Top 100 Events in the United States 2016

The annual award shows, benefits, and other gatherings in the U.S. that set the standard for the event industry.

San Diego #1 Entertainment Industry Event About 130,000 fans of pop culture gather in San Diego to get sneak previews, buy merchandise, and celebrate their favorite entertainment. Most of the activities—including panel discussions, parties, and autograph sessions—take place in and near the San Diego Convention Center, where more than 900 exhibitors showcase their products and services in 615,700 square feet of exhibit space. Among the popular attractions this year were activations and exhibits for Star Trek, The Walking Dead, South Park, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Mr. Robot, Suicide Squad, and American Horror Story, the latter three of which incorporated virtual reality in their experiences. In 2016, the event added “tap-in, tap-out” electronic detectors at the convention center to prevent fraudulent use of admission badges. Comic-Con International also launched its own Web channel, Comic-Con HQ, which debuted a stand-alone, outdoor programming hub that was open to the public. Next: July 20-23, 2017
San Diego
#1 Entertainment Industry Event
About 130,000 fans of pop culture gather in San Diego to get sneak previews, buy merchandise, and celebrate their favorite entertainment. Most of the activities—including panel discussions, parties, and autograph sessions—take place in and near the San Diego Convention Center, where more than 900 exhibitors showcase their products and services in 615,700 square feet of exhibit space. Among the popular attractions this year were activations and exhibits for Star Trek, The Walking Dead, South Park, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Mr. Robot, Suicide Squad, and American Horror Story, the latter three of which incorporated virtual reality in their experiences. In 2016, the event added “tap-in, tap-out” electronic detectors at the convention center to prevent fraudulent use of admission badges. Comic-Con International also launched its own Web channel, Comic-Con HQ, which debuted a stand-alone, outdoor programming hub that was open to the public. Next: July 20-23, 2017
Photo: Courtesy of USA Network

A key theme running through the list of the top 100 events in the United States is evolution. Events like South by Southwest, which originated as a music festival, now include film, tech, and trade show components that when taken together defy categorization. Others have grown to capture the imagination of filmmakers, like the new documentary The First Monday in May inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala.

While events are meant to be experienced in person, organizers also plan for second-screen experiences on television, online, or both. But there is a noticeable shift in the public's appetite for events on television, as evidenced by Nielsen ratings. Viewership for award shows is on the decline, while audience interest in major sporting events is still robust, with this year's Super Bowl breaking ratings records.

Festivals continued to proliferate, as people face more festival choices that ever before, but over-saturation could reach a tipping point in the near future as quality, not quantity, becomes a "make or break" factor in attendee choices and the success of these events.

As with all lists, these are subjective. To choose and rank the annual events, we look at several factors, including economic impact, buzz, innovation, and an event’s prominence within the communities it intends to serve.

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