The 2010 edition of Comic-Con International in San Diego may have closed its doors on Sunday, but as the week has proven, everyone in comics from fans and professionals to critics and commentators are still working to unpack their thoughts and feelings on the massive event. While CBR News will continue to roll out panel reports from the show highlighting the comic, film, TV and video game news you may have missed throughout the coming days, we're putting a capper on our direct coverage of the show itself today with our annual post-con wrap-up talk with CCI's Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer.
Always available with the show's official response to any situation and always ready with the facts, figures and final results of each year's show, this time around Glanzer spoke with about how the organization has worked to build the show into a better franchise while its size and shape remains in tact from year to year, what expansions have done and can do for its current San Diego location and when fans will finally know where there show will land after its contract with the city ends in 2012.
CBR News: So David, we're a few days past the show. How have things wrapped up? Are you all out of the convention center and on to the next phase of the year?
David Glanzer: We're out of the building. Equipment is back in the office, and we're in the process of setting it up. We're going to take the next couple of days off – meaning we're not going to be in the office, but a lot of us will be working from home.
How did the show go from your point of view?
All things considered, I think the show went well. I heard a lot more positive things about the show than I have in the past, which is a good thing. We hear from people when they're not having a good time – and we should hear from them – but we heard a lot of positive comments as well this year. I think things went relatively well. I think there are areas of improvement as there always are, but having 126,000 people in what's effectively a pretty small space is challenging. We try to meet that challenge and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and we're going to spend the next few weeks trying to find out how to make things even better still.
There are two years left at this location at least, and two years left with the show being capped at that 125 to 126,000 range. At this point, is immediate focus a matter of executing as well as you can considering the limitations on the size and shape of the show?
Yeah. But each show is different from year to year. The event is Comic-Con 41, but what happens on the floor of the convention center changes whether it's with new properties or comics, and we have an attitude in terms of new programming and exhibits, which we always want to keep dynamic. One thing that we noticed this year was that by utilizing the Hilton Bayfront and the Marriott Marina, things were a little less congested on the floor. I think people noticed that, and it was more navigable than it was in the past. If we can continue that trend, I think it'll bode well for everyone. And if we can add hotels to the mix, that'll be better still.
Last year was the first year that programming was off site at all, and that felt like you said, "What can fit in this space?" This year, I got the impression that you'd put specific families of programming or new things out in the hotels in order to up interest from specific attendees.
We've for a long time had certain events in offsite hotels, just because we needed the space, but we never really experimented with programs per se. So you might have had films or things like that in area hotels. Last year, we tried it with programming to see if people would walk across the street and go to a hotel for some limited programming. And they did. From what we heard from attendees, it was fine. They didn't mind going outside the building, so this year we augmented that. We had a lot more programming in the Hilton, and we moved the Comic-Con Independent Film Festival over to the Marriott along with some gaming tracts and even had an exhibit over there with The Hub [TV Network] in that space. That was an effort to get people to go offsite and check out those venues, and it seems to have worked. It seems people didn't mind going off and creating a campus environment as opposed to the one building convention center.
We were talking about PETCO Park as a venue as there seemed to be some private events there, but is that something that won't work for the con because of the team's schedule or other concerns?
Ideally, we'd like to use whatever space is available to us, but the big issue is cost. It's not inexpensive to put on an event in San Diego. We were able to work out deals with the two hotels where we were at, but if we had more space available to us, we'd be able to put on events in a variety of places. But the truth comes down to the hard dollar cost. The hardest part with capped attendance both at the door and on the floor is that it means our income in those respects is pretty much set from year to year. Our costs continue to increase, and whether we try to do anything on top of that, be it tents for those waiting in line to increases in AV to flying in additional guests – that all increases our costs. And with police, fire, trash removal...you name it, our costs continue to rise. Would we love to use PETCO Park? Absolutely. Would we love to use other downtown hotels? Absolutely. But I think right now, it's a hard dollar issue. It's whether or not we can afford to do it. The city and the mayor's office and some of the downtown hotels have been very good about trying to work with us because they know what we need and they know our space restrictions. So if we can continue that trend, I think we'd be very happy.
