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Fensterman Interview: C2E2 Tops 53,000

Fensterman on 2013, 2014, and NYCC

Published: 05/06/2013 12:33am
We caught up with Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President Lance Fensterman after C2E2 (see “C2E2 2013 Report—Part 1”) to get his view on the show, hear about plans for next year, and get a preview of New York Comic Con.

This was ReedPOP’s fourth year doing C2E2. How did the numbers come out?
We did about 53,000 people through the whole weekend, which is up quite a bit.  We were at about 40,000 last year (see “Lance Fensterman on C2E2 Year 3”).  We feel pretty good about that.  We always want more—there’s never too many people (well, that’s not true if you were at New York Comic Con last year).  I’m very pleased, actually.  The embrace from the community felt the strongest we’ve had in the four years here. 

Was the exhibit floor bigger?
It was quite a bit bigger.  It was 30% bigger than last year.  It’s cool, though, because two years ago, in 2011, we were in these same halls and took up half the hall, and we’re twice as big now.  The show floor had a nice balance of a little videogame presence, some of the premium publishers, and the dealers, and then a nice, big Artists Alley.  It just felt like a nice show floor.  And then there was The Block, which is the sort of the urban hipster section of the floor, so there was good variety. 

This was the first time for The Block, right?
It was the first time in Chicago.  We’ve run that in New York in various forms for about three years now.  There were some folks who didn’t do great, I think some of that was maybe the higher end stuff, but a number of the guys in that space did well.  To be clear, it’s custom vinyl toys, artwork prints and stuff that’s a little bit edgier, a little bit more downtown, or more street/urban.  I think it’s cool and a nice addition to our shows.

What were the high points of the show from your perspective?
I thought Patton Oswalt did a really nice job.  He did a Q&A; it was well done; it was subdued.  It wasn’t stand-up, it was substantive, which I thought was pretty cool.  Kevin Smith sold out—that’s always fun.  I thought the Game of Thrones panel was very well received. We did a Beer and Comics panel with the guys from Revolution Brewing, who did our beer; that was pretty cool.
 
DC’s panels were huge, too.  They were pretty jammed.  They did a DC 101 panel which is sort of an onramp for new readers that I think is a smart move on their part and was well attended.  I thought that was cool. I’m glad to see them doing that. 

You mentioned DC, which was there as a programming presence and not on the exhibit floor.  C2E2 is regarded as a big regional. How do you break through that next level and make it a “must exhibit at” for major comic publishers or other major exhibitors?
We keep growing it.  You’re always a couple of years behind--your audience grows and then brands start to take note.  We’re at 53,000.  I think if we continue to grow and as the audience gets bigger and the media coverage begins to pick up even more as we saw this year, people take note.  Also everyone’s got a different strategy. DC has been re-addressing their strategy toward events and we appreciate the support they gave us in terms of all the creators and the content. 

This year’s show was in the West building at McCormick Place, but you’ll be in a different building next year?
Yeah, we don’t ever want to be in the same building twice because then people might actually figure it out [laughter].  We’ll be in the South building, which is the largest of the halls (not that we’re going to use it all) and we’ll be in that South building for several years; we’ve got dates locked in through 2015.  This will be the last building in McCormick for us to occupy; we’ve been in all three other halls. We’ll have a complete set now. 

We had a number of conversations at the show with people who were remarking, “Wouldn’t it be great if this facility were in New York?”
[Sighs. Pauses.] I don’t want to offend anybody, so “Why? I don’t get it?” [laughter]

Anything you’re definitely going to change or improve for next year?
That’s a really great question.  Nothing pops immediately to mind.  We will go through our whole process of our post-show and tear everything apart.  There’s some minor stuff, but nothing big comes to mind.

I will say that I’ve gotten more thank-you emails on this show than any other show I’ve ever done.  Typically, I’m in the car on the way home and I’m getting upset notes from fans about one thing and another, and we’ve always answered them; but I’ve gotten one upset note and about 50 or 60 positive, glowing notes.  It’s anecdotal, sure, but it seems like people had a good time.  There just was a real energy and embrace of the show this year that was palpable—you could feel it.  What we’re going to fix, I can’t answer that yet, but there will be things, trust me.  I was pleased that the community enjoyed it, seemingly, as much as they did. 

A few years ago, people would have been astounded at a show that drew 50,000, and now it’s just the normal progression—oh, yeah, 50,000 in Chicago. We sort of take it for granted. 
We do a little bit. It’s nice that the community supports it. Maybe it’s taken for granted that their peers are going to be there.  It’s really been embraced.  I can’t tell you how much the entire team noticed it this year: the energy, the media coverage, the anecdotal stuff that was there.  It just felt like a really good event.  We’re proud that we built something cool for the people of the city of Chicago. 

It seemed like there was more security than we’ve seen in the past at C2E2. Was that a reaction to recent events?
It was a combination of things.  We stepped up security at New York this past year just because we felt it was time to add some additional layers of security, and then at C2E2 we added additional security on top of that after the tragedy in Boston.  We felt that was the prudent thing to do.  We’re always willing to invest in creating an environment that is as safe as possible for everybody.

We noticed bag checks…
We had bag checks, we had dogs and an array of other things that we felt were going to add to creating a more secure environment. 

We didn’t hear anybody complaining about it.
For us the biggest challenge is prop and replica weapons.  It’s a challenge to get all of the props tagged appropriately.  We try to be diligent, but we’re dealing with a lot of volume too.  People were very understanding and willing to wait a bit longer to help create a good, safe environment.   

What’s coming up for New York Comic Con?
We sold out four-day tickets—that’s done.  We’re going to stagger our on-sale dates, so in a few weeks, we’ll put the three-day tickets on sale, and then shortly thereafter we’ll put the single day tickets on sale.  We’ll be ramping that up pretty quickly. 
It’s going to be crazy.  There are some big changes in store about how we’re going to secure the building. We’re going to start using RFID technology in all of our badges to prevent fraud and things like that, so it’s going to look and feel a little bit different, but we think it’s going to create a better experience for our fans and a little bit more controlled environment for everybody involved. 
 
 
 
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