Friday, 10 April 2015

Big Guests at Cons

Big Guests, a good thing or bad thing?

Showmasters' latest forum post about a 'Big' guest announcement next week for this years London Film & Comic Con has prompted some thoughts.

Showmasters have something of a track record for over hyping guest announcements for their events, once or twice 'for fun' they have hyped up an announcement leading people to expect a huge guest leaving many people disappointed when the announcement is finally made. This means that many now take any such 'announcement' with a pinch of salt. This time though I suspect, as for Stan Lee last year, that this really will be an incredible guest. Of course no matter who it is, there will always be people who argue that they are not in fact a 'big guest' and that they are disappointed with the announcement and there will be others who will be overjoyed.

However, there are some 'warnings' within the post that are worthy of discussion. It is clear that this is genuinely an 'A list' guest. Although LFCC has a track record of 'big' guests, they have not had many genuine A listers over the years, nor many really BIG Hollywood stars. I suspect that this guest will tick both of those boxes, it is the 'biggest, rarest guest announcement' showmasters have ever had. 

Is this a good thing though?

It is clear that the only way to get an autograph from this guest is to purchase a Diamond Pass, which will be available in very limited numbers. They will also likely be far more expensive than anything Showmasters have ever had before. Comments on various forums are speculating that something above £400 is likely and I don't disagree with that, it might be much more, though it won't stray into 4 figures. Also with a very limited number of passes available for this guest, only a very few people who can afford that price will get to get an autograph. Who ever it is there will be many people left disappointed as they simply won't be able to afford the cost of this pass.

This guest is almost certainly going to be tucked away behind 'closed doors' with a heavy security team so it won't be someone that everyone can see simply by wandering around the event so for many, if not most people attending, all this guest means is more crowds, more queuing and inflated entrance prices. 

For the traders it means that although there are more people at the event, they have less money to spend on buying stuff, this was noticeable last year where though incredibly crowded, you literally couldn't move on the Saturday, many people were simply trying to make their way past the stalls to the signing areas, not even bothering to browse. As stall pitch fees have also increased substantially the nature of this event is fundamentally changing.

So, there are certainly downsides to getting 'BIG' guests. They increase prices overall, they increase crowding and inconvenience, only a select few are actually going to be able to meet/see the guest etc. etc. The LFCC events have changed over the last few years as they get bigger, it's now something of an 'ordeal' to attend on the Saturday, no longer quite as much 'fun' (for some) as it used to be. Many traders report lower takes, not higher, and some traders are abandoning the event (though equally some also do very well) - of those stalls there are, there are less of the quirky, small independent stalls and more stalls stocking essentially the same thing as everyone else. Many are upset at this and, after last years queuing disaster have said enough is enough and are not going to go this year.

HOWEVER, there are so many cons and events now in the UK that there are plenty of alternative events. If you want a relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere with space to enjoy the cosplay and browse the stalls then there are plenty of other events that offer that. LSCC in particular comes to mind. BUT what LFCC is now beginning to offer is unique in the UK and potentially in Europe, it is beginning to approach the standard of the big US cons in terms of the guests and 'exclusives' they are getting. The attendance is increasing and hence the big studios are more likely to oblige with 'panels' and screenings, you can now see 'guests' in the UK that might only otherwise appear at US events and the number of guests now at LFCC means that there will be someone for everyone. 

So although as a fan and as a trader I do have some negative thoughts about the way LFCC is changing, the crowding, queuing, change of atmosphere, lack of money in people's pockets to spend on stalls etc. I do think overall that the direction that LFCC is going can only be a good thing for UK con goers, it offers something that no other UK event offers and more choice and the ability to go to such an event in the UK rather than having to travel to the US, can only be positive.

So I wait with interest for this 'announcement' - I do have my own thoughts as to who it might be, but I'll probably be wrong, and people will be both amazed and disappointed by the announcement, but I do think it might be a bit special.. time will tell.

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