Comic-Con’s super suitors

Mega comicbook event getting offers from Vegas, L.A.

Comic-Con is bursting at the seams, with four-day tickets selling out 10 months before the confab and discussions increasing over relocation to a bigger site.

Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas are among the locales offering themselves up as a new home for the event, since its deal with the San Diego Convention Center ends in 2012, and meeting rooms at the facility are overflowing.

Hollywood has long been making the trek down south to court Comic-Con’s 126,000 attendees with exclusive first looks at movies and TV shows in order to build early buzz around the projects. The videogame biz has also been upping its presence there recently.

Add in comicbook publishers, individual artists and sellers of toys and collectibles, and the sheer number of exhibitors — last year there were 1,000 — has caused organizers to expand beyond the convention center and set up panels and other events at nearby hotels.

Four-day passes for the 41st Comic-Con, which runs July 22-25, sold out at $100 in September, 10 months before the show’s opening. The previous sellout record had been four months.

Single-day tickets for Saturday were gone in October, those for Friday all sold shortly thereafter. Tickets for Thursday are 75% sold out, while passes for Sunday are also moving briskly.

“I don’t think anybody really anticipated that ever happening,” said David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for Comic-Con Intl., which also produces WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, which are also showing signs of growth.

Comic-Con started with 300 attendees in a hotel basement in downtown San Diego. When it grew to 7,000 in 1984, “That was considered a really huge event,” Glanzer said. In the past, the show was mostly dominated by males. But over the last decade, it’s attracted a 40% female demo.

Individuals who couldn’t buy passes may still be able to when organizers sell tickets that are returned or canceled — something the show has opted to do for the first time because of scalping.

Organizers aren’t sure why this year’s show has proved such a big draw. They have yet to unveil an official schedule of events. But Comic-Con has built a reputation for being able to lure A-listers across the film, TV and publishing worlds. Last year alone, James Cameron unveiled 23 minutes of “Avatar” in 3D, Marvel unspooled the first footage of “Iron Man 2,” Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance to promote “Alice in Wonderland,” and the cast of Summit’s “Twilight” franchise returned to tubthump “New Moon.”

“We have a 40-year history of providing a really fun, informative and educational event that people are willing to commit to without a schedule,” Glanzer said. “One thing we’ve always wanted to do is put on an event that we, ourselves, would want to attend.”

One thing is certain: Comic-Con has turned into a major moneymaker for San Diego.

Updated financial figures aren’t available, but in 2006, Comic-Con’s organizers surveyed attendees and figured they spent $60 million on lodging and food alone. That figure is certainly much higher now considering that exhibitors also book hotel rooms, while studios, networks and tenpercenteries lock down a number of venues around town to host lavish parties and events.

So it’s no surprise that San Diego is hoping to keep the confab in its own backyard. The city has offered an agreement to extend its deal with Comic-Con through 2015.

“One issue is always space,” Glanzer said. “We’ve had to cap our attendance and put a cap on exhibitors because we don’t have the space for them. When you do that, you’re capping your income as well, and that’s never good as costs continue to increase.”

San Diego will have to provide Comic-Con with more space if it wants to keep the confab.

With the convention center overflowing, official Comic-Con attendees were sent to panels and events at the new Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel next door last year.

Fanboys didn’t seem to mind the short walk, and because of that, three hotels are now proposing 300,000 square feet of meeting space for free to the show from 2013 through 2015.

So far, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Vegas are the main contenders for the show, and they’ve offered up their own convention centers and facilities and touted the number of hotel rooms available around those venues to house ticket buyers — which is key to hosting the show.

“They know what the concerns are, and each proposal really tries to address those,” Glanzer said.

Which city will wind up as the home of future Comic-Cons will be determined when the event’s board meets over the next several weeks.

Either way, Comic-Con’s organizers don’t have their sights set on growing the show to host a specific number of the nerd herd.

“It’s not about how big we want to see it grow,” Glanzer said. “We just want to accommodate those who want to attend.”

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