 5 months in advance of the show.
We had our own moment of panic last night. Getting a hotel room within San Diego during Comic Con has become increasingly difficult, and I still wax nostalgic about the far gone years, when one could get a hotel room within a mile of the convention center without having to join in a frenzied panic on the day reservations open. The Con has made it somewhat easier for exhibitors (who need to be at the booth before the show opens and remain there until after the close) by letting them list their top ten choices in a lottery in advance. This year, the lottery was supposed to open on December 7, but just as it was about to, Peter received a note letting him know the system was still down, and to hold tight until he received further notice.
Further notice never really came, unless you count the email Peter received late last night that the lottery was closing that very night, and Comic Con couldn’t help but notice we’d yet to put down any choices. If we didn’t have them in my midnight, we’d have no other chances to book a room until March. It put the adrenaline into what had been an otherwise rather calm day. I rushed to put in our top ten choices, but accidentally put down one less room than we needed. As it was, we had no confirmation and no way to go back and correct it, so I had to go back in and enter another request, which means we’ll get no rooms, not enough rooms, or too many rooms. We won’t know until February, when we may or may not be able to fix it. And even that doesn’t guarantee you the number of beds you need. Last year, Joe and Carl called me upon arrival telling me that the twin (2-bed, 2-people) room we’d book the November before, had only one bed in it. Despite our reservation request, the hotel had only received a Priceline-type reservation calling for a room, number of beds not specified, and booked our guys into a single room instead. Peter sweet-talked the hotel manager into switching our staff to a 2-bed room, but I’m sure we weren’t the only people encountering that surprise.
But given that enthusiastic fans can’t even get a 4-day pass, I’m up and awake at 5 am, with the horrible fear that we may only get our number 10 choice–a hotel six miles away in Hotel Circle, or worse yet, no hotel at all, due to every room we wanted being booked out before the travel agent even looks at our requests. I’m not even going to Comic Con—I checked out on it at my last con in 2008, when I had the most minimal of responsibilities, and only went into the convention hall for a few hours at the beginning or end of the show. And Peter and Neil are, if anything, more enthusiastic and jazzed about Comic Con. Despite its nuisances, it is also a pop culture phenomenon, with massive multi-media theme-park-like ever-changing promotions for upcoming movies like a Harold & Kumar pavilion, a Tron experience, and Thor himself. It’s filled with celebrities, and passionate fans cleverly dressed up as their favorite characters. And there’s always a new surprise, like last years David Hasselhoff bus coming down the street, led by Knight Riders and flanked by beer maids and Baywatch-type beach babes. Peter (as well as Neil) would think nothing about getting up at 5 am to battle gnarly traffic for an hour and a half to get to the convention hall in time to chat with others like him until 8 pm, spend 2 or 3 hours hunting down an available meal within the throng of other out-of-towners, and crash at midnight or 1 am, to get up the next day and do it all over again for 5 straight days. But it’s not worth it for me,and just the thought of it makes me hope he–and the rest of the staff– do get a hotel within walking distance so that those who do need to collapse in a pool of exhaustion may do so easily. I guess we’ll know where we’re at (and where we’re not) 2 months from now….