With record numbers for WonderCon 2013 attendance, Comic Con International, presenters of the event, will have to consider moving the event once again to a larger venue.
In its 2nd year in Anaheim, WonderCon firmly planted roots in Southern California after scheduling and renovating conflicts forced its desertion of San Francisco’s Moscone Center. While there are plans for an additional show in SF, it’s unlikely that WonderCon will leave SoCal. But it may not have a home in Anaheim. Thought to be a more comics-influenced con, WonderCon is steadily migrating into Hollywood territory both in location and content. That’s not a bad thing.
Most panels were completely packed especially those focusing on film and TV properties, personalities, and tips on breaking into the business. The Disney/ABC TV Writing Program and TV Guide brought in well-known writers and showrunners. The panelists from Disney/ABC were mobbed after their hour long sessions and for 45 minutes, generously offered more advice and encouragement in one-on-one conversations in the hallway.
The large Arena housed Hollywood panels and screenings, and while a long queue wasn’t encountered, the venue was usually 75% full.
Universal had the one major installation with a ship from the movie, Oblivion. While the promo girls failed to make an experience out of it, its presence should nudge other studios from being present.
In planning large scale events, an understanding of traffic flow is essential. If the exhibition floor is too crowded, programming has to meet the challenge of attracting attendees. If all the rooms are packed, outdoor activities have to be implemented. It’s an intricate balancing act which if not done correctly will lead to congestion in hallways and aisles. That would then cause the fire marshal to intervene.
While WonderCon did not make use of all halls and rooms, expansion is foremost on their minds, especially since 3-day and Saturday badges were sold out before event kick-off. Granted, its larger event, Comic-Con, sells out in 10 minutes a half a year prior to opening, but the increased attendance and studio attention may force it to outgrow Anaheim Convention Center.
Utilizing the full length of the convention halls, outdoor spaces, as well as adjoining hotels, the Natural Products Expo West drew 63,000 attendees. WC 2013 numbers have not been released, but it’s sure to topple 2012’s 40K. At NPEW, the expo floor was packed, but there was no programming on the 2nd floor. WonderCon’s floor was equally crowded but in less space–two exhibit halls were not used. An increase in installations will justify expanding into the closed off halls. WonderCon 2014 will benefit from Disney/Marvel/ABC/Lucas attention-every odd year, resources are devoted to D23 Expo, a Disney fan event.
There’s a wealth of outdoor space behind the convention center, as was used at the OC Auto Show, but that won’t solve the programming dilemma. Unless hotel ballrooms are used, there are only 2 major venues-the Arena and the 3rd floor ballroom. That limits the amount of big Hollywood panels the Con can program and might force programming to favor exhibitors in its scheduling. While Warner Brothers Pictures did have DC representing the Time-Warner family on the floor, Sony, CW, Cartoon Network, Netflix, BBC, TNT, CBS, and Nerdist did not buy expo real estate, opting instead for panels which are curated but free for companies to participate.
Balance is required in not only overall activities but in leveraging programming based on a contingency of being a paying exhibitor.
With the limited options, moving to a venue might be a consideration. Los Angeles’ Tourist Bureau should be actively pitching for WonderCon though its lack of larger rooms at its convention center presents a problem. Staples Center is too large with only Petree, Kentia, and Concourse halls able to hold large capacities. The adjoining hotels and Regal theaters are options, but the latter’s management is miserable.
Unless the hotels about Anaheim’s convention center-which benefit from booked rooms and restaurants, especially in its fast food court which outpaced the concessions at the convention center-put up a fight and chip in, WonderCon may be on the move.
Where that will be will be something to wonder.