Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

 

For fans, the Star Wars Celebration conventions have become a pilgrimage. Since 1999, the gatherings have been used to celebrate movie releases and anniversaries around the world, drawing approximately 30,000-40,000 fans per event.

This year, the eighth show in the United States (the twelfth overall) was held in Orlando, Florida over Easter weekend. The big-ticket panels were a celebration of A New Hope‘s fortieth anniversary and a sneak peek at the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but aside from the buzz and excitement flooding social media, there was also anger, frustration, and disappointment.

Why? Because the convention is stuck in the 20th century.

The 2017 convention hosted the headline events in three venues: The Galaxy Stage, the Celebration Stage, and the Behind-the-Scenes Stage. The events were held live in the Galaxy Stage, located in the Valencia Ballroom, and live-streamed to audiences in the Chapin Theater (Celebration Stage) and room W304 (Behind-the-Scenes Stage).

In order to get access to these events, attendees needed wristbands, which were only available by queuing the nights before and sleeping in the convention center. Star Wars fans love lines, and have since the first film premiered in 1977, but the frustrations and anger came in how the convention organizers handled the overnight waiting period. After starting their convention camping trip at 8pm, some fans were promised through a loudspeaker announcement at 1am that everyone in line was guaranteed seats in the Galaxy Theater for the 40th anniversary panel. When it came time for their wristbands, they got screwed by line jumpers.

Based on other accounts on Twitter and Facebook, this experience is far from isolated. Here’s the thing, though. In 2017, there is no need for it.

The wristbands were also used for the other panels on the Galaxy and Celebration Stages, and attendees were able to receive two wristbands per day by choosing their top two panels across both stages. Tickets went on sale on May 25, 2016, and pre-orders were handled through the Celebration website. ReedPOP, the convention organizer, had contact information for each purchase.

Upon purchase, ReedPOP could set up simple accounts for each ticketholder, and when the schedule is finalized, ReedPOP could require each ticket holder to log in and set their Galaxy/Celebration panel priorities. Wristbands could be issued by a lottery system, and could be picked up at registration with the event badges.

Seats could be assigned, or they could be given on a first-come-first-serve basis with a queue for each panel.

No overnight camping. No line-cutting. No frustration for attendees who are paying hard-earned money to have a good time.

 

Now, let’s take it a step further.

Star Wars fans are incredibly social. Let’s say that I want to see The Last Jedi panel with my friends from various podcasts or fan groups. ReedPOP could set up the ticketholder accounts to allow grouping, and those groups would be entered in the seat lottery as one entity. The groups could be limited to twenty seats to prevent an entire group from having an unfair advantage.

 

Now, let’s go one more step.

Not counting YouTube viewers, the big-ticket events were presented to 10,264 people, or about twenty-five percent of a 40,000-person assumed attendance. According to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), the Valencia Ballroom can seat 6,000 people, the Chapin Theater can seat 2,643, and W304 can seat 1,621. It’s also a fair assumption that most (if not all) of the attendees want to see panels like the Star Wars 40th and The Last Jedi. So why not expand the seating and use the streaming capabilities to serve more fans?

Based on the stage schedules, ReedPOP had reserved eight additional rooms for scheduled events. Those rooms – W300, W303, W306A, W307, W308, W310, and W312 – house 2,600 extra seats. They could only be used for the headline panels because they’re slated for other purposes throughout the day such as podcasts, educational panels, and screenings, but for the headline panels that brings us to thirty-two percent, and virtually exhausts the West Concourse of the OCCC.

If ReedPOP could secure access to North and South Concourses, both of which are attached to the West Concourse by skybridges, they could easily open streaming access to every attendee, including ticketholders who purchase their badges at the show. The North and South Concourses can house 32,111 people each in theater mode, reaching 64,222 total.

The North and South Concourses may be a bit of a financial stretch for only two to three hours over two days, but there is another possibility in the connected hotels. Both the Rosen Centre and the Hyatt Regency Orlando are connected to the OCCC by skybridges, and both have substantial meeting capacity. Rosen has 4,000-seat capacity in their Grand Ballroom, 1,888-seat capacity in the Executive Ballroom, and 1,500-seat capacity in the Junior Ballroom, leading to a total of 7,388. The Regency has 3,120-seat capacity in their Plaza International Ballroom, 1,040-seat capacity in the Orlando Ballroom, and 832-seat capacity in the Florida Ballroom, leading to 4,992 seats total. Together, they reach 12,380.

