Phoenix Comicon 2017 Interview

Recently I spoke with Kristin Rowan, Marking Manager for Phoenix Comicon about what fans can look forward to at the show this year. The convention has fast become one of the largest Comic Conventions going and attracts not only huge audiences but one of the largest collections of Pop Culture talent and Hollywood stars going.

What can you tell us about what is new for the show this year?

We have so many exciting things happening this year. We have expanded our space on the third floor and added a virtual gaming area. We are expanding our table-top gaming over at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We’re also working on a bigger and better outdoor event on 3rd Street and Adams Street with live music, vendors, and lots of activities. In addition to our annual events, including the Film Festival, Youth Programming, and Celebrity Panels, we think this will be our best year yet.

The show has really grown in the last few years to be one of the larger Comicons. To what do you attribute this growth and how do you balance the growth with remaining true to your core principals and fan expectations?

There are several factors that attribute to our rapid growth. We have an amazing fan base who have supported us for years. The geek culture has really become more mainstream recently, so there’s a whole new audience for what we do. And we have an amazing staff that keeps us focused on our core values. The balancing act is one that we maintain together with constant feedback from our fans.

Some of the changes for this year have met with a mixed reaction when first announced. How do you balance the business needs of the show with fan expectations as despite being a fan event, there is a business side of things that must be maintained.

We recognize that the first announcement we made about staffing changes could have been handled much better, and the second announcement we made should have been our first. We also understand that change is difficult and will always be met with some resistance. We do try whenever possible to make decisions that are best for our fans and for the business, such as our new website, new event app, and free lanyards for every full event purchase. Sometimes, that is not possible and our priority has to be maintaining the business so we can continue to bring you these great events every year.

What can you tell us about the guests planned for this year as well as the selection process and how the timing of guests announcements are made?

We already have a pretty great line-up of guests we’ve already announced. We have three actors from ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Jason David Frank from Power Rangers, some stellar comic guests including Jim Shooter, Joe Rubinstein, and Jae Lee. We also have about 30 guests we are getting ready to announce in the coming weeks. As for the selection process and timing, the short answer is, we can’t comment. We have to honor the wishes of the guests if they are not ready to promote, and we can’t announce a guest until we have a signed contract.

How many people do you expect to attend this year?

We had a little more than 106,000 unique attendees last year and we expect about the same number or a little higher this year.

Despite even more areas of the center being open last year for the show, I heard some people say they think the show has become too big for the Convention Center. What would you say in response to this and what do you plan to do in order to cover the future growth of the show?

We actually don’t use all the space the Convention Center has available, and we’ve added about 57,000 square feet this year. There is still room to grow and we continue to expand as the needs of our show demands.

Last year the outdoor entertainment was a larger part of the show, how will that be handled this year?

We are still working out the details for our outdoor show, but expect it to be bigger and better than before.

What are some of the changes guests will see this year based on feedback you have received?

We are streamlining our guest check-in procedure and we will be mailing badges to anyone who purchases a badge this year between February 15th and April 15th, so those attendees will not have to wait in line at registration. The lines will be much shorter for everyone. We are also updating many of our internal processes and working with 3rd parties to make every process run more smoothly. We have small changes every year based on the feedback we get after every show. Some are more noticeable than others, but we try to make sure every change we make is for the benefit of the show and the attendees.

With so many cities doing cons now, what do you attribute your continued success to, and do you plan to incorporate film and television studios directly into the show as other shows have done?

Again, we have amazing attendees who have supported us, along with the downtown businesses and other local organizations. We’d love to work more closely with film and TV studios, though they typically only support SDCC and NYCC.

What can you tell us about the charitable aspects of the show?

Phoenix Comicon has been a proud partner with Kids Need to Read for many years. We work with them every year to make our charitable efforts bigger and better than the year before. Last year, we donated 100% of the sale price of our first 100 Fast Passes to Kids Need to Read, which was $25,000. We offer Kids Need to Read a booth at our shows, and they participate in a lot of our youth programming. This year, we are also sponsoring a reading challenge with some of the public schools that work with Kids Need to Read. Participants will receive a complimentary 1-day pass to Phoenix Comicon.

In addition to our selected charity, Phoenix Comicon works with many local agencies and non-profit organization and offers complimentary badges to groups like Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, first responders (fire and police personnel), members of the military, Child Help, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, and many more.

What are some of the long term plans for the show going forward?

We always continue to make improvements to how we operate and in the content we provide. That process will continue in years to come.

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