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Do you feel lucky?

November 29, 2012

So, I just got an email from Fan Expo.

They know my email because now the only real way to get a 4-day pass is to buy online. They’re basically sold out months before the event, so you’ll never get one the day of the event.

They’ve since dropped the offensive habit of forcing you to fill out a questionnaire that includes your full address, email, and phone number in order to purchase a ticket and gain entry. Or maybe they haven’t. I don’t know, since I’ve bought online for the last 3 years. This robs me of the opportunity to lie like crazy…I’ve alternately listed my name as “Luke Cage”, “Daniel Rand”, “Alex Murphy”, and “Malcolm Reynolds”, and listed my address as 2571 Yonge St. I have no idea who actually lives there, but they’ve received snail mail meant for Power Man and Iron Fist, Robocop, and the Captain of the Serenity.

But I digress.

The email from Fan Expo gives the following information:

  • Fan Expo will be held on Aug 22-25, 2013.
  • They are renting the entire Metro Convention Center, North and South buildings.
  • They are selling 300 $99 4-day Deluxe Passes that don’t guarantee entry into the building during peak hours.
  • They are also selling 200 $149 4-day Premium Packages that also don’t guarantee entry into the building during peak hours, but you get to bypass the main line for an exclusive entrance, and also get access to “The Lounge”, where presumably you will be able to rub shoulders with the actual guests. You also get a few items of swag.
  • These 500 tickets will remain on sale until December 25, 11:59 pm.
  • If you order prior to December 12, 11:59, you will get a Xmas card mailed to you in time for…well, Xmas.
  • The price doesn’t include access to additional special events.
  • They have not announced any guests yet.

Since I haven’t yet bought a ticket, I can’t comment on any service charges or shipping fees.

The math works out to $59,500, if all tickets are sold between now and Xmas.

This is probably a down-payment on renting the facility itself.

Which seems reasonable. Until you look at the layout of the Convention Center itself.

Train tracks bisect the two buildings, and it’s a bit of a maze to get from one to the other. Actually, it’s a nightmare. The best way is to leave the Convention Center itself and either take the bridge off Front and John that gets you to the CN Tower and Rogers Center, or go down Simcoe St.

Fan Expo is actually multiple conventions rolled into one, organized by genre. There’s a horror convention sponsored by Rue Morgue, along with seperate comic, anime, gaming, and science-fiction film conventions.

So, the question is how will it be split up between buildings?

The sci-fi film and horror components are by far the largest draws, with heavy-duty film stars and producers showing up year after year. I’ve met Malcolm McDowell, Carrie Fisher, Christine Hendricks, Lee Majors, and many others at these events. John Carpenter, Christopher Lloyd, Leslie Nielsen, the entire cast of most of the various Star Trek and Stargate series, and stars from the Harry Potter and Eclipse franchises have shown up.

Everybody except Wil Wheaton. Give the Big Smoke some love, dude!!

Will they put all the heavy media events like horror, sci-fi and gaming in the North or South building?

I’m betting the North building. The South building is bigger, but the North is on Front Street, so they can have multiple entrances and possibly even block the street off on the weekend.

Either way, you’re paying roughly the same as last year for twice the headache. Having to navigate between buildings means potentially having to exit one building to line up to enter another.

The other bizarre thing about this email is that there is only 500 advance 4-day passes being offered up. Given that they boast over 100,000 in attendance records, I can’t seriously believe these are the only 4-day passes that will be offered. Forcing 95,500 other people to pay by the day isn’t going to happen. It would be total anarchy. So, what’s probably really being offered is a lowered price, and 4-day passes closer to the event will be priced higher.

Fan Expo has literally exploded in popularity over the last 4 years, and the growing pains associated with it have left a lot of frustrated fans.

I’m one of them.

The crowd control has been awful. The security has been draconian. The comics guest programming has been poor for years. Rules regarding where you can line up and the additional ticket lotteries for certain lines hasn’t been communicated properly and mis-managed. There’s been an abnormal amount of last-minute guest cancellations in recent years. Guests have been advertised as being present at the con, but have never actually been in their chairs. Sketch and autograph prices have become astronomical. I have some real privacy concerns regarding the amount of information I must divulge just for the ‘privilege’ of allowing me entry.

Let’s be fair about this, too. In the summer, renting the Convention Center is your only option (the CNE grounds are tied up in preparation for or the actual Exhibition itself). Nothing else in TO is big enough. Cancellations do happen. Fan Expo doesn’t necessarily have control over how the guests price themselves. And demand for certain guests forces them to hold a first-come, first-served lottery system to stave off chaos. They are a growing convention, and for the next few years, they’re going to be learning how to ‘go big’.

And Fan Expo isn’t the only convention in Toronto that doesn’t get 5/5 stars. Wizard World cons are deeply expensive and very uneven. Even TCAF, arguably the best of the bunch, is experiencing issues with crowds.

My point is that Fan Expo is making the same mistakes repeatedly.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen better programming at the Montreal convention that happens a few weeks after Fan Expo (last year, they had Mike Mignola, Jim Starlin, many other comics industry greats, and yes! Wil Wheaton!!). I’m seriously considering making that my alternative to Fan Expo, even though travel and accomodation works out to more money.

So the real question becomes: are you willing to gamble $99 or $149 on programming that hasn’t been revealed yet, given the poor quality of the convention over the last few years?

Fan Expo, if you really want me to pay a premium price early, you need to put guaranteed re-entry on the ticket.

What you’re really buying is a lottery ticket.

Do you feel lucky?

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