In Southern California, you can be certain that the bigger the event, the more religious protestors you'll see across the street. Oftentimes, convention-goers will counter the protestors with signs bearing absurd slogans. That was the case in San Diego this year, when attendees dropped as many nerdy references as they could squeeze onto a piece of cardboard.
Usually I try to ignore the people with the fire-and-brimstone signs. If world history has taught us anything, it's that religious arguments don't end with a cordial handshake. On Sunday, though, I was stuck on a corner across from the San Diego Convention Center just a few feet away from a guy with a megaphone. He was going on about "darkness," which I humbly submit isn't a bad thing, but we can talk about that later. I started grumbling to myself. Some others in the crowd challenged him loudly. The guy with the megaphone turned to one and lashed out with some insults.
Then, in the back of this tightly packed crowd, a man started singing "Joy to the World," the Three Dog Night song that begins with "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." By the time he reached the chorus, the bulk of the convention-goers had joined him in song.
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The incident struck a chord with me. In the protestors you have a few scattered folks who, for whatever reason, feel the need to try to shame people who have traveled to San Diego to embrace what they love.
I'm one of the latter. Even though I'm at San Diego Comic-Con as a reporter and spend the bulk of my time there working, it's work I love amongst people who I admire and respect.
This year marked my fifth trip to Comic-Con and the fifth time I've covered the convention for L.A. Weekly. Over the years, I've come to think of some of the people I've encountered at Comic-Con as friends. There are the fellow fans of The Venture Bros., a contingent that seems to grow larger every year. There are indie comic writers and artists in the Small Press section of the exhibit hall, whose booths I try to always visit. There are cosplayers and steampunks, some of whom I've met at other conventions, but we always manage to find each other here. We may have started out talking about a TV show or a movie or a comic book, but by the end of the weekend we're conversing like real friends.
If you're following Comic-Con from afar, you may know more about the big release announcements and celebrity sightings that we do. When we're at Comic-Con, we live inside a strange bubble. It's big and there's a lot going on there. Plus, Internet access inside the convention hall can be spotty. If something big happens -- like Tom Hiddleston turns up on stage dressed as Loki -- we will likely hear about it later, once our phones start loading YouTube videos again.
But what the Comic-Con coverage never truly captures is the interaction among those of us who are there. There are thousands of stories that may go untold. We make friends while standing line. We spend long nights hanging out with pals that we only get to see at Comic-Con. We bond with the cluster of roommates we managed to pile inside a hotel room. We go on rants about whatnot while sitting on the back steps of the convention center.
You've probably heard plenty of people moan that San Diego Comic-Con isn't about comic books. That's true, but it's not about big movies and TV shows either. It's about a community that exists for five days every July. We are thousands of people from disparate backgrounds. We travel from across the country, across the globe, actually, to be here. We are of different ethnicities. Our religious and political views vary. We are straight and gay, young and old, male and female. Some of us are Marvel fans. Some of us prefer DC. We can't agree on which Doctor reigns supreme. We might not even concur on those Star Wars prequels.
Still, we're a community. Geeks, nerds or whatever you want to calls us, we're pop culture junkies with a high tolerance for lines. When we meet in real life at Comic-Con, we stick together. As the group of people on the street corner started singing an old Three Dog Night song, my cheesy, overly sentimental heart swelled with happiness. The guy with the megaphone was rendered mute -- not that he really mattered in the first place. What did matter was that this group of people -- and it was a large group -- had come together in a peculiar way. They knew why they were here. They knew what kind of joy this place brings so many people and no one was going to tell them that it was wrong.
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January 1, 2018
by Patrick Delahanty, Executive Producer, AnimeCons.com and FanCons.com
Every year, in the first week of January, AnimeCons.com takes a look back at the previous year to see which anime conventions were the largest in North America, how the numbers have changed, what may have caused the changes, and if there's any trends that may affect other anime conventions or fan conventions as a whole. As we always remind people, this absolutely is not meant to be a list of the "best" anime cons, but merely the largest.
