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Comic-Con: Hollywood’s Woodstock?

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Comic-Con. After years of hearing about it I finally decided to go down and cover the event, see if I could figure out what it’s all about and why it’s so important to Hollywood.

There are literally thousands of things to do at Comic-Con and I’ll go through a few of the highlights, give you a taste of the event.

It’s big. One hundred twenty-six thousand big. Fragmentation of the viewing audience is a growing concern but this event aggregates massive crowds, it fills San Diego to capacity and then some. As Cannes is to independent films, the Con is to commercial films and TV shows.

People. Comic-Con is all about the people, about giving fans a chance to sit in the same room as the creators and stars of their favorite film or TV show. In walking around the cavernous San Diego Convention Center I would frequently hear ear-piercing screams coming from inside this room or that, a reminder of the fantastic power of entertainment.

Woodstock. Comic-Con has become the Woodstock of Hollywood because it is a massive crowd with a joyful vibe, people stand patiently in hours-long lines while others walk around with signs saying “Free Hugs”.  There’s a diverse array of costumes, painted faces and other personal statements and I really enjoyed seeing the passion of the fans, the pure, unrestrained love of content. A main goal of any creative is to evoke emotion in the audience and the audiences I saw were overflowing in it, filled with joy at the rare opportunity to reach through the screen and connect with their favorites.

Five days. The convention begins with Preview Night on Wednesday and ends with Kids Day on Sunday. I arrived on Friday and two things made it seem as though I had not in fact left Los Angeles: a red carpet awards show and a rooftop agency party. The red carpet event was for the Awards and included Rob Lowe, LL Cool J and John Oliver. The late-night party was courtesy of UTA in partnership with Electronic Arts and Starlight Runner Entertainment and included Seth Rogen, Bill Hader and a number of folks from HBO and Showtime.

On Saturday I went to a Comedy Central party at the House of Blues, where they showcased upcoming talent and shows and had a special appearance by Chris Parnell as Tom Brokaw and Horatio Sanz as Aaron Neville, the latter singing most of his answers.

On Sunday, I attended a preview of The Hub, the cross-platform joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery. President of Hasbro Studios and HRTS member Steve Davis made it very easy to find his presentation, with a 17-foot Optimus Prime standing guard out front. Inside the Marriott ballroom were lots of parents and children, all happily checking out the Fraggle exhibits and picking up their G.I. Joe Cobra badges.

In terms of studio and network presence, WBTV in particular went all out, collaborating with TV Guide on a special issue of the magazine then having presentations on every single day of the convention. Disney/ABC also deserve kudos for their promotional efforts, for every event I received advance emails, RSVPs were answered almost instantly and press releases went out in real-time after the closing of a presentation. Clockwork efficiency, very impressive.

As for the future, I’ve just read that the Preview Night passes for Comic-Con 2011 have already sold out, a full year in advance…which leads me to agree with those who say that the Con has outgrown San Diego and should be relocated to larger digs. I think that trying to cram 126,000 people into an already-crowded Downtown LA would be a logistical nightmare and that Anaheim is a better option. Anaheim certainly has the hotel space and logistical support, it would save the studios and networks a fortune in overnight costs, and Orange County is not far from either LA or San Diego. If there’s going to be a concerted Hollywood push to move the Con then I think that Anaheim fits the bill in every way.

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