San Diego Comic Con Preview Night is always a dizzying din as the freshly washed and eager fans take position in the Exhibitor Hall to grab the exclusive toy, get the autograph or photo and claim victory in the mad dash for swag. In an inspired move, Warner Brothers partnered with the Convention to hand out their infamous oversized bags to each guest, eliminating the usual traffic jam at their booth that usually emerges seconds after the doors open, as people line up to get one of the bags. Of course, you didn’t really get a choice of bag – you took whatever was handed to you – but nonetheless the gesture was appreciated.
Even though the convention organizers have tried to cut back on the number of people who attend Preview Night, the Exhibitor Hall still manages to be completely mobbed by people. After all, this is usually the only opportunity many professionals and press attending the con have to take in the wonders of the exhibitors, whether they be props from an upcoming film or a new comic release. On Preview Night, all are made equal – fans, pros and press shuffle through the hall trying to take in all of the sights and sounds of the sensory overload in progress.
Once you leave the hall, things seem to take some focus. At first what was absorbed comes in flashes and bursts, but then a strange sense of joy overcomes the true fan – knowing they are with thousands of others who share their intense love of this place, even when it isn’t always the easiest to traverse.
A lifesize Lego Hagrid. A Tron Lightcycle. The Ghostbusters ECTO-1 car. As you walk through the hall the sights, sounds and, yes, sometimes even smells can overload the senses. Walking into the Exhibitor Hall is like walking into Nerd Valhalla and Hell at the same time. While there are wonders to be discovered and some genuinely fantastic experiences to be had, there is also a Vegas-sized marketing onslaught and crowds that could make even the least claustrophobic fan run for the exits.
In one of the other ballrooms an audience is treated to previews of upcoming WBTV shows. It’s a tradition started a couple of years ago, and one the studio has found very successful in building buzz for shows prior to their panels in the following days. It is also the primary entertainment once the doors of the Exhibitor Hall close for the evening; an audience hungry for the convention to start are eager to sit and watch a pilot or two as an appetizer to the many course meal of fandom they will consume in the coming days.
Preview Night sets the tone for the rest of the convention. Already the buzz builds, the tweeting masses giving their first impressions of the booths, both large and small and “winners” are crowned. The Disney TRON booth draws a large crowd, and the WB booth always has a line of people wrapping around inside it as fans wait for freebies and autographs. The toy booths fill to capacity, video games are played en masse and cameras and camera phones snap photos – possibly hundreds each second, everyone working to be the first to see, hear, touch and experience what Comic Con has to offer.
By Sunday afternoon, the end of Comic Con 2010, the Preview Night passes for 2011 have sold out. The popularity of Preview Night cannot be understated, nor can its attendance.