We talked to Comic-Con International Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer about the growth in space for WonderCon this year (along with a programming hint), and about the limits for the organization's flagship San Diego Comic-Con International.


WonderCon is coming up in a couple of weeks. What's exciting about this year's show?

One thing that excites me the most is that we've been able to add more exhibitors to the floor, so we've increased our floor space. Last year we ended up going into the show with a bit of a waiting list, and this year we were able to take another exhibit hall so we're filling that.  This year we're taking all three halls on the south portion of the Moscone Convention Center, so we have Halls A, B, and C.   What we've done this year is we've also turned Hall A into a theater, much like we do at San Diego with Hall H. So in addition to increasing exhibitor space, we've also been able to increase programming space as well.


How big is that Hall H-style theater?

I think it's 4,000 people, so it's a little smaller than Hall 20 in San Diego, but larger than the largest room we had last year. In addition to the 4,000 seat room, we've also created a room that is 750 seats, so there are two pretty big programming rooms in addition to the other programming rooms that we have.


What you do expect to fill Hall A this year?

We have pretty dynamic programming. One of the things that's always been paramount to us is to offer attendees one, a diverse exhibit floor, and the other is a diverse programming schedule. This year is no different. 


As you know, we've always had good relationships with professionals from all aspects comic books and pop culture. We have some amazing guests this year. In additional to that, we have some special programming from Hollywood as well. Hollywood has always had a really nice presence at WonderCon and this year is no different. In fact they've ramped it up a little, too.


You mentioned that the exhibit floor is bigger. Are you getting the same kind of mix as San Diego with studios, videogame companies and anime in addition to the comic book publishers?

Yes. One of the things that's cool is that it's always been very comics-centric and it still is.  Part of our mission statement is to bring comic books and popular culture to a wider audience, so our floor reflects that.


One of the things we've seen this year is an increase in videogame companies. This year we have EA, Capcom, Ubisoft, and some other videogame companies taking part.  


And we've added a couple of movie studios to the floor. We've seen a ramp-up in terms of programming for those movie studios. That's not only movie, but television as well. We're kind of excited about that.


We have a lot of studios that are not only bringing some film content and screenings, but a lot of special guests. There's a lot of really exciting things that are happening, and I think we're going to have some really special guests too, whether it be from television or movies. There's a new X-Files movie out there, and I think there's going to be a pretty cool panel on that at our show.


What has attendance been doing at WonderCon and what was attendance last year?

I think last year our total attendance was 20,000. We count our attendees as one person each -- uniques. It's a conservative number we use and that's a total of professionals, exhibitor, volunteers and attendees. It continues to grow and that's one of the reasons we've expanded our floor space.


What was attendance like when San Diego took over five years ago?

I think their numbers were very different than ours. We didn't announce numbers for the first couple of years, and if memory serves correctly, I think it was about 6,000 or 7,000.


So it has more than tripled?



People are already talking about San Diego, even though it's several months away. We've heard there has been some change in the floor layout. Can you tell us about that?

One of the things that is always very important to us, in addition to making sure we have the kind of event that we ourselves would like to go to, is the safety of attendees. When you have 120,000 people with a span of four days, it really is like a small town. So one of the things we want to make sure that the floor is as comfortable as it possibly can be. At some points we have to increase our aisle spaces. This year we've increased some aisle spaces from 10 feet to 20 feet in the back of one section of the hall and of the side of another section of the hall. So in two areas, we've increased aisle space to facilitate traffic flow.


And did that reduce the amount of exhibit space?

It does in theory. What happens is we've had to pull out some booth space in those areas and those people have already been relocated to other parts of the floor. As of a few weeks ago, everybody who exhibited last year and who wanted to return, we were able to accommodate.  It didn't have an impact that way.


The truth is, each year the floor changes to a certain degree and that could be through attrition, or through any myriad of things. Sometimes an exhibitor will want to expand or reduce the size of their booth, so the booth configurations on the floor varies from year to year, sometimes through nothing having to do with us.


It's rare that we will increase an aisle width size or something like that, but we usually try to accommodate those who will be most effected by that.


