CCI: Checking in with David Glanzer - Part 2
by Sean T. Collins
"Like a Saturday in San Diego" has become industry slang for massive convention crowds. Yet at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego, the masses appeared no more massive than the show's other wall-to-wall sold-out days so far.
As the Con's traditionally biggest day faded into the rear view mirror and the last lap approached, Comic Book Resources once again spoke with CCI's Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer about the state of the show. Glanzer addressed press accessibility, the condition of an injured show-goer, travel problems both inside and outside the convention halls, and the demand for the most packed panels, while waxing philosophical about the show's ultimate goals.
How is the show going?
So far, so good. A lot of people in the exhibit hall, always line control situations that could probably run a little bit smoother, but all in all, I think, fairly well.
Because each day has been sold out, I haven't noticed the traditional crush of people on Saturday - it seems to be fairly even from day to day. Is that actually the case?
That actually is the case, but that's also been the case for a couple of years now. The reason years ago that Saturday was the primary day was that Saturday was the first day off for many who attended, obviously Thursday and Friday being work days. What happened some years back is that more and more people started taking either Thursday and Friday off or the week off as a vacation. The differences between days has never really been more than 100 or 200 people. The impression just happened to be that there were more people on Saturday.
On Thursday, there was a huge accident on California's Route 5 between Los Angeles and San Diego that held up some attendees and, I've heard, even some guests and some books. Are you in contact with the California Highway Patrol? Are there traffic management issues that you deal with at the Con?
We work with a variety of entities, not only at the Center but in the city, and sometimes that extends outward even more. We were very much aware of the accident that occurred. You'll remember that I think three or four years ago, there was an accident that occurred on the 5 that closed it down for a period of time. To be honest with you, I think a lot of people learned a lesson from that incident and that lesson was to allocate plenty of time to come down, especially in terms of people who serve on panels. Then they started taking the train, others will come down the day before. There were a lot of people that ended up being affected by the incident this time, but so far I think those who wanted to make it to the show were able to make it to the show, probably just a little bit later than they had planned.
Have you had any problems with weather-related flight cancellations? I know some travelers were affected by those on Wednesday, for example.
We didn't hear anything - on our end anyway. If people were affected, we didn't know about it. More and more it seems with travel among greater distances, weather and other things have an impact. I think the general public realizes this now, whether it's summer vacation or traveling for business during other parts of the year. I don't know if it's becoming commonplace, but I think a lot of travelers are planning ahead for that.
The other day, we discussed another snafu - the drapery malfunction in Hall H. Reports have indicated that the falling drapery hit someone and caused a concussion.
My understanding is that one person was injured.
Do you have any updates on that person's condition?
No. I'm not trying to be evasive or anything - to be honest, there are laws that prevent you from talking about the health of people, so I don't know what my parameters are. I do know that someone was injured. Our understanding was that they were taken to the hospital and eventually released, but other than that, I don't know.
Do you feel that the show has done a good job of anticipating demand for particular panels and guests, or even events in the Exhibit Hall?
Nobody is happy with a show that one has to wait in line for. Southern California has a great amusement park, as does Florida, and one of the things about that place is waiting on line. I don't think anybody enjoys it, but a lot of people understand that there's necessity for some of that when you have so many people who want to see things with limited seating. We would all love to have a five-minute wait for every panel, but unfortunately that's not the case. Are we doing a good job with it? I think we're doing the best we can. I don't mean to be cavalier about it, because we certainly aren't. We spend a great deal of time not only trying to anticipate the crowds, what it is that they will do, and where it is that they will go - we try to make sure that we create enough of a flow and a mechanism, if you will, that will allow people to get to where they want to go in as rapid a manner as they can, whether that be from the floor to a meeting hall, from a program room to another program room, or from one area of the Exhibit Hall to another.
Our attendees have always been very good about doing things in spurts. Even when we didn't have 125,000 people, our attendees have always partaken in panel rooms. Not every panel has a line to get in, but it's always been the case that a lot of our panels are very well attended. I think the people who attend Comic-Con know that the floor is big enough that they can take some time to visit the floor, go see a panel, come back…there's always a very good movement, and we try to facilitate that as best as possible.
On a related note, I've heard some complaints from members of the press about having trouble getting into the panels they've been assigned to cover. Particularly in this new-media era, with its explosion of news outlets, how does Comic-Con navigate the waters of trying to be open with press passes while still not having such overwhelming numbers that press can't get where they need to go?
The reality is that we have over 600 hours of programming over the course of four days. I think this year, in fact, we probably have more hours of programming than not. The thought that a reporter can cover everything they want to cover just isn't possible anymore. I read very influential reporters and bloggers who made that comment as well, that each outlet may have to employ a variety of people to make sure they cover the things they want to cover. That being said, there is just so much programming one can program into the course of the weekend, so it's inevitable that there are going to be things that will go against each other. We've always tried not to do that, but there's an inevitability to it. How people decide what they're going to cover is probably the first challenge - the second challenge is "How can we get into the room?"
We've always been firm believers that our mainstream media are those online reporters and bloggers, those people who review comic books for smaller publications, because it is they who write about us all year. I've said this before and it really is true: We have a continuing dialogue with them, they can contact us for questions, they have my cell number. It's a year-round thing. What people call bigger publications - they only cover us once a year. What that turns into is a press list that's close to or passing 3,000. The ability to accommodate 3,000 very valuable members of the media isn't as easy as we want it to be. For example, there are some what we think are very important panels that are in rooms of 500 or less - it's difficult to accommodate X amount of people in that room when a lot of fans want to be in that room as well.
What are you proudest of at the Con so far this year?
I think that we put on a world-class event where comic books are the main thing. While there are comments from people that it's hard to find a comic book at Comic-Con, it's hard to find a panel about comic books at Comic-Con, I think a lot of that is more frustration than anything. We're not immune to hearing that stuff. I would lie if I said that it's not a sad comment that we have to hear, it's not something that just washes off my back. It's troubling, because I believe it's completely untrue. I think we have a guest list that's unparalleled. We have gone very far in trying to introduce comic books, comic art, and related popular arts to a wide audience, and I think we've done that. Has the convention morphed and become bigger than we ever thought with it? Of course it has. Are there down sides to that? You bet there are. But overall, we try to put on the type of event that we want to attend. There are always gonna be room for improvement, and we welcome suggestions for that. I think the proudest thing I feel about our show is that we all work honestly in trying to make the best even possible. I hope that on some small level, we've been able to do that. I know that sounds like a canned response, but at the end of the day it's from the heart. [Laughs]
I have to tell you, my crew and I have been up most every day about 1 o'clock in the morning because we've had news interviews to do in New York, which is great, but I think I'm a little sleep-deprived. But I've talked to countless families of people who've never been here before who've heard about the show and thought they would come, not knowing anything about Hall H or anything else than it's a spectacle. You look in their bags and go "What did you get?" And they go, "Oh, well, there's this new 'Watchmen' movie that everybody's talking about, and they have this graphic novel, and we wanted to see what it's all about." Inside of me, I'm jumping up and down, like "Yes!" That's what it's all about. There's an incredible mix of people that come to this show, and they have varying interest. For four days out of the year in the summer in San Diego, everyone really seems to get along. I hope that everybody learns a little bit from everybody else, they take in panels and learn even more from professionals that they may not have another chance to see, and if that happens and everybody has a relatively good time, then I think all of us here can breathe a sigh of relief. But it is the end of the day, so I hope I don't sound too sappy. [Laughs]