Using the hotel ballrooms, the 10,264-seat base jumps to 22,644. If the extra West Concourse rooms are used, we come to 25,244. Between the two, around sixty percent of the audience could attend the headline panels.

 

Of course, at this point it’s time to answer the question: Why do I care?

I have wanted to travel to Celebration since they started in 1999, but I have never had the opportunity to do so. But, I’ve also been a bit spoiled by Dragon Con, a 70,000-90,000 attendee convention where lines are limited to one or two hours for big ticket panels. I’m not keen on waiting in lines for hours and hours to see a panel when there are no other options, especially when there is so much more to do at the convention. This whole logistical miscalculation has me reconsidering Celebration on the whole.

I’m also a Star Wars fan and convention attendee who has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine to sleep each night. That would prevent me from “camping out” on a concrete floor, and would also require me to be awake for 24-36 hours at a shot. While Celebration has a disability contingency that allows someone to pick up wristbands on my behalf, that’s not something I’m going to ask my wife to do for me.

Finally, that’s two nights of hotel room rental where I’m not actually using it. That’s a lot of money.

I don’t expect this blog post to be an end-all solution to Celebration 2017’s queuing woes, but it certainly shows that there is room for creative problem solving. A conflict obviously exists, and it’s evidently driving fans away. The question is what is more important to ReedPOP and Lucasfilm/Disney: Money or fans.

ReedPOP should seriously consider ditching the overnight queuing and remove a source of friction from the only official Star Wars convention that our fandom has. Celebration should live up to its name and celebrate what we love. Celebration shouldn’t include anger, frustration, and disappointment, and it certainly shouldn’t start off with it.

Dragon Con 2016

 

Dragon Con 2016
Atlanta, GA –  September 2-5, 2016

Logo_no_background

 

Thirty years of Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me, and this year will be my eighth time attending. This time around, I’m an attending professional. If you plan to attend, these are the places where you will be able to find me over Labor Day weekend.

NOTE: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

Edit for 8/29: Updated the rooms for the American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media panels for Sunday. Also updated the times for the Thursday events.

 

Thursday (it’s the new Friday)

2:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours/Q&A
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to know the best way to get from one con hotel to another? Need to learn where the food court is? If so, come on one of our walking tours and find out. Small group tours will be going out every 10-15 minutes.

8:30pm-11:00pm: Dragon Con 2016 Geek Sing-a-long
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
The only thing better than a con full of geeks is a con full of geeks singing theme songs and other geek-centric tunes! The American Sci-Fi & Fantasy Media and the American Sci-Fi Classics tracks present the second annual DragonCon Geek Sing-A-Long!

 

Friday

10:00a: Classic Sci-Fi Legends: Noel Neill, David Bowie, Alan Rickman
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Talking about classic sci-fi adjacent people who passed away this year: Noel Neill, David Bowie, Alan Rickman… it’s a long list. Thanks, 2016.
Panelists include: Kevin Eldridge, Tegan Hendrickson, Jason De La Torre

1:00p: Rocketeer!: The 25th Anniversary
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Jennifer Connelly. Jetpacks. Nazis. Celebrate the movie that has everything.
Panelists include:  John Hudgens, Gary Mitchel, Mike Faber, Daniel Griffith

 

Saturday

8:30a: Roll-a-Panel: Classic Sci-Fi Edition
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Too many classic movies & TV to cover means one thing: The crowd decides what we talk about – 20 panels in one lightning-round hour!
Panelists include: Pretty much all of the American Science Fiction Classics Track regulars

10:00a: Fantastic Mullets of Classic Sci-Fi
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Mullet aficionados and color commentary.
Panelists include: Tegan Hendrickson, Gary Mitchel, Michael Bailey

10:00p: The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show
Hyatt Regency, Regency V Ballroom
It’s the triumphant return of Dragon Con’s best-loved adults-only game show! Cum out and partake in dirty pop culture games! Impress your friends! Embarrass your family! Win fabulous prizes!

Miss Lady Flex, Phantom Troublemaker, Rad Ranger, and Popeye the Sailor Moon are returning to the greatest con in all the land to once again present the finest in sexy, dirty entertainment. Ages 18+ only.

