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San Diego Comic-con sans San Diego?

Heidi MacDonald has a great write-up regarding the potential loss to San Diego if Comic-Con International moves the largest comic-con in the US because it’s outgrown the convention center and hotel availability. Other cities vying for the convention include Los Angeles and Anaheim.

With its contract with the San Diego Convention Center running out in that year, the convention’s board of directors has been mulling competing?and aggressive?offers from Los Angeles and Anaheim to move the world’s biggest entertainment event to facilities in those cities, bringing millions in revenues with it.

Although leaving San Diego?where temperate weather and the proximity to the vibrant Gaslamp District’s nightlife are as much a part of the Comic-Con experience as back issues and movie stars?seems unthinkable at first, the logistics of running the show have made the unthinkable a strong option, according to director of marketing and PR David Glanzer. With around 134,000 attendees?125,000 paying customers and another 9,000 exhibitors and press?the 41-year-old show is simply too big for the existing convention facility. Attendance has been capped for several years?this year’s show has been completely sold out for months?and the show has had to look for other ways to increase revenue to pay for rising costs. And despite its high-power lineup of world-class cartoonists and movie stars, Comic-Con hasn’t always had the attention from local businesses that it feels it deserved, as hotel room shortages and limited parking continue to plague Con-goers.

Community Comments

#1 Tom Racine
@ 10:30 am

Sadly, I couldn’t really argue if they left. Unless the Convention Center here in San Diego expands greatly, AND the local hotels and businesses really get on board, they have every right to go where the space is. I mean, they sold out of 4-day passes like EIGHT months in advance. That sounds great, but how many more attendees would they have had if they could have continued selling passes for those 8 months? I do feel that the local San Diego hotel and businesses haven’t been supportive enough; they’ve reaped the benefits, but haven’t made a huge effort to keep the Con here. I’ve heard rumblings that the hotels are going to offer many more rooms and packages, and that the Convention Center plans an expansion, but I thought that wasn’t until 2013 or later. Probably too late…and that’d be a real shame.

#2 Howard Tayler
@ 11:51 am

If it leaves San Diego I might consider putting the show back on my menu. The “finding ways to increase revenue” usually amounts to “soaking exhibitors so they can pass costs along to attendees,” and frankly, I’m not playing that game anymore. There are plenty of shows where I can get a hotel room, feed myself, and set up a good, 10’x10′ booth for the entire show for less than $5,000.

#3 JW Wills
@ 1:42 pm

It won’t be the same if the Con leaves San Diego. LA is too much concrete and Anaheim is too much Disney. I hope they can work something out.

#4 Darryl Heine
@ 2:13 pm

Maybe Wizard Entertainment, publishers of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, could buy Comic-Con International and keep the San Diego Comic-Con rights.

#5 Karyl Miller
@ 3:03 pm

Here in San Diego there’s a panic about the Con leaving. Our club’s ( member, the late Shel Dorf started the Con and we in San Diego consider it OURS. Hotels here made concessions this year and the Con has added reserved parking (which is a huge incentive for locals like me to actually USE the second third and forth days of our 4 day passes). LA is smoggy-boring and Anaheim is Disney-boring.

#6 Steve Skelton
@ 4:01 pm


#7 Tom Richmond
@ 4:22 pm

Much as I love San Diego, it’s clear to me that the Comic Con is too big for the area. When the crush of humanity, the wait to do ANYTHING and the impossibility of getting a hotel room within 3 miles of the convention site makes the enjoyment of the event nigh impossible, then there are problems that need resolution.

#8 JW Wills
@ 5:51 pm

Agreed, the Con has become a lot of long lines, but LA? Oh Lord, no.

#9 Ted Rall
@ 8:00 pm

I’ve attended almost every year since 1995, and I am surprised the convention has remained in San Diego as long as it has. The Con outgrew San Diego in 2000.

The hotels are really to blame. Convention hotel rates for are nothing short of exorbitant, especially for for a run-down, economically depressed city like San Diego. There are rooms going for $300 a night in the Gaslamp district that a fair market would value at $75…most hotels discount their rates for conventions, whereas those in San Diego see the Con as an opportunity to gouge attendees.

