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