By Michael O'Connell Posted February 10, 2009, 1:45 PM EST
Fanboys and fangirls flocked to the Jacob Javits Center last weekend to catch glimpses of upcoming films, buy new and rare merchandise, and mingle with their brethren at New York's four-year-old incarnation of Comic Con.
Quickly becoming a venerable rival to it's larger, more established San Diego predecessor, New York Comic Con has grown from 33,000 attendees in 2006 to an estimated 77,000 over it's three day run this month—a 15 percent increase from last year’s attendance. That dramatic growth has been buoyed by more involvement from television and film studios, which debut content and offer exclusive panels.
This year’s convention alone saw studios Warner Brothers and Pixar screen substantial clips from upcoming releases, Watchmen and Up, respectively. Thousands lined up for each screening and discussion, so production needed to be flawless. Show runner and vice president Lance Fensterman of Reed Exhibitions worked exclusively with KVL Audio Visual Services.
“They have stepped up to the task of building a state-of-the-art theater for our Hollywood and TV screenings,” Fensterman said in an email. “Studios expect the best, and they have delivered.”
Another key element in managing the congested, fervent crowd is staffing. Supporting Reed’s large on-site staff are a slew of volunteers the company refers to as “heroes.” Fans themselves, more than 700 applied to volunteer at the convention this year alone. Reed whittled the applicants down to a team of 300 who help direct traffic in the halls and manage the long lines for some of the more popular panels and screenings.
New York Comic Con is still a few red carpets—and about 50,000 attendees—away from giving San Diego a real run for it's money, but its ability to significantly grow attendance in a year of cutting back across the board illustrates the need it fulfills for East Coast enthusiasts.