From the ConNewRecaps, Reports & Reviews

SDCC 2023 – Year of the Offsites

by Transmute Jun

2023 was an unusual year for San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), due to the joint Writers’ Guild/Screen Actors’ Guild (WGA/SAG) strikes, which prevented nearly all celebrity talent from appearing. With fewer big panels, emptier rooms (Hall H, Ballroom 20, Indigo Ballroom) and no multi-day lineups, many fans found their way into the Gaslamp and to the SDCC offsites.

Offsites began many years ago as small activations on the exhibit floor. Long lines, limited space and Fire Marshall regulations forced the majority of these activations outside of the convention center, where they could expand and host many more fans. This trend was especially appreciated in 2023, when numerous offsite experiences hosted thousands of fans outside of the convention center.

AMC’s Immortal Universe version of New Orleans

Three offsites stood head and shoulders above the rest. AMC’s Immortal Universe (Interview with a Vampire/Mayfair Witches) built a New Orleans street, inviting attendees to drink of the ‘Elixer of Immortality’ and join the community. On the street, numerous actors engaged with fans, creating an extremely immersive environment that was unique to each attendee, drawing them into the story of the darkness/evil that appeared nightly.

A warehouse full of Chucky at Quantum Leap HQ

NBC’s Quantum Leap hosted an extremely engaging adventure in universe-jumping, where fans were transported into not only the Quantum Leap Universe, but also got to participate in a crime scene investigation from Law & Order, sing for a judge on The Voice, and scan a warehouse full of Chucky dolls before setting things right and ‘saving the universe’. Each fan had a personalized experience jumping into the quantum realm, which made the adventure especially memorable.

Paramount+ Lodge

Paramount hosted the Paramount+ Lodge, where fans were let into an actual ski/hunting lodge for an hour to enjoy drinks and burgers, along with multiple mini-activations for properties such as Yellowjackets, 1923, Pet Sematary, Lioness and SpongeBob SquarePants. The highlight of this offsite was a series of artists creating Star Trek caricatures. Many attendees left with personalized souvenirs, thanks to this offering. Paramount+ also offered a scavenger hunt for attendees who visited various locations inside and outside the convention center, giving them prizes for completion.

All three of these activations offered reservation times for attendees, efficiently moving fans in and out, ensuring that the maximum number of people were able to experience what they had to offer. This is a new and much-appreciated trend for SDCC offsites, as fans enjoyed being able to arrive at their designated time and not have to wait for hours. It should be noted that all of these offsites did offer standby lines for those who did not have reservations.

Other notable offsites included Jurassic Park (which also had reservation times), Hulu Animayhem (offering numerous photo opportunities inside their animated properties), Adult Swim (with ticketed events and access times), and FX. FX brought What We Do in the Shadows, American Horror Story and Shogun, with each property having its own separate line, which was a huge improvement over last year’s ‘forced path’ approach (which had much longer lines).

Boxlunch Truck line

Small ‘swag delivery’ activations such as Only Murders in the Building and the BoxLunch truck drew crowds, and even the small pop-up stores (Camp Snoopy, Bandai/Namoco, Sonic burger restaurant) had long lines for entry. 

The IMDBoat, lacking its usual celebrity parties, was surprisingly accessible this year to general attendees, and many fans enjoyed the respite from the madness of con, lounging on the yacht while enjoying food and drink.

Unfortunately, the PetCo Interactive Zone, which was fun for attendees in past years, once again brought back metal detectors and intrusive bag checks. This turned off many attendees, and the majority of people with whom FoCC Blog spoke refused to brave these time-consuming measures to enter. As such, many fewer fans were able to experience the activations inside.

Amazon Prime Video ruled the roost of night-time parties, hosting evening events for Jury Duty and Good Omens. The Fandom, Neopets, IGN, and National Geographic parties also drew big interest and long lines.

Unfortunately, many of these offsites were (confusingly) closed on Sunday, leading to much more crowding for the few that remained open. Kudos go to Hulu, FX, Quantum Leap, and Paramount+ Lodge for continuing to remain open on the last day of the convention. Fans definitely appreciated the extra time to enjoy these experiences.

Offsites continue to be a big part of SDCC, and this is a trend that will likely be continuing in future years.

Did you attend offsites at SDCC 2023? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.