Before we present the list, an explanation is needed for the different ways that conventions count their attendance:
- The most common method for conventions, but one that is very misleading, is used by most non-anime conventions and trade shows. A "turnstile" attendance count method counts people multiple times for every day of the convention that they attend. For example, if there are 10,000 people at a three day convention each day, they would report their attendance as 30,000...as if each of those 10,000 people passed through a turnstile once per day. A four day convention with 10,000 people each day would report a turnstile attendance count as 40,000 people. Although anime conventions are starting to report turnstile numbers, they are often offered in addition to one of the following two counting methods. Although this site considers turnstile counts to be misleading and disingenuous, we've recently started listing them in order to be able to help people distinguish the difference and be able to compare attendance numbers more fairly.
- Another method is to count each person who was issued a badge. This is often referred to as "total attendance", "badge count", or a "warm body count". This will include attendees, staff, press, vendors, guests, and anyone else who was wearing a convention badge. If the people attended multiple days, they just get counted once. It does not include people without a badge such as convention center-provided security, hotel employees, or custodial staff.
- The final method commonly used to report attendance is a paid attendance count. This simply counts the number of people who paid for a badge. Unlike the warm body count, it doesn't include staff, guests, press, or others with a badge...unless they paid for it. This method also only counts people once even if they're attending multiple days.
All the attendance figures we present in this report and on AnimeCons.com have been provided by convention staff members themselves. They have been announced on the convention's own web sites, on the convention's social media, reported directly to this site, or one of our site's staff have reported back a number officially announced by an authorized representative at the convention (such as announced at closing ceremonies). None of these numbers are guesses by AnimeCons.com staff and none have been pulled from anonymous sources such as unsourced Wikipedia entries. Where attendance is marked as "approximately" signifies that the number reported by the convention is likely rounded and not an exact count.
Our annual list also only consists of conventions with a primary focus on anime. This means that multi-genre conventions are not included. We also do not include conventions such as comic cons or sci-fi cons that have anime programming. To include those in this list would be impossible due to the number of those conventions in existence, the unavailability of attendance numbers for many of them, and the vast differences in counting methods. Anime conventions that share admission with non-anime conventions (such as comic, steampunk, or video game conventions) are also not included on this list because it is impossible to tell how many are attending the anime part of the convention.
Twelve Largest North American Anime Conventions of 2017:
- Anime Expo - 107,658 warm bodies (up 7.21%)
- Anime Matsuri - 36270 warm bodies (up 20.04%)
- A-Kon - 33,102 warm bodies, 25,289 paid attendees (up 11.08%)
- Anime North - 32,167 warm bodies
- Anime Weekend Atlanta - approximately 31,500 warm bodies, 29,872 paid attendees (up 3.79%)
- Anime Central - 30,221 warm bodies (down 3.97%)
- Anime Boston - 25,848 warm bodies (down 4.18%)
- Sakura-Con - approximately 25,000 warm bodies (up 8.70%)
- Otakon - 24,894 warm bodies, approximately 22,000 paid attendees (down 14.49%)
- Youmacon - 22,142 paid attendees (up 5.26%)
- Otakuthon - 22,065 warm bodies (up 3.52%)
- Anime NYC - approximately 20,000 warm bodies (first year)
Anime Expo safely holds onto the top spot for the 14th year in a row. The vast difference between Anime Expo's attendance and the other conventions on the list means that it will likely hold this spot for years to come. In 2017, they grew by 7,238 attendees. Their turnstile attendance count was also up 52,379 to 357,178. While overcrowding and lines remain a common complaints among Anime Expo attendees, it continues to be a convention that many people (particularly those outside California) tend to put on their bucket lists.
For the second year in a row, there's a different convention climbing into the #2 spot. Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas has reported an increase of 6,055 attendees and yet another year of reporting more than 20% growth. However, as we've said in previous years, the growth rate simply cannot continue in such a competitive market as Texas where popular conventions in nearby Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio markets are also gaining attendees and even more conventions continue to appear every year.
Speaking of Texas, the #3 spot is once again held by the longest continually running anime convention in North America, A-Kon. The convention has reported a 1.42% growth rate over their 2016 convention. They had reported greater than 10% growth rate for the previous three years, so the slower growth this year may be attributed to the convention's 30 mile move from Dallas to Fort Worth. However, A-Kon continues to be a popular destination for anime fans every June.
Anime North in Toronto, Ontario holds onto the #4 spot for the second straight year. This year, they reported a warm body attendance count of 32,167. Last year's attendance was reported as 29,973 paid attendees, so we're not able to compare the two years to calculate a growth percentage, but it would appear to be up.
