FoCC Con Review: Rhode Island Comic Con

by Debster

Saturday at the Con

Note from the Editors: This review was contributed by Debster, a member of the FoCC forum who recently attended Rhode Island Comic Con.

From November 2th through 4th, 2018, fans of all things pop culture descended on the smallest state in the nation for Rhode Island Comic Con. Altered Reality Entertainment, LLC, runs the convention, which was established in 2012. The company also runs other cons in the US, such as Colorado Springs Comic Con in Colorado, ComiConn in Connecticut, and Empire State Comic Con in New York.

This was my first time at Rhode Island Comic Con, but I consider myself a con veteran (This was actually my sixth con of the year – yikes!), so I was interested in checking it out. There were two tiers of tickets available: general admission and VIP. A 3-day general admission pass cost $85, while the VIP pass cost $180. Fans had to pay Ticketmaster fees if they bought the passes online, or they could buy them in person without fees at the Convention Center box office or at Toy Vault stores, a chain of local collectible stores.
The benefits of having a VIP pass were that there was a separate VIP entrance to the con, a VIP lounge, and a VIP swag bag. VIPs also received the Pennywise Exclusive Funko POP!. All regular attendees had the opportunity to buy one as well. The biggest benefit of being a VIP was the fast pass lines: there were VIP lines for each autograph line, photo op line and celebrity panel. Plus, VIPs were able to get into the con an hour earlier than
the general attendees, which was a huge advantage when shopping for exclusives or being near the front of the line for autographs. It is admittedly a pricey upgrade, especially if fans want to also spend money on autographs and photos, so I can see why most people buy the general admission badges. I personally bought a VIP badge and enjoyed the advantages the badge had.
From talking to repeat attendees, it seems that the con has grown every year and has made improvements every year. Like last year’s con, the convention took place in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which is a sports arena, and in the Rhode Island Convention Center, which is the building next door. There is a sky bridge that connects the two buildings. In previous years, fans could only travel one way between the two, but this year, the bridge was open for
attendees to go in both directions. It was nice being able to travel to and from each building without having to go outside. Also new this year, the convention put their celebrity panels in two meeting rooms in the Omni hotel, which is next door to the convention center. There were overhead signs all over both the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the Rhode Island Convention Center to point out where everything was, which was very useful.
Autograph Lines

The 20 or so headliner celebrities, which included Gwendoline Christie, Hayden Christensen, Kiefer Sutherland and more, had their own autograph area on the arena floor of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. When the autograph lines were full, the extra people were escorted up to the stands to sit and wait until the line went down on the floor. There were also vendor booths on that floor as well as on the level above. However, the majority of the con took place in the convention center. One level had the show floor, and then on another level were the rest of the autograph areas, the VIP lounge, the fan and artist panels and the kids’ con area. The pro wrestlers even had their own Wrestling Room where fans could go and get autographs. It was still insanely crowded on Saturday and almost impossible to walk around, but Friday and Sunday were both bearable in terms of crowds. The main complaint I had was regarding the location of the photo ops area, which was in the corner of the show floor. It became very congested in that area because people were hanging out there waiting for their photo op time to arrive so that they could line up. Epic Photo Ops did a very efficient and professional job at taking the photos and organizing the area, but few people listened to their pleas to disperse until their photo op time was closer. For next year, I hope they decide to figure out a separate place for the photo ops so that people won’t be blocking that part of the show floor – it was almost impossible to get by that area.

Convention Floor

As previously stated, the celebrity panels took place at meeting rooms in Omni. The smaller of the two rooms was directly accessed by a walkway from the convention center to the second floor of the Omni. The larger room, which holds around 850 people, was located on the first floor. Con goers had to walk outside and across the street in order to line up for these panels. They blocked off the pathways to and from the panel area so that attendees would be able to go in between these buildings without having to go through security again, which was great. They cleared the rooms in between panels, so there was no option to camp out in a room unless you were ADA – they let the ADA attendees stay if they wanted to attend the next panel. After the room was cleared, they let the ADA line in first, the VIP line second, and then the general admission line. I went to many lively and entertaining panels, such as the Game of Thrones panel, where Gwendoline Christie and Natalia Tena discussed the richness of female roles in the show. Tim Curry had a touching panel with many beloved and dedicated fans asking him questions about his many roles. Zachary Levi eschewed a moderator and took questions from the audience the whole time, while Tom Felton answered many Harry Potter questions and ended his panel by serenading fans with his guitar and singing some catchy tunes. A new rule this year was that no one could record the panel or take photographs, which was bad if fans wanted to capture that you were there, but it was good, in a way, because attendees had no choice but to be engaged in the panel. As someone who loves to take photos at panels, I was disappointed, but on the whole, it was nice to just enjoy the panels as they were being presented. The con was recording the panels and taking photos and said that they would be posting the videos and pics after the con. I hope that they will put most of them up on the internet so that I can watch them again, as well as watch some of the panels I missed. Attendees weren’t allowed to bring outside food and drink into the con, so the only option was the food at the arena or inside the center. Alternatively, attendees could leave the con go to the mall, which is attached to the Omni, or to some nearby restaurants. I ended up bringing in an empty water bottle every day and filling it at the water fountains.

The con also had an app, which was handy for schedule and room changes. They notified us when Alan Tudyk and Noah Schapp were going to arrive late for their autograph sessions, when there was a room change for the Gotham panel, and of a cancellation and subsequent re-scheduling for the Stranger Things panel. I was glad that I had turned on notifications for the app, because that was one of the only ways to know about all of the changes. I wasn’t sure what to expect for this con, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was run. While there were definitely some overcrowding and logistic issues with lines and crowds, for the most part I was pleased with the content and management of the con and would definitely be open to a return visit.