We knew this year's Denver Comic Con was big, but we didn't know exactly how big. Early estimates saw the mile high show growing from 27,700 attendees in 2012, to 47,000 in 2013. Turns out, that number wasn't just a little bit off... MTV Geek can now exclusively tell you that attendance more than doubled at a record breaking 61,000.
By comparison, San Diego Comic-Con had about 130,000+ attendees last year, New York Comic-Con 116,000, FanExpo Canada had 91,000... And then you're getting to events like Dragon*Con, which just brushed 52,000 in it's 26th year; or this weekend's HeroesCon, a fan favorite that still only draws about 12,000 attendees. Even San Diego Comic-Con's little sister WonderCon only had 40,000 attendees.
Point being, this is big. To find out more, we chatted with Dr. Christina Angel, Convention Director for Denver Comic Con:
MTV Geek: Congrats on the big attendance! How's it feel, and what do you credit the upswing to?
Dr. Christina Angel: What’s become abundantly clear to us is that Denver was well-primed for a large-scale comic con. Last year, we honestly expected a turnout of about 15,000 and would have been over the moon with that number because it was so far beyond what we planned for. When the traffic turned out to be well over 27,000, we were simply stunned (and thrilled, of course).
So, with this year’s 61,000, I am all but speechless. Our 2013 presales were incredibly strong, and we knew that we had tapped into a powerful fan base and interest. We attribute this largely to the unique blend of people who live in Denver – there’s a strong sense of community and geek culture here, but also, the comic con “thing” is hot all around the country right now. I don’t have statistics, but I know that cons everywhere are experiencing record turnouts. I think nerd-dom has really gone mainstream in the last few years.
Geek: What was the response like from vendors? We certainly heard about good sales from the comic book folks, but I'm curious to hear from your perspective.
Angel: The responses I got from vendors was overwhelmingly positive; most of them sold the bulk of what they brought (many reporting selling out their inventories) and the presales for next year’s vendor spaces are through the roof, with many folks securing their space for 2014 already.
Geek: It also seemed to be the most "family friendly" Con I've been to, at least... Do you think that affected the size of the crowds?
Angel: We’d like to think so, yes. Because we are an educational nonprofit for children, it’s very important to us that we include kids’ activities and programming and make the experience one for the entire family. Additionally, because we’re all nerds too, we know how crucial it is that places like comic cons are as inclusive as they can be – all are welcome. I don’t have numbers yet on the under-10 crowd, but I know it was quite high and they are definitely a factor that affects our attendance numbers. We couldn’t be happier to be helping parents raise a new generation of comics and pop culture nerds!
Geek: On a less positive note, there were traffic issues throughout the con, as well, leading to some disgruntled fans and long lines... How do you think that affected attendance, and do you have plans in place for next year?
Angel: I’m sure the situation, particularly on Friday, affected our attendance numbers negatively; however, given the capacity sellout numbers, I’m now unsure that we could have admitted very many more people than we did. Despite all of our “on paper” plans, we didn’t predict the crowds accordingly and next year will absolutely will. We clearly had some crowd control issues, but we adapted throughout the weekend, and I’m sure people saw a big difference between Friday and Sunday. Next year, we’ll initiate a new and improved badge and ticket system (to be determined, but talks are well under way already) and we’ll be better prepared for the masses, both with our team and our security service.
Geek: Lastly, biggest success story from the Con? Or lesson learned for 2014?
Angel: For me, this is twofold: clearly it’s a success to draw at least 61,000 people to our con in Denver in and of itself. If you had told me three years ago, when we began this project in earnest, that we would have 61,000 people in our second year, I would have considered it impossible to dream so big. But for the con experience, I think one of the greatest moments was when William Shatner read to the kids in the CBC Corral. It was an honor to host him, and the kids who experienced his reading of Where the Wild Things Are might not have known it, but they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event that I hope they’ll always remember.
We’re so privileged that so many people want to support Denver Comic Con and Comic Book Classroom. It’s our literacy project, born in a geek’s basement and dreamed to life by a group of friends who could not have imagined this kind of success at the time.
Denver Comic Con 2014 will be held June 13-15, 2014.