Way back when I was in college, we didn’t buy concert tickets online, because there was barely any “online” to speak of. This is going to sound insane to kids today, and it seems so in retrospect, but we literally had to go to a record store containing a Ticketmaster outlet, wait there before it opened, and hope that as soon as the doors were unlocked, our transaction would be handled before the show sold out. Like, you’d have to take a bus across town to do this. You could try the phone, but nobody you knew had ever managed to get through the busy signal before all tickets were gone.
In order to prevent die-hard fans from camping out in front of the store all night, Ticketmaster had a system: an hour before opening time, everyone in line would get handed wristbands with random numbers. The line would then be re-sorted in numerical order, meaning that if you were first in line the odds were that you wouldn’t be after the resort. The idea here being that there was no advantage to arriving any earlier than an hour in advance. When I heard the news today that Comic-Con were introducing wristbands for the Hall H line, I remembered the Ticketmaster policy and thought to myself that it sounded like a step in the right direction. And then I read the details…
For those who don’t know, Hall H is where the big movie and TV presentations happen at Comic-Con. Game of Thrones, Marvel movies, that kind of thing. Every so often they throw in a dud panel nobody comes to (year before last, inexplicably, there was one for three indie movies no-one had heard of or cared about), but mostly the demand is huge for seats inside. And it used to be that if you got in line an hour and a half before opening, you;d get inside.
Twilight changed that. The Twi-hards who started coming just for the Twilight panel weren’t worried about missing anything else, and would camp out hours and even days in advance for a chance to be front and center when R-Pattz and K-Stew graced the stage. They were so dedicated that one of them even died trying to be first. Twilight is long gone, but the tactics were learned – now you do have to camp out. Last year I entered the line at 4 a.m. on Saturday, and it was already a good size.
So this year, they’re distributing wristbands. Numbered wristbands? Nope. Wristbands that say you’ll get in? Nope, again. These wristbands are strictly for their own counting purposes. In fact, the FAQ regarding them reads like it could have been written by Rob Bricken:
Am I guaranteed a seat in Hall H if I have a wristband?
No, you must still be in line and Comic-Con cannot guarantee entry to any panel room.
If I have a wristband and stay in line, I’m getting in, right?
Pending any unforeseen circumstances, you should get into the room. However entry is not guaranteed.
So here’s how it works: if you get in line before 1 a.m., you get one of the first batch of wristbands.
Let me repeat: BEFORE 1 A.M.
So my waiting in line at 4 a.m. last year…that’s no longer going to be good enough.
Then at 5 a.m., they’ll hand out a second batch of wristbands. When all are given out, people who don’t have one will have a pretty good idea that they’re not getting in.
Do the wristbands have numbers like the old Ticketmaster ones? No. Do they allow friends to leave the line and come back? No more so than before. All friends have to be there when they’re handed out, but after that, one member of the group can still stay in line and hold spaces for his or her friends, provided they were there to get wristbands.
This is not a solution to the very real problem of the ridiculous line. All it does is let people who are late know not to join. I’m going to assume that crowd-control to the point of prohibiting line-ups prior to a given time is out of the question; the Twilight death seems to have scared the Con away from trying anything like that.
My solution would be to distribute tickets or wristbands for Hall H at a booth inside the Con itself. That way, nobody could get one or line up for one until after the show opens. Everyone gets to sleep. One band per person, period. Band guarantees entry unless you break the rules.
I’m sure there’d be some issues with that, but at least I’m trying. All the Con has done is to make things slightly easier for them, and not us.