Welcome to our first-ever Year in Review! While we already posted info about our 2017 highlights and attendance shortly after AX, we want to take some time to further reflect on this past year with you, as well as give a little preview of what to expect from us in 2018. 2018 marks the 27th year of AX, as well as the 10th year at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Though Anime Expo has been around for nearly three decades, we always want to keep in mind where we started — a humble event run by the dedicated and passionate members of UC Berkeley’s anime club. Anime Expo has become more than just an event: it’s a home, a family reunion, and a community. Each year, we aim to create a fun, safe, and welcoming atmosphere for attendees to gather and celebrate Japanese culture.
A Deeper Look into 2017
For the first time ever, we completely sold out of 4-day badges! Contrary to what some may think, there is a cap on attendance. In fact, we’ve also sold out of 1-day badges in 2016 and 2015 (Saturday and Friday, respectively).
We hosted a grand total of twelve premieres– the most we’ve ever had in the history of AX! Between world premieres, US premieres, and dub premieres, there was something for nearly all fans to celebrate! Thanks to Funimation, we even hosted our first live-action movie premiere with Tokyo Ghoul. Being able to provide the stage for the creative staff to see and hear the fans’ reaction to the project that they have been working months or years on was such an incredible honor.
At AX 2017, we had over 160 guests, industry appearances, and performers (compared to just about 100 in 2016).
*Note: The graph includes music Guests of Honor and Industry Appearances only. Performers from AXDance, Lounge 21, and Community Stage are not included.
Recognizing the Challenges
In 2017, the contracted dates with LACC for AX started on Saturday, something that we’ve never done before. Based on our experience in 2016, we were concerned about the number of people that would arrive on Saturday for badge pick-up. In an attempt to alleviate this, we opened up badge pick-up a day earlier and attempted to notify attendees about early badge pick-up in the months leading up to AX. However, this was not enough. Our badge pick-up process, which usually goes quite smoothly and quickly, could not keep up with the number of people who arrived. On top of this, the building entry and badge pick-up lines merged, which made it more difficult for the volunteers and security to manage the crowd, while also adding to attendees’ confusion and frustration.
In event planning, you only get one chance. We look at as many different angles as possible in an attempt to anticipate a variety of circumstance and outcomes, but regardless of however much planning and preparation is done, there’s always the possibility of something unexpected happening.
As an event that draws over 100,000 people on July 4th weekend in Los Angeles, security must be on the forefront of our minds.
In May 2017, a man armed with guns and knives was arrested at Phoenix Comicon and a tragic bombing took place at the Manchester Arena. These incidents had a huge impact on the entire events industry, for both event organizers and the venues themselves.
With Saturday’s long lines for entry, we not only disappointed our attendees, we also disappointed ourselves. We have put extensive time into reviewing where and how the breakdown happened and have addressed the pain points with all parties involved. We, as an organization, need to tackle these problems head-on and we are committed to making every effort possible to improve and to alleviate such issues.
Each year, we look back at what happened at AX and explore ways to make improvements. This involves extensive research and planning. In the span of just seven years, our attendance has doubled from 49,400 to over 100,000, our volunteer team has grown from 800 to 1700, the number of exhibitors has also doubled, the number of artist alley participants has jumped from 386 to 729, and the number of Guests of Honor and Industry Appearances has quadrupled from 40 to 160+. While AX has been around for 26 years, it hasn’t been 26 years of being a 100,000+ person event. It’s been two. Every year presents new opportunities and new challenges. Anime Expo must constantly evolve to keep up with the fan community’s growth and changes.
Hitting the 100,000 attendance milestone shows just how big the anime fan community has become. Gone are the days of being a lone kid with the weird hobby or a small, overlooked group in school. With changes in industry trends, the power of the internet, and the rise of popularity in attending conventions, hundreds of thousands of people across the US with a shared love of anime are able to gather with one another, meet people, and make friends.
While our growth over the last few years has been exciting, increasing attendance at such a dramatic rate was difficult. We don’t only want to be known as the “biggest” anime convention in the nation. We strive to create the best experience possible as well.
Over the years, we’ve received thousands of comments. With all this feedback, there’s bound to be conflicting requests–one person wants Artist Alley to be bigger, while another wants it to be smaller. (For the record, there are no plans to change the size.)
Among the multitude of comments, we’ve seen complaints about things that we can’t do much about – like the cost of food, the cost of parking, or the prices of goods in the Exhibit Hall. We’ve seen comments that AX is boring, that the panels are disappointing, or that we do little to improve. But we’ve also seen people who are satisfied with the variety of events and guests, are appreciative of the security measures, and affirm the welcoming AX community. We may not be perfect, but we can say with complete confidence that we are absolutely committed to improving the AX experience every single year. Realistically, however, we can’t make everyone happy and we can’t address every single person’s feedback. For example, we can’t guarantee that every guest requested will be present at AX, and we can’t make the convention center any bigger because we’re not sorcerers.
So what have we done in the last few years?
Growing the Event Space
To help accommodate the growth in attendance, we’ve made efforts to expand the AX event space by:
- Utilizing all of South Hall for the Exhibit Hall (2015)
- Expanding into Kentia Hall (2016)
- Securing space in the JW Marriott for even more programming, panels, and screenings
- Utilizing space in JW Marriott allowed us to increase the size of Live Programming 2 by 140% in 2017.
Improving the Quality of the AX Experience in 2017:
- Added carpet in the Entertainment Hall
- Added lighting to cosplay photo sets
- Introduced streaming
- Added more screens and increased screen sizes in Main Events Hall
- Upgraded Lounge 21 stage and screens
What’s Currently Planned for 2018
In 2018, we will be mailing out badges to attendees who purchase prior to June 11, 2018. This means that you’ll have your badge ready to go when AX arrives! For more information about badge mailing, be sure to check out our FAQ.
Updated Signage and Maps
We may know the convention center like the back of our hands, but that doesn’t mean all attendees do. Knowing where to go is really important and it’s one of the big challenges that we see among our attendees. That’s why we’re reviewing our maps and signage to see where we can make improvements to help you get around.
Updating Building Entry Process
Partly due to the lack of awareness and signage, a number of building entrances were under-utilized in 2017. This contributed to the challenges faced by a number of attendees. We are aiming to provide more information ahead of time so that you know what to expect and where to go. We have also taken a long, hard look at our security procedures. By working with security teams, local law enforcement, and building management, we’ll be making updates that we hope will streamline the entry process.
Additional Cosplay Gathering Locations
Based on attendee feedback and changes in security needs affecting the way the Los Angeles Convention Center will be accessed, we’ve updated the approved Cosplay Gathering Sites and added two more locations for cosplay gatherings!
Military Discount on 4-Day Badges
4-day badges will be available to purchase on-site for active military members and veterans for $56. You must show an active military or veteran ID at time of purchase to receive the discount.
Although AX has grown significantly in the last few years, our goals remain the same. AX is all about the community; it’s about creating an opportunity for fans to connect with the creators. AX is run by fellow anime fans, former attendees, and many volunteers who simply want to create a memorable and fun experience for the attendees.
We’re not perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. Now that we’ve shed some light on some aspects of event planning and how we’ve changed in the last few years, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to make AX possible each year.