Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The State of Horror Conventions in 2013

Excuse me while I let loose for a moment...

Horror conventions, and pop culture conventions in general, have long been a way for fans of a specific hobby to meet the celebrities whose work they adore, find cool, one of a kind or generally hard to find merch, and connect with like-minded people. These conventions have become a worldwide phenomenon. Ask anybody on the street if they've heard of San Diego Comic Con and I'll wager a bet that 3/4 of them have. That event is undoubtedly the biggest pop culture show in North America and the annual show is covered by major news outlets. The biggest names appear for a chance to meet, promote and often just have a good time like the rest of us. Tickets sell out months in advance and for four days San Diego is the center of not only every nerd's dreamland but many people who only have a passing interest in comics, horror, sci-fi, etc...

On a smaller scale, there is the horror convention, a weekend long show usually taking place in a hotel and featuring meet and greets with cast and crew members of films, author readings, film screenings, and dealer rooms that can get you to blow a year's salary in an hour. These shows are typically more regional, with each major city seemingly having its own show but for better or worse they're usually a blast in spite of extreme levels of competition just an hour away and commonly only weeks apart. You pay your $20-25 which allows you access to all parts of the show and hopefully you've brought a wad of cash besides that if you want to get some autographs or buy some shirts, DVDs or posters and toys. These things aren't cheap. I've known fans that save all year to attend a single show. As fans that attend these things anxiously await the promoter to announce the next guest, the next film screening update, any special deals or events. Social networking sites like Facebook have made it easy to keep up with this and even suggest (more often beg) for a certain person to be added to the show. The fan has a voice, and in this day and age, a face to go with it, when asking a promote to add someone special. In the months leading up to the show the promote announces names, hopefully in enough time for you to purchase your original Turkish Maniac Cop poster or whatever it is you want signed if the 8x10 at the table isn't your style. The weekend arrives, road trip. Whether it is around the corner or 3 hours in a hurricane, I've done both and the trip is always filled with excitement and an anxious feeling. You check in to the hotel if you're staying overnight or you just check in for your wristband and then a day or a weekend full of nerding out is ahead of you. And I hope you brought a wad of cash.

Horror conventions have been a huge thing for fans for as long as I've been alive. Fangoria brought Lucio Fulci to the states just months before his death to allow fans a once in a lifetime chance to meet the Italian gore slinger. It isn't unheard of to meet someone at these shows that has stood in line for upwards of 8 hours to meet names such as Bruce Campbell or Robert Englund. The fans are dedicated and without them the show fails. I went to my first convention in March of 2007, Horrorfind Weekend. It was finally time for a lifelong horror fan to make it to a convention. There was a Hellraiser reunion, among many other actors and directors in attendance that weekend and I had a blast. Horrorfind is a smaller convention, starting in the suburbs of Baltimore and currently residing in Gettysburg, PA. Back then Horrorfind ran 2 shows a year with August being their main show and March being smaller. I was hooked. I had a great time talking to various actors and scoring cool stuff in the dealer's room. I went back in August. And I've been to a bunch of conventions since and I've seen the landscape of these things change quite a bit.

It is now 2013, almost 6 years after my first convention and disenchantment is starting to rear its head. Conventions have, probably inevitably, turned into giant money making schemes. Of course, the idea of the show's promoter was always to make money, as well as the dealer charging for their wares, and the celebrity charging for their signature. That is how the world works and I have no problem with it. It just seemed more genuine back then. Don't get me wrong the celebrities who were genuine still are. Most of these people realize they aren't "A-list" and aren't being followed by paparazzi. There isn't a lot of ego there. Many of them have a lot of fun at these things but the business side of things has gotten out of hand. And really, only fans are to blame. Back when I started going to these things the standard was $20 for a signature, perhaps cheaper if you brought your own item to be signed and don't use one of their 8x10 pictures. Some people would sign multiple items for that price. Included in that price would be a picture with the guest. It was more than that however, it was a chance to talk and connect with these people whose work we so deeply admire. Many are genuinely interested in connecting and talking with fans and it was great. The $20 was a small price to pay. These days prices have jumped significantly. You may still find the $20 guest but prices are closer to $30 now and as each convention comes and goes the number of guests charging an additional $5 or $10 for a picture ON YOUR CAMERA is climbing. The days of discounting the price for signing your item are long gone.

This has happened as horror themed programs have hit it huge on TV. True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and The Walking Dead are huge hit series with many cast members from each becoming regulars on teh convention circuit. Walking Dead guests have climbed in price with each cnovention since the series began and they're up to a staggering amount. Many are now charging $30 for a posed photo alone! This is essentially a cattle call where you're ushered through, stand next to the person while they look like a cardboard cutout and wait for your photo to print. Professional? Debatable. Annoying? Yes. But again, only the fans are to blame. If fans keep shelling out $20, 30, 40, 50 for a signature and decide that another $30 for a shitty photo are worth it? More power to them. I won't pay it. Give me a picture with them at their table and a conversation and a memory. It is becoming more of a headache to be a convention goer than it is worth, and its bullshit. These things were always supposed to be for the fans. There will always be money to be made but I'm sorry charging $200 for a VIP ticket to meet a character from The Walking Dead is bullshit. Charging $300 for a ticket to meet Princess Leia is bullshit. Charging $30 for a fucking professional photo-op with anyone that is already charging that much for write their name on something is fucking bullshit. Is Michael Rooker really worth $40 or $50 just because he's now a cast member of The Walking Dead when just a year or two ago he was half that? Is some actress that has been in nothing notable really worth $50 or a $200 VIP ticket just because she's Michonne in The Walking Dead? Or some asshat that was in True Blood... is he worth $40? Plus the cost of a photo?

Come on. This shit is getting out of hand. Can we please go back to the days where we at least felt good about handing over our cash for these things? Yea, overall they're still fun but the cost is getting prohibitive. When will conventions outprice themselves so that nobody can attend? When are they going to make us bend over before we leave the show to stick their collective dick in our ass because of how hard we're getting fucked. But like I said, if the fans pay it, they'll charge it. I hope a return to the good old days isn't too far off.

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