Warner Bros., AMC begin to tap event where attendance is rising

Over the past six years, New York Comic Con has operated in the shadows of San Diego’s own fanfest given its smaller attendance figures and the relatively lower profile of the properties showcased at NYCC.

Hollywood’s marketing mavens can’t afford to ignore New York Comic Con anymore, however.

The halls of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center were packed over the past four days, filled with more than 115,000 attendees flocking to booths and panel presentations for new comicbook releases, films, TV shows, toys and videogames.

The turnout surprised and overwhelmed many entertainment reps who were visiting NYCC for the first time. But it should be eye opening as marketers look for more opportunities to speak directly to their customers.

It’s a crowd as rabid for fandom as you’ll find in Southern California. But surprisingly, NYCC attendees appear less jaded than their SDCC counterparts. They’re happier to take in what they’re being shown, not demanding to be impressed with crossed arms. They also appear more willing to dress up as their favorite character. That may be an East Coast thing, with Atlanta’s Dragon Con also notable for its cosplay.

The point, however, is that the faithful are gathering en masse in the country’s largest media market. What’s missing: the producers of their favorite properties.

On the crowded show floor, the largest booths were hosted by Archaia Comics, Lego, Sony PlayStation, Square Enix, Nintendo, Marvel and DC. Only Legendary Entertainment was noticeable among the major film banners, although Fox went the guerrilla marketing route with actors playing the muscle-bound engineer from “Prometheus” and president from “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” to promote its homevid releases of the pics.

In the halls, stickers for the upcoming reboots of “Evil Dead” and “Carrie” were plastered on doors. Outside, AMC parked a replica of the RV from “The Walking Dead,” with zombies roaming close to the nerd herd filing into the convention center. Missing were the mountains of freebies studios hand out in San Diego.

Those who recognize the power of NYCC’s growing audience are being handsomely rewarded, such as AMC the last two years with “Walking Dead.” Warner Bros. and New Line’s horror pic “The Conjuring,” directed by James Wan, and Warner’s fantasy tale “Beautiful Creatures” were both well received. Other genre fare like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D” and TV shows “Arrow,” “The Following,” “666 Park Avenue” and “Teen Wolf” also had presences.

Those who ignore NYCC are missing out on putting their projects in front of a captive audience ready to be courted.

The 3,000 that fit inside the IGN Theater — New York’s version of SDCC’s Hall H, where Hollywood presents its upcoming properties — are eager to post their reactions via social media.

Not all’s rosy at NYCC, though. There’s a severe lack of cell phone service or working Wi-Fi, as well as a confusing layout and overcrowding of the show floor inside the Javits Center, which has seen better days. There’s also no party scene to speak of, although Legendary, Nerdist and the Kings of Con tried to rectify that this year. SDCC started generating more buzz when magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Maxim and Playboy threw lavish celeb-filled bashes. Such efforts would similarly transform NYCC.

But SDCC could take some pointers. One is opening its doors to brands looking to court the fanboys just as entertainment marketers are.

Chevy plastered its new small Spark car with imagery like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from Dark Horse Comics, while Kellogg’s handed out Krave cereal and the Willy Wonka Candy Co. reached out to the nerds with Nerds.

Putting more coin in SDCC’s coffers could help its growing pains as its convention center expands.

NYCC isn’t crying out for attention from Hollywood. Marvel presented “The Avengers” there last year with its superhero cast.

But there’s a problem when NYCC is offering up prime real estate to a car or candy company rather than studios whining about how they’re losing their audience to other entertainment platforms.

As SDCC has proven, if you build it — or present it — they will come.

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