Some reports coming out of this year’s Comic-Con International are suggesting that the con may be reaching its breaking point in size. One fan tells the story of waiting in a tremendous line for hours to try to get into one panel, only to find out that most of the people who managed to get in had either camped out in the panel room since early morning, or were members of the press who were given preferential access to the big “media events” at the convention. Other blogs report that convention centers in other cities, including Las Vegas and Los Angeles, have been either approached or expressed interest to the convention organizers to take their business to their bigger venues.
With memberships selling out faster every year, and the con growing from 300 to over 125,000 attendees annually, is it time to move and to embrace even more expansion? Or is it time for the convention organizers to rethink the way things are going, and if bigger really IS going to be better in this case? Tickets could be sold — or even assigned potentially by a free lottery — for panels and events that are of especially high demand and interest. That could perhaps give fans better chances of seeing the events they want to see, and is how many other commercially-produced genre conventions control seating for their premium guests and panels. Of course, enforcing people to leave panel rooms between events and sit in potentially assigned seats, could prove a whole other logistical nightmare, requiring additional security and ushers, more turnover time between panels, and not be something the convention organizers want to deal with.
Another possibility that has been suggested is to reduce the focus of the convention, or break it up into separate events for the many different genres embraced currently at the event (film, television, comics, anime, gaming, etc.) But the overlap between all of these genres is so great, I don’t know where the lines could or should be drawn. If it is to become more strictly a comic-con, what about television shows based on comics universes like Smallville? Films based on comics like Watchmen?
I suppose part of the question is, what do the organizers really see as the future of Comic-Con? Is it going to become just more and more of an event for the entertainment industry and the mainstream press than it is for the fans? Is it already long past that point? Is this just another sign of the changing face of genre conventions, with more and more of the small, fan-run, not-for-profit events shrinking or disappearing completely, leaving fans with only the mega-events like Comic-Con and Dragon*Con left? (And D*C as well is reaching the breaking point of its capacity in recent years, for if its growth continues it will surely be forced to move from its current host hotels into a convention center facility.)
I’m not especially happy if that’s the case. I know I’ve lost a lot of the smaller cons I used to enjoy, or if they’re still going on they are becoming so small that it’s not worth my time and money to travel to them (such as BASCon, which recently announced this year it was becoming just an overnight event instead of a three-day convention. Not something I can justify flying cross-country to attend.) Many fans do not enjoy the massive crowds, huge lines, and big costs of the mega-cons, either. I think it will be sad if those are the only options we will be left with in the future.