For celebrities descending on Comic-Con Intl. this week, San Diego’s fan-filled convention center can seem a little daunting.
But a growing number of event planners are providing talent with safe houses away from the crowds of admirers during the day.
After organizing parties for the Weinstein Co.’s “Piranha 3D” and Magnet Releasing’s thrillers at Comic-Con last year, David Manning’s A-List Communications decided to open the doors to the Arts & Cinema Center on Thursday as a three-day hospitality and media hub.
“Obviously the parties at night are great, but we wanted to jump into the daytime component,” said Manning whose company organizes gifting suites, press junkets and premiere afterparties for studios and other entertainment clients in Hollywood.
The idea of the 6,000 square-foot retail space, which occupies the former Active Ride Shop in the Gaslamp Quarter, is to provide “a refuge and a refresh zone,” said Manning, with free food and wi-fi access.
But the space will also host the WireImage Portrait Studio for reps to take publicity stills in a quieter location near the convention center, guaranteeing a steady flow of star wattage.
“It’s designed to take care of publicity needs,” Manning said. “We’ve had this formula of creating more tame and controlled environments where people can handle their press needs in between the panels.”
Another carrot: Charity. Funds from photos made available for the public to buy on ThePhotoFund.com will go to the American Red Cross.
To keep the space active, venue will also serve as the home of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “Limitless” Cafe, to promote the pic’s DVD and Blu-ray release this week. Magnet Releasing will use it for the cocktail reception of its comedy “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” while thriller “Sushi Girl” will also have a soiree there.
Across the street at the Omni Hotel, Wired magazine is hosting its Wired Cafe for the third year from the Palm Terrace, and will recreate a smaller version of “True Blood’s” Fangtasia bar from the show, through a partnership with HBO. Last year, event featured Merlotte’s Bar from the series.
“Three years ago, we saw an opportunity to plant our flag in the ground as Comic-Con began to grow in stature and a chance to bring something different to the show with the Wired Cafe,” said Howard Mittman, VP and publisher at Wired. “The way the film industry has used innovative technologies and advancements in animation to bring some of the comic-driven storylines and characters to life is very Wired.”
In addition to handing out bottles of True Blood, Acer showcases new computers, Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” sponsors a photobooth, Tart provides makeovers, and Epilog Laser will engrave iPhone backs for talent and press. VIPs last year included the “True Blood” cast, Eli Roth, Zachary Quinto, Kellan Lutz, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Jim Parsons, Kristen Bell and Nina Dobrev.
Nearby, CNET and GameSpot will host its own CNET Base Station, Thursday and Friday, at Lou & Mickey’s restaurant across from the convention center, also with food, videogame demos, wi-fi and charging stations.
Meanwhile, IGN is reaching out to gamers with the IGN Oasis, backed by chipmaker AMD, at the Hard Rock Hotel’s 207 bar and patio with free merchandise and giveaways, while the IGN Sprint Gaming Lounge, at the Martin Luther King Promenade Park in front of the Gaslamp Hilton, will promote Capcom titles including “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” and “Street Fighter X Tekken.”
Given the notable names and media expected to walk through the doors, sponsors have lined up to hype their products. Nintendo is the presenting sponsor of A-List’s venue, to promote the 25th anniversary of its “Legend of Zelda” franchise, its newest release, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and its Nintendo 3DS handheld.
Comic-Con has “grown into a key pop culture event,” Manning said. “A lot of the brands you’re seeing are brands who ascribe to go after the younger male audience.”Other brands are focused solely on the celebs.
A long-standing traditional in Hollywood, the gifting suite, is now headed to Comic-Con, as well.
Renee Simlak Prods is hosting an opening night reception, as well as a private gifting lounge for celebs looking to score goodies at the geekfest, at the Meridian, a luxury downtown condominium. The invite-only event, promoted by AMB Publicity, promises a fanboy free elite experience complete with spa services, electronics, “lifestyle accessories,” and a noticeable lack of Storm Troopers and thirtysomethings dressed as the Joker.