 

Sunday

10:00a: Roll-a-Panel: The 80s
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
More specifically: 1981, 1986, and 1991, which was still the 80s, let’s be honest.
Panelists include: Pretty much all of the American Science Fiction Classics Track regulars

11:30a: Batman 1966: Atomic Batteries to 50th Bat-Anniversary
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Precisely, chums! We’re here for the 50th anniversary of the grooviest heroes and villains ever.
Panelists include: Michael Gordon, Michael Bailey, Michael French

1:00p: Marvel Cinematic Universe: Shall This Be Civil War?
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
Captain America 3 became Civil War, and we were introduced to Jessica Jones, drama with Agents of Shield/Most Wanted and the MCU. What do we think will happen with all these elements?
Panelists include: Gary Mitchel, Alice Edwards, Will Nix, Bill McIntire

7:00p: Highlander: There Can Be Only One 30th Anniversary
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
What to expect: A roomful of people singing Queen’s “Princes of the Universe.”
Panelists include: Tegan Hendrickson, Van Allen Plexico, Scott Viguie, Michael Bailey, Elizabeth Jones, Gary Mitchel, and Jessa Phillips

8:30p: The Flash: Zoom Into the Multiverse
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
Season Review – CW and DC introduce us to the Multiverse, with Zoom, Jay Garrick, and some interesting additions and losses.
Panelists include: Ryan Guthrie, Angela Pritchett, Theo Tiedemann

11:30p: The Shape, the Snake, and the Thing: The Sci-Fi Films of John Carpenter
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
You got horror in my sci-fi! You got sci-fi in my horror!
Panelists include: El Phantasmas, Gary Mitchel

 

Monday

Nothing scheduled

 

 

 

Schedule for Dragon Con 2014


Now that the full schedule has been released for Dragon Con 2014, I can tell you where I will be as a panelist for this year’s con.

 

Thursday

I will be arriving to the convention area on Thursday morning, and will hit up the registration line to get my badge and program. After that…

4pm – Dragon Con Newbies Meetup and Hotel Tour (Marriott A601 – A602)
Want to know the best way to get from one hotel to another? Need to learn where the food court is? If so, come on this walking tour and find out! I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony.

5:30pm – Dragon Con Newbies Q&A and Social (Marriott A601 – A602)
Meet fellow first time con attendees and many long time attendees in a casual setting. Ask questions and learn about the awesomeness that is Dragon Con. Again, I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony. This event is schedule for 2.5 hours, but it is not required that attendees stay the entire time. Come and go as you want.

 

Friday

10am – Dragon Con 101 (Hyatt Regency V)
Connect with fellow newbies and get helpful advice/tips from several long-time con attendees to get the most out of the Dragon Con experience. Again, I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony. This event is scheduled for 2.5 hrs, but it will be a come and go type of panel. I will be leaving about halfway through for the next event on my schedule.

11:30am – Farscape Revisited! (Hyatt Centennial I)
Check in with the stars who played favorite characters. This year’s guests are Gigi Edgley (Chiana) and Lani Tupu (Pilot/Crais). I will be facilitating the discussion with the fans by standing in the center of the room and holding the wireless microphone.

4pm – Quantum Leap 25th Anniversary (Marriott M303-M304)
Every Scott Bakula show and movie is really Sam, still leaping. Discuss. I will be joining panelists Keith R. A. DeCandido and Tegan Hendrickson.

 

Saturday

10am – Geek Year 1984: Classic Sci-fi Roll-A-Panel (Marriott M303-M304)
A 20-sided die decides which classic sci-fi TV shows or movies from 1984 this panel will geek out about. For this randomized goodness, I will be joining a large cast of geeky experts including Joe Crowe, Kevin Eldridge, Tegan Hendrickson, Michael D French, Michael Gordon, Melinda R. Mock, and Phantom Troublemaker.

5:30p – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: No Time For Love (Marriott M303-M304)
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Short Round, Club Obi Wan, and the runaway mine cart. I will be joining panelists Elizabeth Jones, Jessa Phillips, and Shaun Rosado

 

Sunday

8:30am – Batman: 75th Anniversary of Justice (Marriott M303-M304)
It’s an early morning panel! Cramming a month of awesome things about the best superhero ever into a one-hour window. I’ll be joining panelists Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, John S. Drew, Geena Phillips, and Will Price… along with a large cup of coffee.

 

The rest of the con will be spent catching up with friends and family, watching the costumes that never disappoint, and celebrating all things geek for four days. See you there!

