by Transmute Jun
San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) is a massive event that garners worldwide attention and press. And the center of attention at the con often seems to be Hall H, the 6,500 person capacity venue that houses the biggest, splashiest panels. While many times attendees can get into Hall H with a minimal lineup (such as on Thursdays or Sundays) the Friday and Saturday lineups are usually so exciting that attendees flock to the Hall on these days, creating long lines and waiting for hours to get inside.
So how do you get into Hall H on these most popular days? The answer changes from year to year, as Comic Con International (CCI) alters its policies. But for the past few years, the process has involved a Next Day Line, wristbanding, and overnighting.
In an attempt to organize the Hall H lines, a couple of years ago CCI created a Next Day Line area along the waterfront, behind the convention center. Roughly, the line begins at the Adult Swim tent on the Hilton Bayfront lawn and heads south toward the Hilton Bayfront hotel, then does a U-turn and goes back along the water toward Joe’s Crab Shack, and beyond. People will line up during the day before they want to get into Hall H. To a newer attendee, this sounds outrageous. How can people give up a full day of their con just to get into Hall H? The answer is that they don’t. CCI allows people to share line duty (one person can hold space for up to 5 people, according to their official policy) which means that if you have friends, some of you can be in line holding spots for others, and you can switch off, allowing everyone to have some ‘con time’ the day before your Hall H adventure.
In the evening, after the day’s Hall H programming is complete, CCI will hand out wristbands to those in line. The wristbands are split into 4 groups: A, B, C and D. There are 1,500 of each wristband group distributed, for a total of 6,000, which is slightly less than the capacity in the Hall for attendee seating. The purpose of the wristbands is twofold. First, they guarantee that you have entrance to Hall H the next morning. If you don’t care where you sit, then you can get your wristband and go back to your hotel, get a good night’s sleep, and return in the morning before 7:30 am. This will allow you to join the end of the wristband line, ahead of people who were not present for wristbanding (or who did not get wristbands because CCI ran out) the night before. Or if you prefer, you can leave people in your group to spend the night in line (again keeping to the ratio posted by CCI) to hold your spot.
The other purpose of the wristbands is to show you approximately where you will be sitting in the Hall. If you have an A wristband, you know that you will be in the first 25% of people let in, and should be closer to the front. In comparison, a B wristband will get you in the back of the front section, to about halfway back in the Hall. The C and D wristbands will put you in the third and fourth quarters of the room, respectively. There are usually also a couple hundred extra seats available for those who do not have wristbands, although obviously this is not guaranteed.
There was originally a third purpose to wristbands: to prevent people from cutting into the line without doing the time. Anyone who gets into line in the morning without a wristband is clearly suspect. However, this problem has now shifted to wristband distribution time, with many people showing up just before distribution the evening before. It is the responsibility of people in line to loudly call out anyone who cuts in front of them who is not with the people who have been lining up all day (in the appropriate ratio). Unfortunately, CCI does little to police this and attendees have to watch out for themselves.
When wristbanding is complete, CCI security will lead people up to the Hall H lawn in groups, allowing them to fill in the marked lines on the grass. In the past, wristbanded attendees were allowed to spread out and take as much space as they wanted, so that they could lie down to sleep for the night. New this year, security made everyone line up ‘shoulder to shoulder’ along the lines on the grass and they only had the room in front of them (from one side of the line rope to the other) for the night. It was barely enough room for people to lie down. My understanding is that this was done to allow more people to spend the night on grass, instead of on the concrete sidewalk in front of the Hilton Bayfront hotel and along the waterfront.
Wristbanded attendees then settle in for the night, with a proportion of their group leaving to go back to their hotels. Generally it is smart for those leaving to be back by 7 am, as CCI security begins condensing the line. People have to clear up their overnight items and move into a smaller area. The official cutoff for attendee return is 7:30 am.
At the end of the Hall H lawn, closest to Harbor Blvd./the front of the Convention Center are 4 chutes. These chutes have plastic netting to set them apart, and make it difficult for people to ‘hop’ the lines, as compared to the previous line area, which is demarcated only by ropes. The chutes are let into Hall H one at a time, with breaks in between to allow pedestrian traffic (people passing by who are not going into Hall H) to cross. The process to fill Hall H in the morning usually takes about 1.5-2 hours for all 4 wristband groups.
Once inside Hall H, attendees are free to sit in any open seat, save those marked for ADA attendees or reserved for press/studio guests. Large bathroom facilities are available (one for men and one for women) and there is even a dedicated food vendor located at the main entrance to the hall. The food vendor can get busy between panels, and prices are similar to those in the rest of the convention center (which is to say, higher than average). One important thing to note is that the Hall H food vendor takes cash only, so be sure to have enough on you before you get to the front of the line!
One of the bigger pieces of news this year regarding Hall H was the convention center’s purchase of new chairs! The chairs in the Hall are now padded on the bottom and back, and are quite comfortable. I found myself able to easily sit for longer periods of time, without becoming achy or restless. I hope these chairs will be around for many years to come.
Of course, the reason for all of this is to experience Hall H programming. And this year, attendees were not disappointed. Teen Wolf, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Defenders, Westworld, Stranger Things, Marvel, Supernatural, Doctor Who… all of them brought excitement and joy to Hall H in 2017.
Did you get into Hall H this year? Join the conversation on FoCC!