We spoke to ReedPop Group Vice President Lance Fensterman as New York Comic Con ended to get the scoop on the sold-out attendance, traffic, maxing out the Javits, and next year.
What’s your overview of the show and how it went?
I’m largely pleased with the way the team performed and the results. For the fans there’s some areas that we want to tighten up a little bit. Every year we keep being the biggest we’ve ever been and every year we correct the previous year’s problems and learn a few new problems. I think that’s normal in a growth environment. I’m pleased.
What was the attendance this year?
It was about 116,000. I think it might go up a little bit. I’m still getting some tabulations on the Kids Day badges, but 116,000 is where we are right now.
Did you have more space this year or was it about the same?
We did have more space. That’s why we had the incremental growth we had. We picked up about 40,000 gross square feet. It was using the B area for the autographing area and the stages, and then the construction zone was slightly smaller so it took away less of our space on the show floor.
Crowds were big, especially on Saturday when people were queuing up on the street. Could everybody get in who wanted to get in or were you just slowing them down?
We just slowed people down coming in. It was the kind of entry point where it was just getting too crowded because people would enter then go up the escalators. That would slow things down, so what we were doing was essentially pausing for 10-15 minutes to let that lobby area clear out, then we would allow more fans in. It was sort of regulating of the crowd.
People were saying, “You’re shutting down!” But we were just stopping, allowing things to clear and then restarting which is the safe choice to make.
Were you comfortable with the number of people in the hall and the crowds especially at some of the narrower spots?
That’s an interesting question. I think it was very busy both Saturday and Sunday. I was very comfortable with the number of tickets I allowed to be sold. I think we have some issues around counterfeiting of badges. We confiscated a lot of counterfeited badges, and I think there are probably more out there. That’s a function of selling out faster and earlier than we ever have that we have to address.
Do I think it was too crowded on Saturday and Sunday? Probably. Do I think that’s a function of paying customers? No I don’t.
Do you think there’s any more you could do in terms of traffic flow inside the hall?. We heard some people wonder if flyering should be allowed in the aisles, or if the lines at the autographing at the booths were set up right. Do you think you’ve got that down or are there things to improve?
No, I don’t think we have anything down. We’re always interested in learning and I think that particularly traffic flow on the show floor we can do a better job of regulating. It’s a question of how much of our resources we throw at that that we could be throwing somewhere else. So we’re always trying to balance, do I want to spend more money bringing in guests, or do I want to spend money working on traffic?
Clearly there’s some progress to be made on traffic flow and we’ll address that. There’s also progress to be made on limiting fraudulent tickets and we’ll have to throw some resources at that as well. We make choices and prioritize what needs to be done but traffic flow is on my mind for sure.
You said you seized a bunch of fraudulent badges. How many?
We picked up probably 300, but that’s just a portion of them. A, it’s difficult to spot them in general and B, some of them are actually pretty well done. Kudos to the artists.
One of the things that was different this year was Artist’s Alley. Were you satisfied with the reaction to the new location?
I think it’s awesome. We were facing two choices; one was cut Artist’s Alley in half and more than half of those people wouldn’t be there—wouldn’t have a table—or grow it to the biggest it’s ever been and put it in the North Pavilion. I have supreme confidence that we made the right choice. I think the half of the artists who wouldn’t have been included agree with me.
Why not carpet that area? Is that the same as it’s been in the past or is that a change?
That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. Part it was that it the floor doesn’t look like s**t over there so it didn’t feel quite necessary, but that’s something that hadn’t occurred to me. Obviously at some point I made an active choice, but I don’t remember making it… so, good question.
What’s the construction situation going to be at the Javits next year?
It is done. Truth is, I feel like each year we do the show better than we’ve done it, and I’m not saying that as a compliment I’m saying each prior year we make mistakes, but each year we do it the best we’ve ever done it. And we’ve been doing it that way with this real hamstrung situation with the building. We’ve lost exits; we’ve lost upstairs; we’ve lost all kinds of ways to spread ourselves out. Next year I’m thrilled: we have the whole building; everything’s back in line; there’s no more scaffolding; there’s no more closed exits. We have the whole thing, so we’ll pick up about 90,000 gross square feet of space that we will utilize next year, which is fabulous.
So that was the section that’s in between the hall furthest to the south and just north of there, that’s the area where they’re working now, right?
Correct and that’s about 40-50,000 gross square feet that’s blocked off. And then the fourth floor Galleria which we used last year for some anime content—that’s about another 40-50,000 gross square feet that was closed this year.
And that will open up the flow so you won’t have to have those passageways in between the sections?
Correct. It’ll be just one wide open contiguous floor on the third floor.
You’re maxed out now, and even with a little more square footage, there’s a lot of demand for tickets. Are there any long term expansion plans for the Javits?
There’s all kind of plans. What is reality is hard to say. They were talking about a new convention center in Ozone Park; they’ve talked about expanding the Javits; they’ve talked about another facility in another part of Queens. There’s nothing solid right now.
I think we’ll be fine next year to grow further with the space that’s available and that will satiate us for at least a year, maybe two—it’s hard to say. And then the next step is taking matters into our own hands and expanding out into the parts of the city around us. The Piers are not far away and there’s a fine facility there that we can expand to with shuttles. There’s some hotel properties and some lofts. We’re creative. We’ll find ways to meet the demands of our customers and our fans.