San Diego Comic-Con 2011: The Biggest Disappointments

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There’s a lot left to think post-mortem about this year’s Comic-Con. Certainly there were some big issues that didn’t sit well with a lot of you. Generally, we were pleased with this year’s convention, but everyone’s a critic and we’ll take our turn with what we thought could have gone better, with the hopes that CCI is watching and will make the necessary improvements for next year.

All in all, we can lump our thoughts into three main topic areas. Click the jump to read our thoughts on each.

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Programming Schedule

When the final schedules were announced for the four days, many, including us, were confounded by the sporadic must-see panels slated for Hall H, including a complete void of anything interesting on Saturday. Meanwhile, Ballroom 20 was a logjam of popular television shows, creating a situation where many waited in line for hours without ever making it in the room.

And it was this same story, all weekend.

We can label this the “Game of Thrones” problem, because that is the one panel that really made the issue with Ballroom 20 scheduling so evident. It makes sense that CCI would put it in Ballroom 20, because that is traditionally the biggest room for television shows. But Game of Thrones, along with Doctor Who on Sunday, made it perfectly clear television has a legitimate place in Hall H.

And what about that Hall H schedule? We’re just as confused as you are. Thursday, which had a decent enough slate of panels had hardly a line and graciously accepted a walk-in audience. As a matter of fact, the annual EW Visionaries panel with Guillermo del Toro and Jon Favreau was only half full at its start. Hall H didn’t have much of a problem the rest of the weekend accommodating anyone who wanted to walk right up at the start of a panel, aside from Sony Pictures on Friday and again during the aforementioned Doctor Who on Sunday.

The Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront was also playing to packed crowds and mammoth lines thanks to some big names and popular shows making an appearance next door. 6BCF was an odd choice to house the Legendary Pictures panel mid-day on Friday, and it showed when it stranded many in the line outside.

There’s not much CCI can do without having an additional large room to split the burden of hosting some of these popular panels. Regardless, we thought they did a better job of crowd management last year. Until the expansion of the convention center comes to fruition, the best it can do is spread out the schedule and give folks a reason to leave their seats in one room for another.

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2012 Onsite Pre-Registration

If there is one hot-button shared by most attendees, it’s the way CCI elected to handle onsite pre-registration for 2012. Concerns about ticket availability started a year ago, the day we all found out Preview Night tickets were sold out at the show. Even with the surge in popularity over the past few years, no one had ever experienced – let alone expected – this situation happening. Everyone thought, if Preview Night could go that fast, so too would other tickets once they were made available to the general public. And so when tickets were made available online, the system crashes famously followed. CCI never anticipated the amount of traffic they experienced last fall. Even when TicketLeap had the benefit of such data when they took over in February, they too were blindsided by just how many people rushed the system at once.

The inevitable part of this story is that Comic-Con is awesome, and like all good things, the word is out. The economics of the situation have made us all victims. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. The number of tickets have not increased, but at the same time the number of people hoping to attend have soared to amounts inconceivable.

Appeasing 140,000 people is impossible. Saying that, CCI has done their best with a difficult situation. The only other way they might have done this better is to implement a lottery for pre-registration among ticket holders, but even that model would have had its detractors. If they kept pre-registration to Sunday as in years’ past, the line of people on the last day of SDCC might have stretched quite literally to La Jolla.

The whole pre-registration process was different than last year because it had to be, because of increased demand. Yet lines were still long – longer than probably CCI had expected and intended. No one would have expected the line to stretch a mile and a half or people to camp out overnight. No one. It’s because the panic, carried over from the previous year and during online sales, still ran rampant among attendees.

If there is any good news here among those feeling slighted by the process, it would be that there is still online registration to fall back on. And when the remaining tickets go on sale, most likely in the fall, Preview Night will be among them because CCI learned their lesson from last year and held back a certain number for the general public.

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Hollywood

We wrote before SDCC that we expected some surprises from Hollywood. After all the hoopla about the big studios sitting out this year’s con, we figured it couldn’t be all right. Could it?

Well, we were wrong.

There were no surprises from Hollywood. No Hellicarrier. No S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives. No Ballroom 20 event on Sunday. No nothin’.

That’s not to say there wasn’t anything to do at Comic-Con. On the contrary, there was still a whole lot more than a busload of geeks could do at once. So we’re not complaining. We’re just eating crow on this one.

Which makes good advice for next year – believe it when you see it!

Wait, we’re talking about next year already? Better start packing!

About Jeremy Rutz

  • John

    The lines for pre-registration were crazy. I, like many others, left early to get in line at 5am. By the the time we got there there was a line past the boats in the marina. Luckily I was still able to get in and I was the 581st person(that was the ticket #) Then we all had to wait till 8 am for the staff to be at the ticket register.
    Negatives once we were inside: Once people were able to buy the tickets the SDCC staff made an announcement to everyone that they did not accept Discover Cards, or you needed to have that day’s SDCC pass, if you did not have a 4 day pass already. The cash only line got backed up pretty quick and those in Cash only were at risk of losing out on the Preview night’s passes.
    Postives: Making new friends in line, water stations were set up at around 7:30 am, they let you go to the bathroom, and the coffee station was opened around 6:30 am and Starbucks was within walking distance.

  • Paul

    All the panels are on You Tube within 2 days, So I dont even bother to stand inline for 3hrs. The Biggest disappointment was Gerard Way turning down fans for a picture. Your really gonna try to lauch a comic soon and yet turn down comic con fans. Your not that big of a star and your music sucks. George Lucas took a pic with a fan and it made nation news. Check your atitude at the door Gerard way.

