Monster Mania, a convention that caters to fans of horror with three annual shows, is currently having it’s 39th show in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. With great guests that include Tim Curry, John Carpenter, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Reubens and many more, fans are clamoring to get in.
Too many fans, apparently.
The Friday Calm?
Having attended this convention for years, I was surprised to find Friday evening’s crowd was on the same level as the normal Saturday crowd. Long lines for the guests, the vendor rooms were doing a brisk business and lots of happy fans were about. The evening wasn’t even dampened when Kane Hodder, one of the former Jason actors, accidentally injured a man at his table with a machete he thought was an dull prop but turned out to be a fully sharpened blade. Speaking to a volunteer, I was surprised to find out they were understaffed and running ragged with the large crowds. They were also on high alert due to some threats that were made concerning Paul Reubens, who is well known for his character Pee Wee Herman. A vendor we spoke with mentioned how well business was and how they would be restocking that evening instead of waiting until the following day.
A Storm of Fans
Then came Saturday.
For years the parking situation around the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where this event takes place, has been rather difficult for attendees. But the Saturday crowd this time found it even more difficult and, after parking and slogging their way to the hotel, found lines of people waiting to get in. Even those who prepurchased their wristbands ahead of time found it difficult to enter the venue. Once inside, huge crowds filled the lobby and waited in lines to meet their favorite stars. Some of the lines seemed to have formed spontaneously, with volunteers unsure of which guest they were for. Vendors were upset since these lines often blocked access to the dealer rooms.
The Fire Marshall arrived and cut off any additional entry into the building. One attendee found that, when he stepped outside to find a place to sit and rest, he was unable to reenter the building. People waiting in line for hours to buy tickets were told the show was sold out. And there have been reports of smashed windows in the parking lot as frustrated people found little parking and then were barred from going inside once they had found a place to park. There was at least one instance of an attendee passing out due to the press of bodies and lack of room… they had to be taken out on a stretcher.
Those who had purchased photo ops found their lines moved around… some attendees who were waiting to take a photo with some of the cast members of Stephen King’s It (2017) found their line shifted outdoors where they waited for 3 hours in 40 degree weather with gusting winds before getting back inside. And they were the lucky ones… some who had purchased photo ops found themselves stuck outside after stepping out for a smoke.
Then there were the many people who drove great distances (one disappointed fan drove for an hour and a half, while undoubtedly some drove even longer), then found a parking spot, just to find out that they could not buy tickets. Quite a few people drove home empty-handed and angry.
Those who are fans of panels were disappointed when all the afternoon panels were cancelled as well as many of the screenings that usually accompany this con.
Fixing the Problem
Monster Mania has been growing in attendance and getting more popular guests every year. With the parking problems they have been experiencing, some said it would be a good idea to move the con to a larger venue with more parking capacity. However, a source close to the show runners informed me that the Crown Plaza Hotel offers such a great deal to host the convention, it would be unlikely they would be moving.
However, with this latest show, perhaps the show runners will consider moving the convention.
There are also a lot of attendees pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame. Personally I don’t think anyone anticipated the crowd that descended on the hotel, but certainly someone miscalculated in regards to the capacity of the venue. This would not be the first con to experience this problem. Walker Stalker Con New Jersey had huge crowds and people were barred from reentering for a couple of their shows when they held them at the Meadowlands Exposition Center and ended up moving to a much more spacious venue. Rhode Island Comic Con experienced crowd control issues that left ticket holders in near freezing temperatures for hours. So this does happen. But it also makes for unhappy people.
Some first time attendees have been so frustrated with this experience they have stated they don’t plan to attend in the future. Even some of their loyal fans are expressing doubt they will return for another show if no changes are made. While it’s unlikely this would cause the show financial hardship, since plenty of people are likely still willing to brave the crowds, it certainly reduces profitability and changes the atmosphere of the convention. Long time attendees love meeting the guests, but they also go to meet up with their con family and socialize. Something that’s rather difficult with the amount of people the convention saw today.
The real question is whether or not the show runners will learn from this experience and switch to a larger venue. Or find another way to deal with this issue.
One Day To Go
This is being written on Saturday evening, while the con is going on. We still have one day to go. After reading the reports of ticket holders being turned away at the door, we decided to skip today. We may try to attend tomorrow when the crowds should be smaller. The real question is… will they be small enough? We will find out.
Wish us luck.