WonderCon goes south: is it permanent?

 WonderCon goes south: is it permanent?
Well, here we are in Anaheim, a battlefront very familiar to veterans of the Anime Expo, Wizard World Anaheim, and many other campaigns. But it’s a new setting for WonderCon veterans…and The Beat. You’ll recall that WonderCon is normally held in the Bay Area of Northern California. However, construction at the Moscone Center left the show dates up in the air and CCI organizers had no choice but to move it down to Anaheim.

We arrived last night to find BarCon chewing over two pieces of speculation:

a) This is a test run for a permanent move for WonderCon to Anaheim.

b) This is a test run to move CCI: San Diego to Anaheim if the SD Convention Center expansion plan doesn’t move forward.

Both rumors make sense from a certain perspective. Moscone Center officials have been incredibly uncooperative with WonderCon over the years. According to CCI’s David Glanzer, they can’t get dates more than six months out, which is insulting, frankly.

Currently it’s been challenging as we can’t secure dates with a longer lead time than six months. As any exhibitor knows, six months isn’t really convenient to planning your year. We hope to get dates with a longer lead time, and when that happens I think you’ll hear the announcement very quickly. So, basically, once we know, we’ll let everyone know.


We’ve never heard a concrete reason for the Moscone’s antipathy towards WonderCon aside from them not liking consumer shows in general.

On the other side, you have the Anaheim Convention Center which is not only big enough for San Diego, but has been aggressively wooing Comic-Con for years. The CCI crew has toured the Anaheim facilities many times over the years, and why wouldn’t they want to try out the welcoming harbor of a facility that actually wanted their business?

Despite all this circumstantial evidence, the talk from those close to the situation here is that this isn’t a trial run for anything: it’s just a show that has moved to a different city for a year. The intention is to return to San Francisco—IF it can be worked out with Moscone.

Even if that is the case, an interested observer—such as The Beat—can’t help but complete a mental site check. Plenty of affordable hotels? Check. Broad, palm tree-lined avenues down which people cosplaying as Mara Jade could stride? Check. Chic, boutique hotels and bars where production companies can throw parties? Not yet check, although we did trek over to Downtown Disney for a top-notch meal with some peeps from Dark Horse and comiXology last night. Anaheim will always be Anaheim….that’s just the way it is.

One thing we have noticed: The Hilton Anaheim’s lobby is so huge that you need to be specific where you are meeting. Also, the show overwhelmed the lone Starbucks in the lobby. Supposedly they had had to cap the line this morning as it was nearly 50 people. And us without our Ca Phe Sua OR Aeropress.

In a radical change from our usual convention experiences, we noted many hardships in getting food and coffee at the venue. The food was edible and fresh, but there were only a few places to get it, and long lines.

We never did get a cup of coffee.

The show floor is enormous…way bigger than last year’s show, with spacious aisles. The crowd on Friday was good; sales were all over the place as they usually are for a Friday. Some had better than SF sales. Others had far worse sales.

Sometimes it depends on the product.

More on the ground as it develops.

 WonderCon goes south: is it permanent?

Comments

  1. Still maintain that WonderCon just gave up on the bay area. It’s more than just San Francisco, people! If comicCon.org gave it a half-hearted try, I’m sure that San José or Oakland would’ve been just as good.

    But, they’re just addicts to hollywood.

    For a non-profit, they do seem to care only about the Benjamins and not much else.

  2. Secret Identity says:

    @Michael Really? Have you been to the Oakland center lately? In terms of size it would be a good fit for APE but for WonderCon? C’mon get real. And half-hearted attempt? What did you want them to do? Force San Jose to move another event for them? If a building doesn’t have dates available, it doesn’t have dates… sheesh

  3. uthur says:

    any chance you could just ask the CCI people? or do we get to read endless, ill informed speculation from The Beat?

    never mind…

  4. @Secret Identity, Wonder Con did start in oakland. And if ComicCon really wanted to go south, they could’ve used any excuse to do so and not really worked on any solution.