It doesn't sound like you're anticipating a change in the mix of exhibitors vs. dealers, you're just moving things around?

Yes, exactly. One of the things we've done is -- the show is divvied up into a whole bunch of different areas -- whether that be comics dealers, toy companies, or movie studios or whatever. While some studios may end up growing bigger, that may be possible because another studio has reduced its space. Or, same is true whether is be the comics, retailer, or toy sections. We try to ensure that it maintains a diverse floor. As an example, if an exhibitor came in said, 'hey, we want to take all of hall C for a massive exhibit,' we wouldn't allow that. While it would be easy to go ahead and sell that space, we don't think it would ultimately be the best benefit for the people who attend the show.


We've heard that you're making changes to the print piece that you put out to keep people updated on the show. Can you tell us about that?

We've long had our Update publication. When I started here many years ago it was a newsprint publication, and it was about 8-1/12 x11. I think it was black and white with one spot color. Over the years we've moved it to a digest size with a four-color cover and black and white interior. A few years after that, we went ahead and did all color, but as all of our shows have continued to expand, our little digest publication was getting bigger and bigger in terms of page numbers. And we thought, why don't just we make it magazine size? It'll give us more space for content, and it'll be a bigger magazine that hopefully people will notice even more. The decision was made to go ahead and do that and it's been rebranded, too. Instead of Update it is now call Comic-Con Magazine. Those issues should start hitting direct mail about the middle or end of this month


You also distribute those to the trade?

We do. We distribute to select comic book shops via Diamond as well as through our own distribution to specialty shops--coffee shops, alternative book stores, things like that-- in San Diego and L.A.  This year we're doing a limited release in San Francisco as well, so we do 150,000 as direct mail and 100,000 which is the ancillary distribution through us or Diamond.


Was there a change in ticket prices this year?

I think we went up by $5, maybe it was $10. One of the things that we've done differently than in years past is how we handled the price breaks. You could purchase your pass for the following year at the show at a price break, and then at the end of the year, there would be another price break, which would increase slightly and then at three or four months it will increase slightly again, and then there would be a final price break that would increase slightly right before the show.  


One of the things we did this year was to still have the discounted price at the show, and a slight increase after the show and then we went directly to the final price. The reason for that is we sold out last year for Friday-Saturday-Sunday passes, and one of the things we didn't want to do was to give a false sense of security to people who might have waited until the last price break in April. That price break is effectively here and we're encouraging people to register as early as possible because we expect to sell out prior to the doors opening.


Did any of the changes in aisle space or any other changes affect the number of people you could accommodate?

In theory, we could accommodate more because we have increased aisle space, but that is a very dynamic thing for us. We try to target X amount of people at the show over a course of four days.


The year before last we had 120,000. We put a tentative limit on sales. Last year we had 125,000. I would imagine that that number would stay right around there, unless we start scheduling events that are off site during the day, in which case that could conceivably allow us to increase our numbers. Because if we can pull a few thousand people off the floor at any given time, that will give different people the chance to be on the floor.


So you're maxed out in the space?

In theory, we are maxed out as far as attendance, space, and in terms of exhibit space. There are only so many square feet in that exhibit hall, and we're utilizing every last bit of it.  One of the things we've been very good about is being able to move people around our facility. We've spent a great many years tracking people and tracking people going to program events. One of the things that some people saw last year was that Saturday was the first day sold out, a lot of attendees were worried that Saturday's floor would just be inundated, so a lot of people seemed to spend a lot of their time upstairs in programming, and anyone who was on the floor last year realized that Saturday wasn't nearly as crowded as they expected. So then Sunday, I think people thought, 'Oh, I'll just go down on Sunday,' and Sunday ended up being a little more crowded.


I think what will hopefully happen, in a natural evolution, is that people will realize that there are other programs and other events at various times during the day that may be big draws, so that people can flow from programming to the floor and back again in a smooth enough way that there always won't be any huge congestion spots. There always will be, whether it's a rock concert or whatever, but to try to mitigate that we've increased the aisle sizes and some of the programming.  We're looking at some off-site programming where maybe we can partner with somebody that will bring people off the floor for a little bit, which will hopefully reduce some of the crowding on the floor.