  • Nina

    Speaking as someone who shoots and posts on Youtube, since I was there for specific panels in Ballroom 20, I didn’t have the luxury of spending time in line for next year’s tickets. Also, the fact they set limits of two per person, when I have six people hoping to attend next year, dissuaded me from even attempting to wait in line. I wish they’d at least allowed limited ticketing on preview night like last year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for online sales.

  • Astrid

    As someone who has been attending Comic Con over 25 years, I was saddened by the pre-registration situation this year. This is the first year since the early 90s that I don’t have a pre-registration 4 day pass. I don’t wait in lines so long it becomes camping. My time is worth more than that. So now I have to enlist my family members to try and win the SDCCI ticket lottery in hopes we can attend in 2012. This is not a very happy circumstance.

    Will this be the coffin nail and make the decision for me in attending future cons?

  • Chris

    Well pre-registration won’t be an issue next year at all because…..

    ‘Yturralde says Comic-Con has a solution for 2013′: “There will be no pre-registration…. All sales for the 2013 convention will be done online.”

    http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2011/jul/26/stringers-will-sleep-floor-comic-con-2012-tickets/

    I guess that’s what you call a solution to the problem, just don’t bother! LOL

  • Erik Rogers

    The line for next years tickets was the worst. There has to be a better way to handle the demand for tickets. It might be harsh, but I would say everyone who attends each year has the right to an equal or downgraded badge for next year. Only one though and no upgrading. All remaining capacity goes to the online sale system. That way there is no rush to try and get tickets for next year or worry about selling out for a badge type, there can be no more sold than were allotted for this year. You don’t even have to have a line. Simply set up an online site to allow for us to go access it for something like 30 days after the Con to enter our current badge ID and get our ticket for next year. No 3:30 AM camping for badges and those long term Con attendees get their badges.

  • Angela

    My husband got in line at 6:30am on Sunday, and got tickets. I am not sure why people even camped out. He still got 4 day with Preview. It took him about three hours to get the passes. I hope they don’t go to all online sales, and I hate the idea of a lottery. One thing I wish they would do is not let people camp out. I don’t know how that would be accomplished, since people would find somewhere to congregate to wait to get in line. I am happy that I have passes for 2012. I will worry about 2013 later.

  • http://vmcampos.com vmcampos

    I have been soured by pre-registration like Astrid. I’ve been attending since the early 90s and it’s probably been a decade that I don’t have a 4day+preview badge. I had to spend 4 hours in line to settle for 4 one-day badges.
    I enjoy my time at the Convention, of course. But now I’m dreading registration!

  • Phil

    My first San Diego con was 1981 so let me tell you some stuff.
    There’s a mass panic because no one knows the panel schedule. Tickets go on sale in fall and this year didnt go on sale till February. So we get hordes of incredibly desperate fans of tv shows or movie serials who buy up four day passes and really only want to go to one panel. But then since they bought the 4 day they hang out and see other panels. I notice you didn’t see any of the comic book panels. As a long time fan I hope Comic con cuts back on some of the non comics stuff. Glee? Really? Cartoons and scifi shows are fine. Video games? I wouldn’t have them but I’m not in charge. Glee? Give me a break. At this point comicon has got to cut the fat. It’s not as if people will stop coming!
    Also the organization was terrible! We got there well before the exhibit hall opened and saw two different lines. We had no idea what either was for. So we walk to the Sails pavilion to find out there’s one person saying (with no megaphone) the outside line is for entry. So we gave to walk back to the beginning of the line at the far end of the convection center.
    In addition, people waiting outside for hall 20 and many of the halls weren’t allowed to sit on the floor inside the building. No reason was adequately given. Fire code? Maybe, but after waiting four hours in line in the sun outside, making people stand when they get inside is literally torture.
    The overcrowding inside was more than a crush. I’m sure it was downright dangerous. There were lines for everything with almost no indication of where the lines began what they were for or the anticipated wait time. So I skipped them.
    The artists alley is at the opposite end of the hall as the comics! What sort of pervert does that? They used to be next to each other.
    There werent enough tables or chairs anywhere. There was one food court area with no tables at all on the exhibition floor.
    If I sound upset, I am. After forty years and seeing how crowded it’s become lately the organizers don’t seem to have learnt anything.
    Other than that I had a great time meeting the artists and looking at the comics I can’t afford to buy!

  • mm

    i just tried to get a badge online and they sold out immediately at 8 pst what a joke. The waiting room had reached its capacity which is crazy i clicked the link at 8 pst so disappointed. It must be rigged.

  • Alex

    I’m relatively new to Comic-Con, but that’s only becuase I’m young. My first con was back in 2005 when I was 13 and my parents finally let me and my friends alone in downtown. We walked up on a Saturday, bought our tickets for like 8 dollars, and then walked in. I’ve fallen in love with comics, the culture, and the con ever since. I remember being able to have enough room in the main aisle to lay down and no one would step on me. Now, You can’t even get through the main aisle.

    Going to WonderCon with year (thank god it was in Anaheim this year, got to drive up there with my girlfriend), It was like a slap of nostolgia of what comic-con used to be like like.

    I find the online ticket sales absolutely ridiculous. I haven’t done it in like 4 years, but the stories I hear about it are just horrid.

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