Huge crowds of pop culture fans thronged the New York Comic-Con at the Javits Center last weekend, killing the myth that the nation's largest city couldn't support a major pop culture show.  Friday's trade day and consumer preview night were both very well attended.  But the size of the crowd overwhelmed the facility on Saturday; and around mid-day, state troopers halted admission into the exhibit hall to reduce crowding, and from then through the end of the weekend, fans endured long waits to get into the exhibit hall.  Reed Exhibitions, which organized the show, halted ticket sales for the show at mid-day Saturday.  At 12:45 that day, as ticket sales were halted, the line to register ran from the 37th St. entrance of the Javits Center all the way to 40th St.


State troopers shut down access to
the exhibit hall around mid-day Saturday.

Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President for Launch Pad Greg Topalian told ICv2 that the high end of the show's estimates for attendees over the full weekend had been 20,000, and around 20,000 people showed up for the show on Saturday alone.  Since the area allocated to the New York Comic-Con in the Javits Center could only accommodate around 10,000 people (a travel show and set-up for an art show were also in the building over the weekend), the crowd was too much for the space to handle, which led to the unfortunate capacity issues. 


At times on Saturday, even exhibitors, press, and pros couldn't get into the exhibit hall, as security officials waited until enough people had left to reduce crowding.   That problem was alleviated by late in the day Saturday, but fans continued to have to wait for access to the exhibit hall for the rest of the weekend.  


About 400 attendees that had paid but were unable to enter the show on Saturday were offered a refund or choice of guaranteed Sunday admission; a larger group of some thousands was given wristbands for Sunday admission and sent home.  Reed is also looking at other ways to make the situation right with fans who had registered but were unable to get in.


Topalian said that the show stood out among Reed launches he'd worked on.  'It was one of the best launches I've seen in many ways,' he said.  'But it's also been the toughest in some ways.'  Javits Center management echoed the observation, with the general manager of the Center telling Topalian that in his twenty years at the Javits, he'd never seen anything like the enthusiastic crowds drawn to New York Comic-Con.


The trade show on Friday drew larger numbers than any previous trade event in these industries; over 3000 members of the trade, including comic retailers, booksellers, librarians, and licensing pros were registered for the show.  The show was also high in executive content, reflecting the location in New York and the high profile of the trade event. 


The ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference on the Thursday before the show also drew more people than expected, and ICv2 President Milton Griepp said that based on the industry response to the event, he hoped to make the Conference an annual event. 


Topalian expressed satisfaction with many of the results of the show.  'We accomplished what we set out to do in many ways,' he said.  'We've expanded the business, attracted the trade, and become a focal point of the press, and we're pleased with that.' 


But he acknowledged that changes would have to be made next year.  'We cannot hold the show with the same amount of space,' he said.  'We are aggressively pursing additional space.'  The show had previously announced the last weekend in February as the dates for 2007.  He said that Reed's #1 goal would be to seek expansion on those previously announced dates, which don't conflict with any other major shows, including Megacon. 



Exhibitors and dealers we talked to were almost uniformly positive about the New York Comic-Con launch.  Although there was concern about the access and crowd control issues, the brisk traffic and good floor sales were better than expected by most.


The situation is somewhat analogous to the last year Anime Expo was held in Long Beach (see 'Growing Pains at Anime Expo') in 2002, when access to the exhibit hall had to be shut down to alleviate crowding, and other inconveniences were also endured.  That show was able to move to the Anaheim Convention Center in 2003, and smooth operations allowed the show to grow that year and each subsequent year (see 'Anime Expo Gets Bigger in Anaheim'). 


Although the capacity issues were unfortunate, we were very pleased with the results of the show on two fronts.  First, the industry now has the beginnings of a real, broad-based trade show.  And second, the largest city in the country (and its media capital) now has a major comic convention for the first time in decades. 


ICv2 was a sponsor of the New York Comic-Con and has other business relationships with the show, including the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference, which was held in conjunction with the show.