I used to love going to horror conventions, specifically the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors by Creation Entertainment. I used to go EVERY year religiously no matter what. I would get there, pay my fee, grab a ton of free swag at the table where movie companies set out goodies from their upcoming genre releases. Then I would pull over to the side and check the “event schedule” (See back in these days, they would actually have an auditorium where the scheduled guests would go to talk about their up and coming projects; they were there to promote their newest movie or project, not to make a buck). I would schedule my day, strategically plan who I wanted to see on stage and who I didn’t, notate appearance times, then head to the dealers room.
Note- I used to always check the appearance times of the biggest guest, like if I knew Robert Englund was going to do a panel at 3pm, I would notate the time to be in the lobby of the hotel, or venue, at 2pm to try and meet him when coming in, grab an autograph and avoid the long lines and horribly unfriendly Creation Entertainment staff, most of the time that strategy worked. If you tried this today you would be met with “sorry I’ll only sign at my booth”
The dealers room was packed with amazing hard to find swag, from movies you couldn’t find anywhere else, to rare international posters, movie props, masks, comics, pretty much anything you wanted but couldn’t find in a store. Then there were a few celebrity guests in the dealers room, who were a special guest sponsored by a specific dealer, they would charge between $10 and $20 with an 8×10 for their autograph. These guests were mostly actors and actresses that weren’t currently working but had been in some iconic genre titles. I would map out where they were as well.
After wheeling and dealing in the dealers room I would make my way to the first panel (the shows always started out with about 30 minutes of movie trailers that I mostly skipped). I would go see the guest, they would show a clip or two of their new movie so the audience would get excited about it, then talk about it with Fangoria Editor Anthony Timpone, then do QA with the audience, which was normally packed (especially for the bigger guests). After the QA there would be a table set off to one side of the stage (sometimes in the dealers room) the guest would then do a FREE signing with FREE posters or 8×10’s provided my the production company. After the signing they would leave the convention. Sure sometimes the line would get capped before I got to meet the guest, but throughout the years I got to meet all of my favorite actors, directors, writers, and composers.
They would do a fun costume contest on Saturday night and sometimes a meet and greet party after that (which was a separate fee) I never attended one of these.
I would leave the show with a backpack full of stuff from the dealers room and the free goodies, plus autographs from my favorite horror stars, directors, and writers. I would go home, empty the backpack, and go to sleep. I would repeat this the following day (Sunday) with a new guest lineup, (guests for Saturday would be different than Sunday), which gave it an appeal to attend both days. That weekend would stay with me for months after. It was an incredible time and one that I looked for every year.
Well since FANGORIA stopped doing the shows, and since I moved out of state, I haven’t attended one for almost 6 years. Already this year I have been to two. Boy I tell you things have changed. Basically these shows consist of paying your fee, meeting the guests at a table they are sitting at all day, charging for their autographs. There are no presentations, no film clips, no QA’s and no adventure. So you spend money to get in, spend money in the dealers room, and spend money for autographs. Basically when you think about it, you are paying money to be able TO SPEND MONEY. There is nothing free, no real value for your door fee.
The conventions make your favorite horror stars look like bums standing on the corner asking for a handout. It degrades my value of that person, a person I have admired for years, being reduced to someone sitting at a table peddling their photos and autographs for a hefty fee. However, if there is a horror icon that hasn’t worked in the industry since that film came out, I understand selling your photos and swag for a modest fee. I would too! But people like Scott Wilson, who’s in the most popular show on the planet, is currently on the air, and he has probably made well over $200,000 for the time he’s been on the show, $40 an autograph… Really? To charge $40 from people who will never see that kind of money in their lives, is fucking mind-numbing. Without these people you wouldn’t have made that $200,000. It’s like waving to your fans with one hand and giving them the middle finger with the other. Now if he’s giving it to charity or something like that that’s fine, but that needs to be advertised. Scott Wilson is one example of many; I don’t want to make him look like the asshole, there are tons of them out there.
So you pay your door fee, spend your money in the dealers room and get your autographs, that might take an hour or two, what do you do with the rest of the day you paid for? Wander around aimlessly through the dealers room, looking at the same shit at every booth, or looking at way overpriced paper-mache art of your favorite horror icon masks. Or hanging out at the booth where the indie filmmakers are, selling their movie no ones ever heard of for $30? Sure, I’ll take two! So you do endless laps knowing you want to leave but feel it would be a waste of money to leave so soon (though you paid $25 to spend $300).
So this makes me think what has happened? Are the guests just becoming money-hungry? Do they not care about the fans anymore? Are the convention companies just thinking about money and guest lists, as opposed to presentation and entertainment value? Do production companies think these shows are not a viable advertising venue anymore?
I don’t have these answers, but the days of great horror conventions are gone my friends. If you’re a fan who loves going to them, you and your wallet would have loved them more than a decade ago. I’m glad I got to experience the Fangoria Cons and I hope someday they will return to what they were. But until then, I will continue to go to the ones I can, and give out free stuff, because I think promotion is what a convention should be about; it used to be; that, and a celebration of the fans, not about anal-raping the fans out of their hard earned cash.
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