Bleeding Cool has reported on the controversy behind last weekend’s Nerd Year’s Eve event in Dallas, Texas and the closing down of its organisers, the there year old Geek Expos.
I’ve been talking to more people, including those involved with Geek Expos itself and, basically, it’s mostly true, though there is some nuance.
Firstly, their recent show in Oklahoma. Geekinomicon in September didn’t perform anywhere near expected . They lost money but covered their obligations to everyone. A combination of a heavier convention schedule for that period than usual – and a doubling up of sporting events – were blamed, but it deprived the organisation of funds it expected to have by the end of the year.
Just in time for their Nerd’s Year Eve show in Dallas, Texas, last weekend.
One central issue appeared to be behind the appearance of Stan Lee, who was there at the show as the main draw and it coincided with his 94th birthday, culminating in a party and a Stan Lee Roast and Toast.
The problem seemed to be down to a disproportionate lack of promotion of this event as opposed to others, through Stan Lee’s website and social media. Typically each show Stan Lee attends, his online company promotes thoroughly. It was expected that an invitation to celebrate his 94th birthday and ring in the new year with him would have gone viral given the opportunity to do so – but it wasn’t. Geek Expos relied on this promotion to meet the numbers they were building the event to be, though they underline this was at NO fault to Stan Lee himself. He even did a private video with the Geek Expos team to put up on the Geek Expos social media to help compensate for the lack of promotion his web company was doing for him.
And from those I’ve talked to, that’s what most screwed the Nerd Year’s Eve. It was meant to be the very reason and rationale for the show – and Stan Lee fans didn’t know it was happening. There were consequences which snowballed…
The second big problem was regarding the official hotel for the show and part of the convention block. Even lowballing expected numbers to a Stan Lee show, the show’s contract with the hotel had a guaranteed booking attendance that they came well short of. And suddenly the costs rocketed by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Suddenly there was a crippling bill that the show’s expenses buffer fell short of. After a meeting on Saturday night, during the convention, Geek Expos had to deplete their financial resources to keep the doors open and the convention going.
But as a result of low attendance, and the lack of wallets walking the floor, most of the guests did not meet their minimum agreed earnings and the show was not able to pay them what they had agreed.
With all these problems compounding, the Geek Expo board voted to dissolve the three-year old company. Everyone lost their jobs.
The situation has been compared to other shows that collapsed but it’s worth pointing out that the organisers didn’t walk away with money, they stayed at the show, broke, in debt, but trying to ensure everyone had as good a time as they could, and that the doors stayed open, so the guests, artists, and exhibitors could make as much money as possible. Guests who were there at the show for free were fine, some took the situation out on their agents but the organisers took blame face to face. Some were agreeable and warm, understanding of the situation, others were not.
There is some hope, The St Louis comic con, Gateway Geek Fest, which Geek Expos had taken up has been given back to its old organiser Chris McQuillen. And they are looking to find the Tulsa show a home as well, since it is in a thriving fan community.
People who went to the show did have a good time. The parties are already legendary. And many of those who fell short of what was agreed, left in comradely, warm spirits. Some staff I’ve spoken to blame Geek Expos execs for overbooking and not listening to the team on the ground, but they are keeping a stiff upper lip and moving on to better things in this new year.
You might say Geek Expos was the final fatality of 2016. But from the ashes, something new will rise.
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