    WonderCon should’ve just died when the original organizers couldn’t do it anymore.

  5. Option C) If successful, perhaps a 4th convention is added for Anaheim behind APE, SDCC, and WC.

    Many of my friends in the Bay Area didn’t make the trip down to Anaheim since we already spend the money going to SDCC while WC was our local cheap con (no hotel rooms needed). And while it is speculation, right or wrong, many of us are waiting for that other shoe to drop after the con with the press release saying how successful Anaheim was and that the move is now permanent. We shall see.

    Yes, the Moscone could do a better job and, after Image Expo a few weeks back, it was hard to imagine that WC was once in the same location 12 years ago. Clearly, they’ve outgrown that space. But there are other venues and other options in the Bay Area if the Comic Con people scratched a little deeper. Perhaps not ideal long term choices but the Cow Palace could have been a good one year fix. And then in the San Jose convention center which the Big Wow! Con is poised to utilize as it grows.

    Option C above is one I could live with. But perhaps a future regular Anaheim con will become my replacement con for SDCC since I’ll be cutting San Diego loose after this summer after 24 straight years. But if WC continues the SDCC model of rapid growth fueled by more Hollywood panels, I may phase that out as well. At some point, as the expenses climb but the comic book and fan experience drops, I’m better off using my funds going to an Emerald Con or a Heroes Con or traveling to another country for some new experiences rather than paying for the privilege of waiting in lines.

  6. I’ve heard various rumors, but the biggest one is that WonderCon just doesn’t get enough out-of-towners, and the hotels and restaurants don’t get as much business since everyone just goes home afterwards. The city doesn’t make much tax money on the con, so they’re trying to get rid of it.

  7. bad wolf says:

    It would be great if they started a Hollywood-centric con in Anaheim or Vegas to absorb that crowd; but i doubt SDCC would want to give up their infinite growth. I just miss the comic-centric cons (WC, SDCC) of just a few years past!

  8. Todd Allen says:

    I have heard from people that would know that Moscone _does_ tie hotel occupancy to it’s shows. That may be a problem.

  9. Secret Identity says:

    @Todd That’s what I hear too. They say that since Wondercon only takes one hotel that their numbers can’t be right. But I’ve also heard people say that they stay at cheaper hotels all throughout San Francisco when the main hotel sells out.
    But there is no way to track those other people. So maybe its a catch 22

  10. Anyone who thinks CCI’s move of WonderCon to SoCal isn’t (a) motivated by greed and (b) permanent is naive, pure and simple.

    I’ve put thousands of dollars in the pockets of artists and vendors at WonderCon over the past decade. But I guess CCI doesn’t need my money, and doesn’t think their exhibitors do either.

    I hope they’re right.

  11. arrowshaft says:

    It should have been held back in Oakland Ca..
    Now I will go to the Big WOW! ComicFest in San Jose, California May 19th & 20th and skip on wonder con.

  12. It’s the end of the day for WonderCon day 2 and the crowds are still heavy, visually this has the marks of a sucessful show. I don’t know the production numbers to weigh it against, but it’s easy to see them keeping this location, especially at this time in the season (early spring).

  13. Mpneeb says:

    If SF sees a problem with people not staying in SF hotels, it’s probably because they all got hotels in cities along the BART lines and are commuting in.
    I love SF, but it’s crushingly expensive. San Bruno or Fremont? Not so much.

  14. Heard a pretty high up CCI staffer talking with a retailer that CCI is very happy with the turnout, that most retailers seem to be happy, and creating an additional Con for Anaheim seems to be high up on the minds of CCI.

  15. P.S. There’s a lesser-known Starbucks in the Marriott. Got a cup of coffee around 8:30am with 5 people in line.

  16. Ah, Springtime and the yearly promulgations of the comicsratti over CCI possibly permanently moving their Cons to a new locale—WONDERCON edition this time out, since Comic-Con IS staying in San Diego until 2015…

    Pass the popcorn.