It’s nice that the Convention planners are trying to improve the situation, but these efforts would have needed to have begun 10 years ago to make a difference. The parking hassles, ridiculously expensive hotels and–most absurd of all–the fact that tables and passes sell out ages beforehand–have ruined the experience.

I think LA would be a big positive for attendees. Flights into LAX are cheaper and numerous than San Diego, there are countless more hotel rooms available at much lower rates, and it would also make it easier for cartoonists and others to meet with Hollywood people, some of whom are scared of a commute that can take 4.5 hours in heavy traffic (like during Comicon.)

I don’t blame people for not wanting to give LA a chance, but as someone who has spent a lot of time there, they’re wrong. LA is a fantastic city (yes, city). Amazing restaurants, shopping and nightlife?but it is definitely a place you have to spend time and get to know. The casual tourist will necessarily find it sterile, but scratch the surface and it will become a real guilty pleasure.

Or a city that really needs help, like New Orleans or Detroit, might be a better choice.

Perhaps the Comicon folks could move APE from San Francisco, where it is not appreciated or supported by locals (if there’s a show where more people browse than buy, I haven’t seen it), to San Diego.

#10 Charles Brubaker
@ 8:27 pm

I would maybe go somewhere farther to Burbank. I’m vacationing here right now and its great. I didn’t expect much; I only came here to meet a bunch of TV animators, but I actually love how clean this city is. And walking downtown is surprisingly relaxing.

#11 JD Rasmussen
@ 8:30 pm

Speaking of Comic-Con…who’s going this year (in terms of cartoonists.) Save a parking spot for me!

#12 Patrick Scullin
@ 9:04 pm

Sad but true, San Diego is bursting at the seams. It’s probably more nostalgia than anything that makes me want it to stay there. It’s always been a fun venue being by the ocean. It’s probably more practical to be in LA., unfortunately I’ve never liked the downtown location.

#13 August J. Pollak
@ 7:11 am

Having moved to Atlanta a few years ago I wish there were more opportunities for alt-press and non-anime/superhero genre comic cons in the area. The big con here in Dragon*Con of course but the artist’s alley is actually the biggest weakness here since the collectibles and celebrity autograph areas dominate the seller areas.

#14 Ted Rall
@ 7:46 am

@August, I love the South–especially the yummy food–but a successful alt con requires an appreciative audience. That’s easy to find at SPX, with political junkies next door in DC. Not so much in most southern cities I can think of. Also not many altie cartoonists live there.

@JD: I’ll be at Comicon this year at the NBM table, signing “The Year of Loving Dangerously” and showing off sneak preview galleys of “The Anti-American Manifesto.”

#15 Stephen Beals
@ 8:46 am

Detroit is sadly empty and cheap right now. I would love to see the con help revitalize a city like that, but I don’t see it happening.

I’ve been hearing this story every year for 20 years now. If it does eventually move, I imagine it will remain a West Coast thing.

#16 Larry Levine
@ 8:48 am

Move it to NYC.

#17 JW Wills
@ 8:50 am

Comic Con is a West Coast event and New Orleans would gouge the attendees far worse than San Diego could even dream of. They’ve done it for centuries in NO and has become an art form there. So no thanks to heat, humidity, and personal one-on-one looting.

Yes, LA may have more pazazz than SD, but that’s what made the Con unique and Wizard’s Cons in LA a non-event. LA is jaded and Hollywood would take even more of the Con’s limelight than it already deserves if it moves to the LA Convention Center.

Anaheim might be the best alternative to SD, but I just hate feeding the Disney machine more money. I could see them try to dictate the show and that won’t work. But I guess we’ll see who wins the Con Sweepstakes soon enough.

