I Am Hall H: A Guide To The Biggest Stage At Comic-Con

With San Diego Comic-Con fast approaching, and many of you already starting your 2013 preparations, we wanted to take a step “inside” the San Diego Convention Center to give you a look at some of the rooms and locations in which you’ll be spending most of your time.

Today’s look is at the infamous Hall H. Site of some of the biggest Comic-Con stories in recent years. Infamous for its miles-long lines and overnight camp-outs. Devour of souls. And no, we’re not exaggerating, so you need to get yourself in convention shape. As always, we’re here to help.

First off, Hall H is the convention’s biggest stage for programming events (read: panels). It’s actually connected to the exhibit floor but walled off for SDCC, and at 64,842 square feet it can pack in 6,130 attendees, or about 5% of all folks who attend the convention on a daily basis. That math is staggering, when you think about it: For all the preparations, overnight line camping and long waits, only one person for every 20 will be able to grab a seat for the big Marvel Studios or Warner Bros. Studios panels. Survival of the fittest, for sure.

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 - the Hall H line area by Pop Culture Geek, on Flickr

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 – the Hall H line area by Pop Culture Geek, on Flickr

And about that line. It can grow to fill the entire Plaza outside of Hall H, and all the way down the marina. And back. In a hurry. By our estimations, walking the line under the Plaza tents will set you back over a mile; and the overflow line down the marina is nearly an additional two-thirds of a mile. Who said you don’t get your exercise at Comic-Con! At its most condensed state, the line in the Plaza alone could nearly fill Hall H to capacity.

That brings us to an interesting point. In years past, people look at the line down the marina and think, “There’s no way I can get in that panel!” Well, that’s not entirely true. First, it all depends on the time of day. Early in the morning, SDCC security allows folks in line a little more space

Hall H line - Sunday by Genevieve719, on Flickr

Hall H line – Sunday by Genevieve719, on Flickr

for their belongings – sleeping bags, chairs and such – but when the line is getting ready to move they tell people to pack it up and close the gaps between themselves and their fellow geek brethren. That’s what we commonly refer to as line condensing. Last year we were along the common area along the marina but when the line condensed we made it all the way to the middle row of tents on the Plaza. Once the line condenses, however, your chances of making it inside dwindle the farther away you are from the Plaza tents. The numbers we measured above also speak to this: The line along the marina might look longer, but it’s actually the line on the Plaza that’s the longest, by nearly a half-mile.

Hall H Entrance People think the line is the big story, but it’s only half the adventure. Once inside, it’s a mad dash for a quality seat that most will undoubtedly be warming over the next several hours. Attendees enter the Hall along the back wall, to the left of the stage. This is good in that all the seats are spread out across the Hall from the entrance. The bad news is that there are several aisles and a lot of room to cover to get to that perfect seat.

The entire Hall can be split into separate front, middle and rear sections, each with aisles along the left, right and split down the middle, as well as between each section and along the side walls. There’s screens on each side of the stage, as well as hanging projection screens over the middle and rear sections. All screens display the direct feed from the many official cameras stationed throughout the hall, as well as any footage shown during the panel. That means you’ll be able to see what’s happening on stage from any seat in the house, but be prepared and get a set of portable binoculars or use your camera’s zoom lens for a natural view of the panel.

Comic-Con 2010 - a view of the Hall H crowd from the back by Pop Culture Geek, on Flickr

Comic-Con 2010 – a view of the Hall H crowd from the back by Pop Culture Geek, on Flickr

The seating arrangement inside Hall H isn’t the most optimal. First, it’s flat, so no auditorium or stadium seating. This means it can be difficult to see the stage when seated behind someone particularly tall. Second, it’s wide, meaning if you’re in the back and off to the side, you’re more likely staring at a panel guest’s side profile or looking off to one of the hanging projection screens. And third, about those hanging projection screens. If you have even a moderately decent seat in the middle of the Hall, chances are you’ll be sitting directly under one of the screens, or close enough that you’d have to stare directly upward during the entire panel to see anything. Not particularly good if you’re behind Mr. Potato Head (see above). Last, for those expecting to stay in Hall H over several panels, the seats ain’t comfy. Don’t expect padded movie seats; these metal folding seats with a modicum of padding are way too close to each other and to the row in front, meaning for folks even remotely wide or tall, or for those carrying a lot of gear with them, it’s going to be a loooong day.

Once you’ve scored a seat, don’t fret it if you’re unhappy with it. Always keep an eye out between panels for people leaving the Hall to grab their recently-vacated seat. Just know you’ll be competing with others in the room trying to move up too, as well as fresh folks entering from the line outside.

