We caught up with Reed Exhibitions Vice President Lance Fensterman, who runs new York Comic Con, on Sunday evening after the show for a brief rundown on the show from his perspective.
This was your first year running New York Comic Con, what’s your over-all evaluation of the show?
Over-all I think it was an exceptionally good show, and I base that not purely on how I feel; it’s based on the feedback from walking around and talking to customers, primarily today, and looking at some of the blog chatter, and in talking to fans whenever I could. People seemed to be quite pleased with the show, and impressed with its look and feel and shape and size.
On the programming side, what were the most popular events? It seemed like the IGN Theater was full all day Saturday.
I break out the IGN.com Theater separately. That was full all day Saturday. In terms of the general panels, I was extremely pleased with the attendance. It was very high pretty consistently for most of the events. We had a huge jump in programming this year; we doubled our number of panels. That means a lot of seats to fill, and by all accounts we did very well at that. The Legends panel was very full. The Robot Chicken panel was very full; the Venture Brothers panel was incredibly full. Those were three that were standing room only, packed to the gills, with people waiting to get in.
How did the T.M. Revolution concert go?
Out of all the events, that was one that was unlike anything we’ve ever done; we are not rock concert promoters. But we looked like it that night--it went really well. The theater was about 80% full, and it was a rock concert. It was amazing. People were on their feet screaming for 90 minutes straight, through the encores. It was outstanding.
Do you have any feel for how the numbers came out?
Yes. But the caveat I want to place on it is that we’re still counting. There are a few moving pieces. For example, the retailer tickets—we have details to come in on those. We know generally with pretty good certainty what we had but there are details coming in. There are some of the Kids Day passes that are still coming in. But we know at this juncture that there will be at least 64,000, and it will probably go up slightly. It’s not going to go up by 10,000, but it will go up by some ticks.
It felt on Saturday that it was just about right—it was full, but it wasn’t scary.
We tried to build in common space near the back of the exhibit hall that gave you a little bit of breathing room. At one point I was watching with Public Safety, because I wanted them to be involved in the process, and we all felt pretty good. We put a 20 foot aisle down the middle, which helped. But then at the busy intersections around some of the major booths, it was very tight, but when you looked at the floor as a whole, and you looked around those edges and in those common space, you could see carpet, and that’s the most important thing.
I didn’t hear too many issues of overcrowding. Exhibitors want it to be very busy but not so busy they lose control, and no-one gave me feedback that they felt that way, so I was very pleased with the traffic.
What’s amazing, is that, remember, at any given time we had 3000 people in the IGN.com Theater, we had several thousand lined up to get into the theater, we had 11 panel rooms running concurrently, some with capacities of 1000 or more. There were people all over that building, plus the show floor was crazy.
Did you cluster exhibitors on the floor in like groups?
We tried as best we can. Exhibitors want to go where exhibitors want to go, but we did our best to put some logic into the floor plan. But more broadly, that stage on the exhibit floor on Saturday—I think we had 1000 or so seats and it was quite full most of the time, with fairly diverse programming. There were lots of different things happening. We put autographing on the other side, and that too kept quite busy.
Not to over-think it, but this is something we’ve brought over from Book Expo [which Fensterman also runs]. Almost every aisle has an attraction, and then we have common things like stages, and autographing areas, and lounges, that also have that local kind of feel. I think it’s a model that will work really well. It’s like a neighborhood. You need a park, you need a Laundromat, and you need a good place to eat, you need a bar,...
Next year, the dates are moving back to February. Do we understand correctly that the show is moving downstairs to the lower level of the Javits?
No, that is a myth, and I don’t know where it came from. It will remain in the same space.
In the same amount of space?
After this weekend, we plan to aggressively go back to the Javits Center because we are going to need more space, in my opinion.
How did the Kids Day events go?
I thought it was exceptional. Attendance on a lot of the seminars was very good. There was a ton of cool stuff we handed out. That’s one number I’m still waiting on. I don’t know how many kids I had in attendance today.
Kids were free with parents?
Yes, kids under 12 were free with their parents. We saw a lot of walk-up sales today of families that said, “Let’s hit the Con.” And that’s pretty cool—that’s what we wanted
I had a couple of executives from the big publishers say that they really liked Kids Day because they saw all these kids, picking up comic books. And that’s great, because helping to grow new readers is an important goal for the event.