#18 August J. Pollak
@ 8:52 am

@Ted: definitely not as high on the political level but Atlanta is actually one of the more artistic cities I’ve ever lived in. As far as styles go it’s got a bustling music, performance and studio arts community. There’s a huge well of creative types in the city proper and a growing comics/pop culture fanbase because of the influence both Turner Broadcasting and Dragon*Con have. And don’t forget SCAD – one of the highest concentrations of aspiring graphic artists outside of New York and LA is down here.

Could SPX work here? Probably not. But something similar could. There’s nothing they do at MoCCA that wouldn’t pull in attendees down here.

#19 Ted Rall
@ 11:53 am

Actually, MoCCA is an example of how to take a convention with great potential and ruin it. Going from one to two days has proven disastrous…total sales have dropped precipitously as a result, while the costs of staying in NYC have effectively doubled.

Also, MoCCA is now a hipster T-shirt con, not a comics con. Although I don’t know how that could be stopped.

#20 Keith Knight
@ 3:43 pm

I think it’ll move to Anaheim. I’m sure Disney/Marvel is making C.C. Int’l an offer they can’t refuse.

#21 Mike Peterson
@ 3:46 am

I’m expecting Cartoon Network to give them a one hour special on which they will announce what city they’ve chosen to host the convention.

#22 John Lotshaw
@ 12:11 pm

@August: Atlanta? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that’s rich… you are one funny, funny guy…

Seriously, yes, Atlanta does have a large creative community, but only if you’re into hip-hop and rap. Other than that, as they’d say in Joisey… fuggeddaboudit! This is a town that tolerates DragonCon so they can watch the freak show on the local news (which is always presented in smirking, snarky tones by the anchors).

John Lotshaw
20-year resident of Atlanta

#23 August J. Pollak
@ 1:35 pm

“Atlanta? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that?s rich? you are one funny, funny guy?”

Oh this is starting well.

“Seriously, yes, Atlanta does have a large creative community, but only if you?re into hip-hop and rap.”

Wow, dude. How have you lived in Atlanta ten times as long as me and seen absolutely nothing? You realize Creative Loafing is free, right? Arts & Entertainment starts about midway through. Seriously, contact any of the three theatres I was at _last weekend_ and tell them you’ve never heard of an arts scene here and they’ll probably offer tickets as a charity case.

“This is a town that tolerates DragonCon so they can watch the freak show on the local news”

This is a town that has “tolerated” Dragon*Con for about 23 years now because of the $25 million a year it puts into the city. Last time I checked, successful comics conventions don’t really have a problem with the audacious task of “tolerating” 35,000 attendees.

#24 Stephen Beals
@ 2:30 pm

I really like Atlanta and have met a number of artists from there. But, oh man, the traffic is unbelievable. Well, ok, it’s Ventura Freeway believable.

I’ve always felt there was a “good ol’ Georgia” population up against a “hip Atlanta” population. Maybe that’s just my Southern cousins.

I will say this: They still sell candy cigarettes down there, right at eye level for your five year old. I’m not sure if that’s old fashioned or hip.

#25 John Read
@ 9:21 pm

John Lotshaw, I’m surprised about your dismal appraisal of the Atlanta arts scene. I don’t even live there (as you know, I’m six hours away), but I know it can’t be dismissed as easily as you have. Maybe you should spend a little time in Atlanta in August with August (Pollack), who seems to have a more open mind about what your city has to offer.

#26 Meredith Randazzo
@ 8:41 am

It seems like one of the reasons ComicCon has been so successful is because of its proximity to the entertainment industry. Back in 2000 when the size was a bit more manageable, you could still shake a stick and hit more celebrities than you would believe. A big reason for that is they don’t have to go far to get there. It seems obvious that it should stay out west at the very least.

#27 John Sanford
@ 10:11 am

Bring it to LA!!!! Loads of Hotels!!! Lots of great restaraunts!
Then, I can drive there in 30 minutes instead of 8 hours!!!!
That horrendous I-5 traffic to San Diego is reason enough for the move!

#28 Lucas Turnbloom
@ 10:28 am

Quiet, Sanford! Keep it in San Diego! I don’t want to brave I-5 North.

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