For fans of anything popular culture – from comics, movies, games, television and celebrities – Awesome Con is a place to embrace the potpourri of geeky awesomeness.
The convention, which touts itself as an up-and-coming Comic-Con of sorts, was set to take place in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center from Nov. 21-23. But faced with a set of challenges, Awesome Con was cancelled this past Wednesday, just weeks away from its opening day.
The con was scheduled to feature many panels and events, as well as celebrity guests like Jason Mamoa ("Game of Thrones," the upcoming "Aquaman" movie"), Casper Van Dien ("Starship Troopers"), Dina Meyer ("Starship Troopers"), Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters"), John DiMaggio (the voice of Bender from "Futurama") and Nicholas Brendon (Xander from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer").
Here is the full statement issued by Henry Penrod, president of Awesome Conventions, which was posted via Facebook on Wednesday morning:
"Hi guys, this is Ben Penrod, President of Awesome Conventions. It is no fun to say this, but unfortunately we have made the extremely difficult decision to cancel Awesome Con Milwaukee.
We initially planned for this event to be a huge celebration of comics and pop culture, but we had a number of challenges, and things just weren't coming together in a few areas. Providing an unforgettable convention experience is key to Awesome Con’s entire existence, but it was looking more and more like this con wasn't going to be able to live up to its name or your expectations for what Awesome Con is. Rather than falling short, we have decided to cancel this year’s event.
I’m truly sorry, and I’m sad, and I completely understand that you will be upset with us (and we are upset, as well). I appreciate everyone who signed up for the con, everyone who bought a table or booth, everyone who supported us and all of our partners in Milwaukee. It means a lot to us and we’re very sorry that we are letting you down.
Everyone who bought a ticket, table or booth will be contacted soon about how to get a refund."
What are these problematic areas that forced them to cancel? If I were to guess, problems for the con started when two of the most popular guests originally announced – David Morrissey (The Governor from "The Walking Dead") and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) – bowed out. This might've caused many fans who were planning on attending to change plans. It did spur quite a drop in prices for tickets and VIP passes, so that itself hinted that they weren't drawing in as many pre-sales as they had hoped.
I reached out to Bill Ahart, a comic book dealer for the company Geek Inc. Comics, to talk about the short notice cancellation, which has affected his plans and potential sales for the weekend.
He said that the show in Indianapolis, which took place Oct. 3-5, and the low attendance at the con, which lead to speculation that Milwaukee was going to experience the same drought. He told me that if his experience in Indianapolis was any indication, maybe it was a smart decision to cancel the con in Milwaukee after all.
"I was a vendor at their Indy show, and it appears that the Milwaukee one was on the path to being a similar show," Ahart said. "The Indy one was possibly the worst experience I've had as a vendor, and one of the very few shows I've ever lost money doing. The promoters did a lot of great advertising, and attendance was just low, no two ways about it.
"They were expecting between 15,000 and 2o,000 in turn out, and we on the sales floor saw an estimated 2-3,000 people," Ahart continued. "If pre-sales indicated that Milwaukee was going to be the same, then I think they made the right call."
Besides being a comic book dealer for Geek Ink. Comics, Alhart runs Milwaukee's Mighty Con, which is the largest comic book convention in the area. As a show runner, he understands how much money Awesome Con stood to lose, so it made sense in the long run to cancel rather than suffer financially – if that was the reasoning behind the cancellation in the first place, of course.
"My money is on pre-sales," Alhart predicted. "In Indy, they needed at least 10,000 people to show up if they were going to break even. People didn't, and they lost more money than most people make in a year. So, let's say this show was a bit cheaper to run, but they still need like 8,000 people to show up. And pre-sales were at, say 500 people. Now, do you call everything off and lose, say, then 10-20,000 in deposits you've had to shell out, or roll the dice and potentially lose another 100,000 when the show is a bust?"
This is sad news for not just for me, a frequent con-goer who was looking forward to having a weekend of geeky fun without having to travel south to Illinois, but for Milwaukee, a city in which deserves to be a host to a larger pop culture convention. Oh, well.
I reached out to organizers at Awesome Con asking if they currently have plans to come back to Milwaukee for 2015, but I have yet to receive a response.
So, I guess in the mean time, if you're itching to go to a local convention, there's Mighty Con that's taking place on Jan. 11, 2015 at the American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave. Ahart told me that if you purchased a ticket or a pass for Awesome Con Milwaukee, you'll get in for free at Mighty Con with proof of purchase.
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.