This was the first year since the inception of Wizard World Philadelphia (a.k.a. Philadelphia Comic Con, nee Wizard World East) that the convention began on a Thursday evening, offering those attendees with a 3-day weekend pass an additional preview night.
The first thing I noticed was that the check-in process has changed a bit and all exhibitors, guests and attendees are now herded upstairs in the Philadelphia Convention Center to get passes (still insisting upon those annoying wristbands!) in a large room adjacent to the even larger two halls where the convention is taking place this year.
The convention floor is split into thirds, it seems. The far left side of the floor is reserved for Artists Alley and the fan groups (the Jedis, Ghostbusters, Trekkers, etc. of the world). The central part of the convention floor is reserved for the celebrity guests (with the biggest names stationed in the very rear end of the convention hall). The far right side of the room is where visitors will find the majority of dealers booths, publishing companies (Avatar Press and Zenescope) and memorabilia.
This segregation can work for and against the convention in my opinion. I’m guessing that once the media guests begin pouring in today throughout the rest of the weekend, you’re going to see traffic jams of people in the middle of the hall. But it’s going to free up the rest of the space in the aisles near Artist Alley and the dealer booths so that lines are not winding along their area and blocking fans from seeing the show floor in its entirety.
Thursday evening’s attendance was rather sparse. There were no major crowds, artists alley was half empty (with many creators staying home on preview night) and some of the exhibitors were still setting up their booths as the clock was nearing 9pm and the doors were ready to close. The only celebrities in attendance at that point were Lou Ferrigno (who I think was spawned somewhere in a back room) and Kevin “Dotcom” Brown from NBC’s 30 Rock.
I think it’s great that the convention is spreading out to a 4th day, if only for fans like me who like an unencumbered preview of what to expect. I took advantage of the evening to touch base with some friends (new & old), scout out the show floor, and look for some items before the rest of the crowd showed up this weekend to buy them up before I had a chance.