SALT LAKE CITY — As FanX Spring Salt Lake Comic Convention wrapped up two days of celebrity panels and signings, artist vendors, cosplayers and more Saturday, a question hung over co-founder Dan Farr:
Is the expense of it all worth hosting two events a year?
"Economically it's a little tough to try to do two events because the spring event isn't really that much less expensive than the September event to put on," Farr told the Deseret News. "The attendance has always been a little bit less in the spring than it is in September."
Farr estimates FanX saw between 45,000 and 50,000 people pass through the doors of the Salt Palace Convention Center for the Friday and Saturday convention, a far cry from the 75,000 to 100,000 attendees the fall event brings in. And with overhead costs running about the same — Farr said each event costs somewhere between $2 million and $3 million — it's hard to justify the expense and effort to run two events.
But then he looks around the crowded convention center.
"It's just so fun to have the spring event, right?" Farr said. "You know, we love doing it. There's so many people … that love being here."
Farr won't have an answer to his spring convention question immediately. He and his team, which includes co-founder Bryan Brandenburg, will take into account a number of factors as they decide the fate of their spring event. In addition to looking at the current economic market — can people afford two fan conventions a year, which run guests between $40 to $200? — they also must decide how the convention's 2017 name change from Salt Lake Comic Con to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention has impacted attendance.
Before the name change stemming from a trademark lawsuit, the spring event went by Salt Lake Comic Con FanX, while the fall event was the Salt Lake Comic Con. Farr worries that by naming both events FanX, guests are less likely to realize there are two separate events.
But a quick survey of attendees on the Salt Palace floor showed that those interviewed, at least, have no problem with paying for both events.
"I am definitely hoping to come to FanX in the fall," said guest Marianne VanAntwerp. "I’ve tended to come to all of them. … I’ve found there’s (always) at least one real big (celebrity) draw for me."
VanAntwerp was most excited to see Monty Python founding member John Cleese this spring, who joined a roster of 31 celebrity guests that included Zachary Levi, Lynda Carter, Tom Felton, Alice Cooper and many others.
"We’ve been coming for a very long time (to FanX), … (so) yeah, definitely (we’re coming in the fall)," guest Nichole Hatfield said. "We go every year, any time there’s one available."
In addition to satisfied guests, the spring convention does provide Farr and his team with an opportunity to see how they can improve their fall event. Farr is hoping to have new electronic line technology in place for September to help cut down on the time guests spend standing in line to meet celebrities, which not only could create happier guests but would also allow them to have more time to shop the vendors and spend more money.
Time will tell as to the future of FanX's spring events, but one thing Farr doesn't have to wait to know is how he feels about these conventions he helped create six years ago.
"These events are much bigger than fandom," he said. "Really what this is, it's about relationships. … And that's what this is, is one big relationship."