With San Diego Comic Con around the corner, many pop culture fans are getting ready by standing in lines at the D23 Expo and they aren’t happy.
Lines are a part of life at most major and mid-major conventions. There’s a line to get in, a line for exclusive merchandise, a line for the bathroom, a line for panels, and a line to get autographs. In the case of SDCC, there are even lines for a chance to wait in more lines. While D23 2017 has been a big success so far, there are still lots of people who feel like D23 has a long way to go when it comes to managing large numbers of people.
You’d think that a convention run by the people who invented lines, namely Disney, would be masters of the queue. You’d think that they would know exactly how to manage the fans who camp out two days before the event begins. You’d think they would have a plan to accommodate more than 7000 people for highly anticipated panels when there are over 65000 people in attendance.
When I attended D23 in 2015, I got in the Exhibit Hall line at 7am with my badge in hand and didn’t get inside the expo until 11am. The event opened at 9. Two years later all of the Disney awesomeness is overshadowed by the same problem with crowd control, line management and inability to get into panels or score merchandise without camping the night before. This experience (coupled with the fact that it has been an issue since the convention’s inception back in 2009) has led to many fans walking away from D23 entirely because of these lines.
D23 isn’t alone with this challenge. SDCC has been dealing with lines for the better part of a decade. Prior to 2007, attendees could move freely on the convention floor and access almost any panel, even those in Hall H. Camping was not necessary.
These days, conventions are a thing. Fans flock to pop culture conventions like D23, GenCon, BlizzCon,Star Wars Celebration, SDCC and New York Comic Con in record numbers, with the events often selling out in advance. Even if you expand the conventions centers where these events are housed, it’s very likely that they will remain at capacity because the demand is so high.
The surge in mid-size and smaller conventions could help with the crowds, and they do, but the big cons will always be popular because this is where the TV and movie studios roll out their big booths and exclusive swag. So long as the hype is there, the fervor to get in will always be there, and that means the long lines aren’t going anywhere.
The biggest lesson from D23 is that there is no perfect way to handle lines. Sure, the good folks at D23 could do a much better job managing lines, but D23 attendees also need to manage expectations. The reality is there are no guarantees anymore unless you’re willing to camp out to ensure a spot at the front of the line, and even then you must decide between exclusive merchandise and panels.
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I sympathize with people who are frustrated about long lines at D23. I myself am gearing up to hurry up and wait in lines at SDCC. But if you go into the experience knowing that the lines are part of the process, it will ease the frustration. A little, at least.