The 2017 San Diego Comic-Con wrapped up last weekend and (unsurprisingly) it was a huge success. Exactly how big a success are we talking? Well, according to VoicesofSanDiego.org, the convention brings in over 130,000 attendees every year (growth here stunted only by the occupancy limit on the venue), plus all the tourists who flock to the area but don’t have tickets. This is a big jump from the approximate 100 people who attended the original Comic-Con in San Diego in 1970.
San Diego is by far the largest Comic-Con, bringing in over 2,000 official panels/programs/displays/meetups over 4 days, 3,000 media officials, and over $15 million in revenue (even more impressive considering the fact that it’s a non-profit). But just how did SDCC manage to pull these kinds of numbers?
What started out as a nerdy gathering of the Sheldon Coopers of the world (and the butt of all the jock jokes in the 90s) has risen to the height of entertainment. Anyone who’s anyone in film or television wants to be at Comic-Con, especially San Diego. And it sort of makes sense considering the recent revamping of comic book classics — the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed over $10,500,000,000 as a franchise (probably closer to $12,000,000,000 after SpiderMan: Homecoming), and despite its many stumbles DC has still managed to top the box office with all their recent films, as well as all the TV adaptations. It’s becoming a trend to be a nerd — good news for us, right?!
For many people (myself included), the appeal of Comic-Cons is the chance to meet their favorite celebrities. Comic-Cons put fans close to the action, and this relationship is what drives people to them. Large networks and companies are now using Comic-Cons to release major information, like updates on a new season of a TV show, or the first trailer for a long-awaited movie. Comic-Cons are now as much a marketing tool as a full-fledged press tour, and often much more informative. Comic-Cons have become the main provider of content releases, meaning the hype around cons will grow even more. On major Comic-Con weekends, fans unfortunate enough to be stuck at home now stalk social media for updates about their favorite fandoms, creating internet frenzies that once again promote the companies and the Con itself.
Conventions on the whole have been on the rise for years, and this is a double-edged sword for people. On the one hand, the boost in CC popularity means that more celebrities and big names are going to more Comic-Cons, but on the other hand, the bigger ones like San Diego, New York, Chicago, London, and Denver are seeing a surge in ticket prices. Comic-Cons have also drawn in major tourism boosts for host cities, which means if you’re planning to go, you’re going to want to book a room well in advance.
So can San Diego Comic-Con actually sustain this kind of growth? The short answer: no. It’s already nearly impossible to get tickets to SDCC, and there have been many complaints about overcrowding and limited resources. They have two options — make Cons more exclusive (which would be heartbreaking as Cons are first and foremost for the fans), or expand by adding another weekend, more Cons, or more venues. The downfall to such an expansion would mean that SDCC moves further away from the intimate fandom experience it once was.
I definitely don’t see the Comic-Con buzz ending anytime soon, as the mutual benefits for fans and creators are too good to give up. But I would still say get your tickets while you can, because Comic-Cons as we know them just can’t last. Expect longer lines, more restrictions, more fees, and less celebrity-fan interaction in the future. But also expect bigger panels, grander releases, and more immersive content.
It’s safe to say that there has never been a more rewarding time to be a fan!
Do you like the recent boom in the Comic-Con market? Are you happy to see them getting so popular, or are you frustrated by the mass commercialization?