Earlier this month, this article was posted by Nick Iandolo – after the posting we were able to get on the record with Steve Perry, the founder of Rhode Island Comic Con and, this time of year, one of RI’s busiest individuals. This post has been amended to include his responses and information acquired in that interview. Unfortunately, this meant cutting out a lot of geek-speak-laden meta-sarcastic pop-culture references. Fortunately, we now have a lot more information. Reporting by Nick Iandolo and Mike Ryan.
Many of these questions were drawn from online fan postings, which blew up on Twitter and Facebook a year ago when Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) lit up social media over a situation where ticket holders were unable to enter the venue, shut out by the fire marshal out of concern about crowding. We had a frank conversation with Perry about last year’s challenges, what they’ve resulted in for this year, and what lies in the future for the overwhelmingly popular con.
Here is a list of issues from Twitter last year:
- Tickets being sold after the venue was closed by the Providence Fire Marshal.
- Fans waiting in line outside longer than expected.
- Families and friends separated when some went outside and were then not allowed back in.
- Vendors, exhibitors, and artists not being allowed back in.
- Fans missing out on their photo ops and seminars.
These have been addressed this year by the addition of entire additional building’s worth of space, adding another day to the convention and better crowd and access management that will include color-coded and micro-encoded badges for different entries and real-time capacity tracking.
Motif: Tell us how you feel about last year, and specifically about the period when some people were shut out of the event:
SP: Sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at what happened and fix the situation. Things could have been handled a little bit differently from all angles. Everyone who needed to be handled was taken care of, and that situation’s not going to happen again.
Motif: How does it feel to run what has become such a monster of an event?
SP: It feels great. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished as a group and as a city to bring one of the biggest events in the country to Providence. We plan on continuing to grow the event into a citywide event.
Motif: That sounds intriguing for next year.
SP: Yeah – We have plans to encompass more and more of the city, and to involve more local businesses and organizations into the show.
Motif: I understand you have a projection of 60,000 attendees this year.
SP: That’s the plan.
Motif: And you think it can grow even bigger.
SP: Yes, definitely. We have plans to grow the show. We want to become the San Diego of New England.
Motif: Tell me about Eliza Dushku. Her luggage was taken, but that didn’t have anything to do with the Con?
SP: Not at all. It happened outside the hotel at night. She wasn’t with anyone from the show.
Motif: Did her stuff ever show up on EBay or something?
SP: Hotel security handled that and they were able to get her stuff back.
Motif: There were some ticket holders who couldn’t get back in for events they planned to see. How did you deal with that?
SP: For people who were adversely affected last year, we took the traditional 7-day period for refunds and extended it to 31 days. We reimbursed or refunded people who had legitimate problems stemming from the restricted access [ed note – that’s about 1.25% of last year’s attendees]. While the waits were very unfortunate, the fire marshals did continue to let people in, as others came out.
We also learned a lot from that experience that we’ve applied to this year’s show. We’ve added a third day, for the fans. We added another entire building of space, and significant changes in how badges work. That’s to try to meet the demands of the fans and to improve the experience for everyone – to make sure everyone can have the best Con experience possible.
In the first version of this post, Nick suggested, “Don’t let the lawyers speak for you Mr. Perry — speak for yourself, and let the fans empathize and understand where you’re coming from” — challenge accepted.
Nick summed things up with, “I want RICC to get as big as SDCC; I want them to succeed. I want to know that when I go there I will feel right at home with my people — both out on the convention floor and behind-the-scenes. I don’t want to have to fly to the other side of the county to get my pop-culture fix. And I’m not the only one. I think it will be a great con this year! Just look at the line up of guests: Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia from Star Wars), Jason Momoa (Kal Drogo from ‘Game of Thrones,’ and DC’s new Aquaman), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy I & II) to name a scant few!”