I almost didn’t go to Comic Con this year. Not because I’m sort of sick of the event (oh God, I am), but because I couldn’t get a hotel room. The hotels immediately surrounding the convention center book full within minutes of becoming available on a specific date in February. If you’re not able to be hitting F5 on your browser, you’re not getting a place to stay in San Diego – at least not a place within convenient distance. And as someone who has to be in that convention center from 9 in the morning until the sun goes down, having a place to stay nearby is key.
I finally got a hotel room a few weeks ago. I’m a mile and half from the center, which is farther than I like, but doable. Next year, though… who knows? And this is a serious issue that isn’t getting any better – despite a new Hard Rock Hotel opening in the Gaslamp District, there are not enough rooms in the immediate area to support the crush of people coming to the Con every year. And despite the fact that the convention has the entire convention center at its disposal, there’s not enough room for everybody. According to a Variety article by the handsome, urbane and atheletic Greg Ellwood, these problems are making the Comic Con people consider moving the show elsewhere – like Vegas.
“We can’t accommodate the people that we need to,” says Comic-Con marketing director David Glanzer. This year alone, he says, “we had a wait list of exhibitors in excess of 300. We will be sold out before the doors even open.”
That sounds like good news, but as Ellwood points out, it means that the Con has hit its ceiling: there’s no room for growth without raising prices for booths and tickets. The event has topped out. At least until the crush at Con becomes so bad that people just stop bothering to go. Every year people bitch and moan about waiting in line for hours just to get turned away from Hall H – and that’s just the civilians. I won’t bore you with the epic bitching and moaning on the part of the press, who have a hard time covering what they need to cover because of the crush.
One of the cities stepping up to take Comic Con is Las Vegas. While Con has a lease in San Diego through 2012, Vegas is making a strong case – not the least of which is: “I’ve got more rooms on my corners than they do in most of their downtown area,” according to Chris Meyer, VP of convention sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Vegas is great, but I believe that Los Angeles is the way to go. LA tried to get the Con a couple of years ago, the last time the San Diego lease was renewed, but Comic Con International seemed to just use LA’s pitches as bargaining chips with San Diego. While the downtown LA area isn’t as nice a place to hang out as San Diego’s Gaslamp, and while part of the appeal of Comic Con for Angelenos is the feeling of ‘getting away’ for a couple of days, having the showin Los Angeles would only up the celebrity quotient. There’s a lot of back and forth on how Hollywood has taken over the Con, but the truth is that it wouldn’t be as big as it is today without the studios. And this year Hollywood is diversifying, bringing sitcoms and non-genre movies to the table, trying to reach not just nerds but the 18-34 year old males for whom the Con is a pop culture mecca.
The bottom line is that Comic Con is too big for San Diego. Short of a major change in the geography of that city or a decision to downsize the show, it looks inevitable that come 2012, Comic Con will live somewhere else. If that makes you sad, come talk to me after you’ve been smashed on the exhibition floor by thousands of people next weekend.