Comic-Con Journal: Confab Outgrowing Its Organizers

Not to be a troublemaker (well, maybe a little), but I’m
beginning to wonder if the relationship between the major studios/networks and
Comic-Con Intl. is going to have to undergo some serious therapy in the not-too-distant future.

As this year’s convention has celebrated, Comic-Con began 40
years ago as a small, comics-based event. It has since blossomed into a
gigantic clusterf—k with more than 120,000 people rolling into San Diego each year, and the nonprofit group
that organizes it clearly appears to be over its head in terms of managing the
convention and the teeming hordes of attendees.

Long lines are a part of the process, but studio publicists
and other journalists have all griped about how woefully disorganized the
convention seems to be. At times, it appears as if the fire marshals and concerns
about crowd control run the whole event. Security personnel can be rude, bordering on downright nasty, in trying to keep the bodies flowing, never mind where they’re headed.

Apparently, that included a snafu on Saturday where a number of people with VIP tickets for the “Iron Man 2” presentation were denied access to Hall H because of over-crowding.

The lines are so oppressive for the average convention-goer that he or she is lucky to make it into one or two panels a day, unless they plant themselves in one of the big halls and don’t move. Some of the journalists I bumped into on Friday (some coming to Comic-Con because of its proximity this year to the TV Critics Assn. tour) sounded stunned by what a mess it all is.

Most accept these indignities with patience and grace, but the result is what amounts to a love-hate relationship: Studios
have seized on Comic-Con as a valuable marketing platform, but many of them dread going.

The interesting part is that as studio dollars flood into the
confab, one would think that their influence would increase as well. Thus far,
though, it really hasn’t. At this point, studio brass seem content to endure the disorganization as long as the event helps create buzz for upcoming projects, despite the fact that it’s becoming something of a nightmare for their PR staffs.

Of course, as a longtime Comic-Con attendee, I’m as prone as
anyone to complain about the convention, joke about its eccentricities and then forget about it until the
following year. But if the chorus of groans grows much louder, studios might be inclined to test just
how much Comic-Con has come to depend on them – and whether those tickets would
sell out quite so quickly if “Twilight” or “Iron Man 2” decided to allocate their
marketing dollars elsewhere. I suspect if studios collectively threw their weight around, convention organizers at this point would at least be obliged to listen.

Granted, there’s something wonderfully democratic about Comic-Con –
one fan is as good as another, and everyone is treated shabbily as they’re herded from one giant ballroom to the next. But while Hollywood is perceived to lean left
politically, when it comes to living on the “C” list and having
to wait in lines alongside the public, small-“D” democracy is generally
considered overrated.

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