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Indiana Comic Con draws record crowd, plans to return next year

May 2, 2016

Indiana Comic Con set an attendance record for the four-color fantasy event over the weekend, and the Florida-based organization that runs the show already is working out a deal to return next year.

More than 40,000 people attended this year’s 2-1/2-day Indiana Comic Con, up from 36,000 last year, according to officials for production firm Imaginarium Agency.

This was the third annual Comic Con produced by Imaginarium at the Indiana Convention Center, and officials for Visit Indy said Monday that the economic impact grew from $3 million last year to about $4 million this year, although the final tally was still being calculated.

Based on attendance, Indiana Comic Con should be among the city's 10 biggest conventions this year, although it has a long way to go to catch the front-runners in terms of economic impact.

Comic Con contracts with eight Indianapolis hotels to reserve rooms for convention goers, and sells out much of the downtown hotel space, local hospitality officials said.

Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl attributed Comic Con's success here to the massive growth of GenCon, a four-day gamers show that last year drew more than 61,000 people to Indianapolis and had an economic impact of $67 million.

“GenCon proved there’s a market here for this type of show and helped give rise to Comic Con here,” Gahl said. “Based on the growth of Comic Con, we’re excited to have it back next year. And based on the growth, we’re highly confident we’ll be able to attract them back.”

GenCon has a much larger economic impact because it's nearly two days longer than Indiana Comic Con, and it draws people from across the country and internationally. Indiana Comic Con draws a largely local and regional crowd, according to Visit Indy.

“The hotel piece of business associated with GenCon is gigantic,” Gahl said. “And with more hotel room nights being consumed, that triggers a lot more spending in area restaurants, bars and other retail outlets."

Imaginarium Agency spokeswoman Halia Smalczewski said her company is working on a deal to bring Comic Con back to Indianapolis for a fourth show next spring. Unlike GenCon, there is no long-term deal to keep Comic Con here.

“This is an absolutely great city for us, and the Indiana Convention Center and its staff is one of the best around,” Smalczewski told IBJ on Monday. “The interest here in just three years has been tremendous, and we’re definitely looking forward to coming back.”

Like GenCon, Comic Con attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of people who dress in costumes of fantasy characters. Not only does the show feature hundreds of vendor booths, but it also stages demonstrations, contests, panel discussions and other activities for comic-book and science-fiction lovers.

Guest appearances this year were made by actors John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in “The Lord of the Rings”; Brent Spiner, who played Lt. Commander Data in the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; Lea Thompson, who starred in the “Back to the Future” movies; and Jack Gleeson, who portrays Joffrey Baratheon in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

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