One thing that you've never done that a lot of other cons do is charge for special events or additional perks at the show. Has that idea changed at all for you considering cost and size issues?
It hasn't. We go to other events. We see how they're operated, and we get even a few people saying, "You should charge for this event or that event" or "Premium programming you should charge additionally for." People ask, "Why don't you do a VIP tickets that comes at a premium but includes this and this?" Since we began, one of the things we really strived to do was make the show as accessible as possible. Of course, if someone can't get into a panel they want, that's a problem. But for me personally just from my own point of view, I remember being a 16-year-old kid and going to my first few conventions, and I had to save my money for that. Even back then, there were events that had separate charges for separate thing, and I always felt I missed out because I didn't have the money to do that. And right now, if we can go ahead and operate the way we're operating without having to do those things or increase pricing drastically, I think that's what we'd like to do.
Our reason for being isn't necessarily to make a lot of money – it's to promote comics and popular art, and if we can do that then we've made our mission. Right now, there are some detractors for Hollywood that come to the convention, which is always strange for me because it's like "If you like comics, you can't possibly like movies" or "If you like movies, you can't possibly like comics." But one of the great things to me about having Hollywood at the show is that they're more than willing to promote their appearance at the show, and they do that by buying sponsorships and signage. That helps to defray a lot of our costs, and we're grateful for that. And contrary to what a lot of people think, we don't always say "yes" to what they want to do. So far it seems to be working out okay, I think.
We talked earlier this week about the changes in security and how they seemed to largely be effective, so I don't know that there's much to go back to there, but I did want to ask if you had an update on the conflict in Hall H. I understand we know a little more about the two men who had the altercation, and I wondered if you knew how the victim was doing now?
I really haven't heard anything additional there. When I spoke with the investigators, they had said that they categorized this as a minor incident. I don't know what they used to categorize that, but it's what they said. One of the investigators told me that they men had had a disagreement earlier in the afternoon and that they were friends, but for some reasons during this break it flared up again with some name calling and resulted in this happening. I haven't heard much more about it. We deferred to the SDPD about it. I'm happy to hear from several officers that they were really scratching their heads because of all the events they have at San Diego, Comic-Con is among the least problematic, and in fact, none could remember any incident close to that in the 41 years we've been here, and I certainly couldn't. It was nice to hear that the police regard Comic-Con as a very congenial group.
So on the brighter side of things, did you have a highlight for the show? With all the additions and changes that are made each year, did you have something that said, "This is what I'll remember from 2010"?
I think the thing that really struck me...Well, it was two things. I saw a lot more kids at the show. I saw a lot more young adults. And I think that's always great because I see my old friends that come back every few years or so, and we're lucky that we're able to retain a lot of those people while we attract a lot of younger people still. It's funny because I read in some mainstream paper that talked about how Comic-Con is now trying to bring in families, as if we've had some targeted marketing campaign for families. We've had Kids Day on Sunday for more years than I can remember. It's not anything new in that regard.
But I also think that this year more so than I ever, I noticed people at the show, whether they be exhibitors or panel attendees, really utilizing a marketing strategy for Comic-Con, whether it was to boost their property or sales. I understand that Comic-Con is an important marketing opportunity to boost sales, and I always caution those people that Comic-Con attendees don't like to be marketed to. If you have something cool to share, share it. But you run the risk of alienating people if you just try to market to them, and I think that still holds true. I don't know if that answers your question. [Laughs]
No, that's great. I always find that speaking you, because you're with the show, are one of the few people who have to see the show as a whole and how all the moving parts seem to work together or against each other, rather than a lot of folks who just focus in on their one piece of the action and how it relates to them if that makes sense.