Inside SDCC Hall H - Right

Restrooms are located in an alcove along the rear right wall – beware, they can get pretty rank towards the end of the day. And about those restrooms – you’ll be needing them frequently, because with the dark concrete and metal surroundings it can get quite drafty in there. We recommend wearing pants to any extended stay inside Hall H, so you don’t miss any big announcements because of another bio break.

For those staying over several panels, you can thankfully leave with a bathroom pass to roam the convention center lobby for a Starbucks, avoid the Hall H bathrooms, and seek out a valuable outlet for camera and phone charging. But a word of warning: With a bathrooom pass, you need to be back before the end of the panel or you won’t be allowed back in. If you didn’t bring along snacks, there’s the standard convention junk food vendor in the lobby, where you can find nutritious goodies such as nachos and hot dogs. That should cover the major food groups, shouldn’t it?

Hopefully that’s everything you need to prepare for Hall H. Got any other tips? Let our readers know in the comments.

About Jeremy Rutz

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  • Bawb

    I am a first time attendee and bought a sleeping bag and stuff to wait in line overnight for Hall H, since I hear that is almost necessary on every day. My question is what time should I set up camp the night before? 10pm? Midnight? Earlier? Thanks

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  • Lulu Moon

    I am a first timer to comic con and I was just wondering that if a panel was at 4:15 pm I would have to come to hall h early and just wait there? How many shows could be in hall h per day!? Can you go get a snack then come back?

  • kerrydixon

    You really have to look at the whole day of Hall H, not just the panel you’re going to. Is something REALLY popular, like Marvel or Game of Thrones, just after what you want to attend? You need to plan to arrive very early, because people will camp out . Is the really popular panel over right before yours, and the rest of the day has nothing? Don’t need to plan so much.

    But there is food available in Hall H (or rather, in a holding area just outside of it), and you’re allowed to go there and to the bathroom and back to your seat within the panel. They sell pizza and pretzels and other typical convention food.

  • Lulu Moon

    Hi Kerry Thanks. I am planning to go to Comic Con 2015 for The Amazing Spiderman 3 panel. Last time in 2013 the panel was on friday at 4:15. Of course I wouldnt know the schedule for 2015 so I dont know what is before that. Also my friend who is 12 would like to go and see the panels at Hall H. Would we still have to wait in line?

  • Kerry

    Yes, you’d still both have to wait in line – and we’ll start finding out more about the schedule as we get closer, obviously.

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  • Kristie Jae Shorten

    OK first timer here. Just a question about camping out: once inside Hall H, is there somewhere where you can stash your camping stuff before you go and sit down? And when you go to the toilet is someone likely to take your seat even if you leave your camping stuff there?

  • Hammersprincess

    Question….What time do they usually let the line in? If we camp overnight, but only have a single day pass, will we have time to go and get our badge and make it back to the line before they start letting people in?

  • D.Campbell

    Generally, no. If you have a friend that doesn’t need to get their pass that day, you can wait in line with him, get your wristband, go to the badge line, get your badge, and try to get back into the Hall H line with your friend. The timing will be close.

  • D.Campbell

    Last year I got in line at around 7 am and got into Hall H on Saturday (that’s the busiest day). I was among the last 200 people in. On Sunday, I got there at 5 am (Breaking Bad’s last comic con panel and Dr. Who) and I was maybe in the last 4,000 people in (total is 6,500). Years before, it was the same deal on Sunday. Personally, I think there’s no need to get in line before 5 am unless you want to try to get up front. That said, the wristband thing might create a hype train that causes everyone to show up earlier than normal.

  • D.Campbell

    There’s nowhere to stash anything aside from under your chair. What people normally do is have a friend save their spot around 6ish while they put away their gear in a car or hotel. 5 am is when they wake everyone up, so there’s no point in keeping your gear after that. As for someone taking your seat while you’re in the restroom, it’s unlikely. If you don’t have a friend that can watch your seat (and your stuff), just ask a neighbor to do it.

  • Kristie Jae Shorten

    Thanks very much! It looks like I’ll be camping by myself, but I’ll try and make friends with the people next to me.

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  • Ron Romero

    Keep in mind, popular autographs are done by lottery these days, and you have to get in line in the wee hours to get a CHANCE to win an autograph. Since the lotteries are on the same day as the panel, you have to choose which line to stay in – the panel OR the autograph line. If you chose the latter, you may end up with no autograph and no way to get in the room for the panel. Last year I got in line at 4am for Hall H. I left disappointed at 4pm after the line was cut off (just near the door) for the panel I wanted to see.