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SDCC 2023: Was Hall H's loss everyone else's gain?

Without the big movies to distract attendees, panel attendance elsewhere at the show was significantly up

San Diego Comic-Con
Image credit: San Diego Convention Center

Although many people wondered just what kind of effect the loss of major movie and television panels was going to have on San Diego Comic-Con 2023, few had given much thought to what the spillover effect could be for other panels running across the five-day event.

Reader, that was a mistake.

It’s not as if SDCC attendees aren’t used to the idea that a panel might be busy, or could require a little bit of a wait in a line before getting into the room; that happens every single year for the most popular panels in the convention center, even beyond the traditionally endless line for Hall H. This year, however, it was happening a lot more, with lines often stretching outside of the convention center more than 30 minutes before panels were scheduled to begin.

The uptick in panel attendance only makes sense; with Hall H and even Ballroom 20 essentially out of commission for the most part for the weekend, that meant that there was somewhere in the region of 11,000 more people inside the convention center who’d already bought their tickets and were now looking for something to do. (This also explains why both Artist Alley and retail sales both saw a jump this year.) Of course a significant number of those fans are going to want to attend other panels, especially ones about the big ticket items like Marvel: Next Big Thing, Dawn of DC, or the design of the X-Men.

This is a situation that is, at best, complicated to parse. On the one hand, it means that a number of people who wouldn’t otherwise have sat through a panel about, say, Marvel launching the Gang War event in the Spider-Man comic books will get to see it being announced and perhaps pick up the comics as a result, which is definitely a win. At the same time, there were a lot of people waiting to get into these panels that were unable to, potentially making their own SDCC experience less fun as a result. Even for those who did get in, they might have had to wait up to an hour in line beforehand to get entry, thereby limiting other panels or activities they might have wanted to see.

The increase in audience attendance was seen across many panels over the weekend — something I can attest to, having moderated four panels during the event. This new interest could represent something that has the potential to grow the audience for all manner of non-movie and TV material that showed during the con; the question is, whether comic publishers and other content creators will manage to take advantage of this increased interest over the next few weeks while it’s fresh in everyone’s minds... and what can be done to strike while this particular iron is hot, anyway.

Consider this a developing story, at least for now.

Popverse saw it and did most of it, and you can find all about our guide to All the big news, magic, and moments from San Diego Comic-Con. And if you want to go to SDCC next year, we have the San Diego Comic-Con 2024 dates as well.

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About the Author
Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.