  17. Secret Identity says:

    @ed LOL You’re right. I remember and probably took part in all the hoopla about CCI moving to LA, then Anaheim, then Las Vegas. In the end they stayed in San Diego. It’ll be interesting to see where Wondercon settles after all this.

  18. Gianluca Glazer says:

    “The show floor is enormous…way bigger than last year’s show, with spacious aisles.”

    Really? I thought it was rather small compared to WonderCon’s of years past. I’m sure the crowds are good but I got the feeling that a lot of folks opted out of exhibiting at WonderCon this year. Marvel, Archaia, IDW and BOOM! Studios were there but there didn’t seem to be any other publishers, big or small in attendance.

  19. ^ Off the top of my head, there was also DC, Aspen, SLG, Avatar, Viz, and Bongo.

  20. Bardo Ambriz says:

    the crowds were nutso, and sunday was shockingly busy. All I have to say is that if it moves down here to SoCal, well I more than welcome it. the vendors were selling, artists were busy and happy for it, and the crowd was enthusiastic, I see no losers here

  21. I didn’t much care for it. As soon as you get off the I5, Katella Ave becomes a parking lot. IT TOOK ONE FREAKIN’ HOUR JUST TO GET TO THE DESIGNATED PARKING LOT!

    Disneyland crowds – just can’t deal with ‘em.

    EPIC FAIL.

    Back to Frisco please.

    ~

    Coat

  22. Neanderthal says:

    I have gone to WonderCon since the days in Oakland. WonderCon in Oakland would not work. It is too small. WonderCon in Cow Palace? I don’t think so. Who other than locals would go to a con at the Cow Palace. No hotels nearby and no after hours activity. Moscone’s treatment of WonderCon is shameful. Anaheim’s WonderCon was spaceous, well attended by dealers, publishers, and artist alley participants. Hollywood seemed like just another player without being overwhelming at all. I don’t see why there can’t be a WonderCon North in the Spring, CCI in the Summer, and WonderCon South in the Fall. And keep APE nice and small and as is.

  23. The article talked about Starbucks in Hilton… just wanted to put my 2 cents. The Marriott next door which is 2 more minutes walk than Hilton has a Starbucks inside as well. It is funny the Marriott’s Starbucks has no lines, but Hilton is jam-packed. Obviously, Hilton’s advantage is right in front of the convention center while Marriott is a bit on the side.

  24. Vera in CA says:

    Cary — try STAYING there instead. We stayed 2 blocks away and had NO trouble with traffic.

    bbb = both hotels are EACH in front of the conv ctr, just different parts of it. Actually the Marriott is physically closer to Hall D where Wondercon was held.

    I have gone to Wondercon every year, from WC#1 in Oakland, pre-CCI days. I don’t care who runs it or where it is. Since I live in LA now, I have spent the money, made the trip and STAYED IN THE HOTELS (important!) every year. I also go to SDCC every year. I willingly shell out money to travel to both.

    All the locals who are complaining (and I am originally from the SFBA), you are digging SF-Wondercon’s yourselves, by not using room-nights. Moscone center DOES tie in with room-night minimum requirements. If the venue and C&VB sees that Wondercon is not producing enough hotel revenue, they are not going to treat WC seriously.

    You say it’s all about money? Well, um, yeah, it is. Artists and companies need sales to make their travel and exhibit space at the show profitable. Every artist I talked to in Anaheim was pleased with sales and enthusiastic about returning if it is in Anaheim.

    Please, it’s not naivete or conspiracy, it’s a fact of life. I am not going to be surprised AT ALL if WC remains in Anaheim — more hotel rooms are used, there is a wider range of them with better prices, and more vendors and artists will come on board with better sales.

  25. Vera in CA says:

    digging WC’s *grave* yourselves — word eaten.

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