DC2014 logo

Changes Coming at Dragon*Con

If you didn’t know, there is a community page set up on LiveJournal for Dragon*Con.  One of the threads on the page centers around the lines for pre-registration, which we all know are the nemesis of Dragon*Con.  For those not in the know, D*C has people who registered months before the event standing in line at (and around) the Sheraton for hours waiting to pick up their badges.  Once you get to the head of the line, the queue splits into individual lines for each letter of the alphabet.  The end goal is a volunteer with a binder of names on stickers, which eventually end up on your badge after they verify that you are indeed you.

After significant griping, there is hope.  On the page, Troy Bradley has made the following statement:

First off, let me put the big bullseye right in the center of my forehead now.
I am the Director of On Site Preregistration for Dragon Con.
Let me first apologize for the waits in the line this year. We were trying a new system and it obviously did not work as intended. We were also limited on how many people we were allowed to have in the building at once by the fire marshal and hotel security. This only served to add to the delay as they would not allow more people to enter until so many lanes of the cue were emptied.
We are developing a bar code system for 2011’s show. This of course means you MUST remember your post cards and if they are emailed to you, the print out with this individual bar code. If not, you will be in the main line only to be moved to the solutions line to be looked up and printed out. As it stands the plan is to have printers and scanners at each kiosk and NO MORE ALPHABET LINES. You will be in the main line and when you get to the front, you will move to the next available open kiosk to be scanned and handed your badge. This should greatly speed things up for everyone.

[…]
I hope this clears up any misconceptions about the Preregistration process as well as shows we are working to streamline and change this so it is a faster process.
Troy Bradley
Director
Dragon Con On Site Preregistration

Well, that is good news.  I’m not too peeved in particular about waiting in line in Atlanta heat, but there are some folks who understandably get very upset about it.  It looks like Dragon*Con is listening, and I appreciate it.

One other thing:  Troy Bradley also said one thing that royally pissed me off.

Please remember that the staff of Dragon Con are volunteers. They are fans like you who give their time to the convention. They are cursed at, abused, called names, and have had things thrown at them. While many waited 2 or more hours, remember also that Thursday this year alone, we were there at 9am or earlier and we did not leave until 1:30am on Friday morning and were still back again at 7:30am on Friday to work until 10:30pm on Friday evening.

In my opinion, this is unacceptable.  I’ve never volunteered at Dragon*Con for anything more than guesting on panels, but no one should ever be abused for doing their job.  I personally believe that anyone who abuses a volunteer should have their badge pulled and be asked to leave the event.  Repeat offenders should be banned.  Such people give the rest of us a bad name and do not belong at the con.

In the same vein, there are volunteers who sign up to work, get the free badge, and then never contribute an hour to the con.  They should be banned from volunteering for a year.  If they repeat the onerous performance after that, they should be banned from the con.

These may be the thoughts that keep me out of the really good schools, but good manners should be universal, as should the concept of promises and volunteering one’s time.

Dragon*Con Schedule

Here’s where I’ll be during Dragon*Con this year.

Friday
Military in Sci-Fi: 4:00p, Marriott A704
I’ll be a panelist for this discussion about the use of military in science fiction and if it is a crutch or good planning.

Saturday
The 2010 Parsec Awards: 4:00p, Hilton Regency V
The Scapecast is up for their third Parsec against some pretty stiff competition.  I’m also there to support my fellow podcasters.  The ceremony runs 2.5 hours.

“Browncoats: Redemption”: 7:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
The world premiere of a highly anticipated fan film set three months after the events of Serenity. (2.5 hours)

Mighty Fine Shindig!: 10:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
I had a lot of fun last year at this party for Browncoats.

Sunday
Scapecast Live Show: 11:30a, Hilton 204
I’ll be on the panel with my friends from the show, Kevin Bachelder, Lindy Rae, and Wendy Hembrock.

“Farscape: Uncharted Territory?” 4:00p, Hilton Regency Ballroom
Fellow Scaper Angela Dean has the opportunity to interview Ben Browder, Raelee Hill, and Virginia Hey.

Geek Radio Daily Live: 7:00p, Hilton 204
I’ve recently become a fan of GRD, and I look forward to meeting this lively bunch.  Rumor has it that Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Stargate SG-1) will be a special guest.

Imagine Greater: 8:30p, Marriott A704
I’ll be on a panel with fellow sci-fi fans discussing the merits of Syfy’s Saturday night B-movies.

Aside from that list, I’ll be attending various other panels, hanging out with family and friends, and wandering about having a grand geeking time.  For those of you who can’t be there, I’ll miss you and hope to see you next year.

If you will be there, come on by and say hello.  I’m always willing to meet new friends.