I think when you have 126,000 people or however many you invite to your event, it's amazingly stressful, and you kind of always have to be on your guard. And that's how it should be. We hear a great deal of criticism, and it should be that way. I would be worried if people didn't have suggestions for how things should run better. Or, if they didn't have opinions about what was going on, I'd hope they had a good time. But everybody has constructive criticism, and that shows that they care enough about the show that they want to see it improve.
I think if there was one standout moment for me, it was very unexpected and happened on Sunday. I was having a meeting, and one of my assistants said there was someone who wanted to chat with me. I said I'd be right there and ran out front, and there was a woman and a younger girl. The woman said, "I don't know if you remember me" but she gave her name and was from...I want to say Kansas. It was her daughter's birthday, and she went to buy passes, but they were sold out. Luckily, we made some passes that were returned available again, and she was able to get a few passes that way. So I said, "I'm glad it worked out for you" and she said, "My daughter has something she wanted to tell you." And this girl who couldn't have been more than 17 maybe with a huge bag on her shoulder that was probably bigger than her said, "I want to thank you guys so much for putting on this event. I've had so much fun. I'd heard a lot about it, and it's exactly what I thought it would be." I asked her what her favorite part was, and she mention that it was a comics history panel. I was so taken by the fact that...not that she enjoyed comics, but that she knew so much about it. She asked me what my favorite panel was, and I said, "I don't get to go to many panels, but I was looking forward to seeing Danny Elfman," and I remember saying to her mom, "You might remember Danny Elfman, but your daughter probably doesn't." And the girl goes, "Oh, I know Danny Elfman from his Oingo Boingo days and doing the score from 'The Simpsons!'" She just kept going on and on, and I went "How old are you!?" I mean, there was such a bridge of what people know and enjoy, and it doesn't matter how old you are. Your interests are as varied as the people that come, and I came away from that thinking "This is why it's so hard to target to this audience – because of the amazing diversity not only of the people that come to the event but of the interests that have." That makes me happy.
You guys have already announced that next year's Preview Night ticket packages are sold out for the time being. At this point, is it just a matter of knowing that all the tickets across the board are going to sell out eventually and the challenge is releasing them at a clip where people have the best chance at getting them while planning their summer?
I think so. That being said, it's possible that there may be some more Preview Night passes or packages available closer to the show. The one thing we try to do is make a lot of returned passes available to people because, not only do we want people to attend the show, but also because we don't want people buying off of internet auction sites. This year, as in the past, we saw people who bought stuff that wasn't valid. Barcodes that had been sold two or three times. If ever you hear of someone selling a "VIP Ticket," you know that doesn't exist. Tell your friends there's no such thing, because you'd be surprised at how many people sell those things. We had an issue this year with hotel rooms. There would be a company that would come out claiming they had room blocks of hotels and requesting people put a deposit down. Luckily, we were able to get on top of that. But there are challenges to putting on the show. We just ask that people check out website and get the information directly from us as opposed to somebody who's trying to sell you something.
Obviously, I've got one question left, even though it's a question you may have no good answer for...
What in the world could possibly that be? [Laughs]
Well, like you said...you guys are taking part of this week off. Is it Monday, then, when everyone gets back together and the discussion of the selection of the next city for Comic-Con gets underway in earnest?
I think we are taking the week off, but we've taken it off in terms of not being in the office while the future of the show is something we've been working on this week. I'm not sure if I mentioned this to you earlier, but we don't have a hard deadline. However, the longer we wait for a decision, the harder it is for hotels and facilities, because they are turning business away for 2013 through 2015. And that isn't fair to Los Angeles. It isn't fair to Anaheim. It isn't fair to San Diego to ask everyone to keep holding on and turning business away for us to make our decision. So we've gotten a little bit of sleep, and now we're neck deep in it again. I'm very confident that we'll have a decision in August, if not earlier.