Online is spotty here so its the first time we’ve had to post. First off, the new Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Convention Center is a swanky venue, right across the street from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Having everyone in one big room is definitely a welcome move, and there are more exhibitors than ever before.
The room appeared crowded from 2:00 on, and there wasn’t a lot of dead air. Most everyone we spoke with was optimistic about the new setting, although the most often heard comment was “We won’t know until Sunday.” Although the room appeared busy, comments from exhibitors were mixed, with some saying they did well, and others claiming a slow day.
Panels are being held in a UN like auditorium: every seat has a power outlet, a glass, a pad and paper, and some kind of modem outlet. The A/V set-up at this hotel is among the most sophisticated we have ever seen, clearly meant for high level conferences. The comics events have gone over well, but it’s DEFINITELY lot a new kind of place to gab about comics.
Our own opinion is that this move to a new, modern convention facility is a good move for SPX. The show received a good amount of local press, including a nice write up in WaPo, and while it’s clearly a transitional year, the state-of-the-art venue is the kind of classy place comics need to be seen in, and provides a platform for the show to grow.
So far the tale of the tape:
Minus: the charms of downtown Bethesda are definitely missing. Ah, Faryab! The nearest restaurants are a well known McFast food chain, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, and a Japanese/Chinese strip mall outpost. All except the first have been judged “adequate,” but the range and variety of top notch dining near the old location is sadly missed
Plus: The hotel serves Starbucks and there is a Dunkin Donuts nearby. The bar is big and roomy and stays open late, and has a huge outside balcony for catching some fresh air or a smoke.
Minus: One big room makes it harder to avoid people you don’t want to see.
Plus: One big room gives everyone fairly equal exposure, and the room layout has the big publisher booths scattered around in a pattern that ensures you must go through every aisle.
Minus: There is ethernet in the rooms and wifi in the lobby, meaning you must pay $20 for access throughout the hotel. WE CALL SHENANIGANS!
Plus: The hotel bar has an excellent and reasonable wine list.
Plus: The hotel rooms bathroom counters are HUGE, easily accomodating toiletries for two people.
Minus: Most SPXers crowd eight to a room.
Other events in the hotel include a botox convention, a church group meeting, the Lockheed board meeting, a bar mitzvah and some kind of Japanese wedding. The cartooners are easily recognizable in the crowd.