Moving up another spot this year, Anime Weekend Atlanta, another of the longest running anime cons in North America, comes in at #5. Although we didn't have a warm body count for them last year, their paid attendance count is up 3.79% from 28,789. This is slower growth than the past few years where AWA had reported more than 10% growth.
Although it was in the #3 spot last year, Anime Central near Chicago drops to #6 in 2017. The convention's attendance has dropped 3.97% from 2016's 31,469 warm bodies. The convention had rather significant growth in 2013, but was seeing less than 5% growth since then. This is the first reported attendance decrease at Anime Central.
Anime Boston moves up a spot to #7 this year even with an attendance drop of 4.18%. The turnstile attendance count dropped 5.19% to 74,578, which would seem to indicate that more people that more people were buying 1-day badges. This is the second straight year that Anime Boston's attendance has dropped and it's likely still attributable to increased convention center security following guns that were seized during an August 2015 Pokemon Championship at the venue which resulted in excessively long security lines at Anime Boston 2016. Although the security checkpoints were improved in 2017, a number of attendees had cited the lines as a reason for sitting out a year to see if the situation would improve. For the most part, it has, and hopefully those attendees return again in 2018.
Seattle's Sakura-Con reported approximately 25,000 attendees in 2017. Last year's attendance was reported as 23,000 which is an 8.70% growth rate and puts them up a spot to #8.
By now, you may have wondered what happened to Otakon on this list. In 2015, it dropped to #5 with the largest attendance drop we've ever seen by any convention. It held onto the #5 spot last year and grew to 29,113 warm bodies in 2016. The convention moved from Baltimore to Washington, DC in 2017 and it seems that the attendees did not follow. Otakon lost over 4,000 attendees and dropped to #9 on our list and is no longer the largest anime convention on the East Coast. With Otakon Vegas not reporting large growth over its first few years, hopefully Otakorp has planned for rainy days such as this in order to be able to handle the situation financially.
Detroit's Youmacon returns to our list for the second year in a row at #10 with a paid attendance of 22,142, up 1,106 people from 2016. Last year, Youmacon and Otakuthon were essentially tied for the 10th spot, but Youmacon has now pulled ahead slightly.
For #11, we head back up into Canada for Otakuthon in Montreal. The bilingual convention reported 750 more people than 2016 for growth of 3.52%. Magnifique!
The twelfth anime con on our list just held their first convention in November, Anime NYC. On their site after the convention (although now only available via archives), Peter Tatara, the Event Director, was quite clear about their attendance reporting saying, "Anime NYC welcomed over 20,000 fans. That's not turnstile, but 20,000 unique, individual fans who came together to celebrate what we all love." (This was likely noted due to some otherNYCcons which have been known to report turnstile numbers.)
It's worth noting that there is less than a 10% difference (or only 2,881 people) between the third through sixth conventions. There is also a difference of less than 1,000 people between the seventh and ninth conventions on the list, which just about puts them in a three-way tie.
View graph with linear scale - View graph with logarithmic scale
As always, we remind you that these are merely the largest conventions and are not necessarily the best. If past history is any indication, this list is almost guaranteed to be copied and used as some other site's "Best Anime Cons" list. That's a shame because there are some absolutely wonderful small and mid-sized conventions out there that are not mentioned on this list. You can have a lot of fun at smaller events and we strongly urge you to find the conventions near you and try them out.
If you want to compare the growth of conventions over the last ten years, here are some links to our annual reports (either written or as reported by our AnimeCons TV): 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
To start planning your 2018 conventions, our AnimeCons.com and FanCons.com sites are an excellent resource to find lists of conventions in your area or around the world. We also offer FurryCons.com, SteampunkCons.com, ToyCons.com, and VideoGameCons.com for some more niche interests. For Amazon Echo or Alexa device owners, we also have free Flash Briefing skills for FanCons.com and AnimeCons.com which can audibly tell you what conventions are coming up in the next week. We also have iMessage stickers for iOS users and an AnimeCons TV app for Apple TV.
Patrick Delahanty is the creator of AnimeCons.com and executive producer of AnimeCons TV. He is the host of Anime Unscripted and is one of the founders of both Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference. Patrick has attended 173 conventions, cosplaying at most of them.
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