Patiently Waiting – Info and Tales of SDCC Hall H Lines

San Diego Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con '13

CCI BannerI’ll start by stating that I am by no means the authority on how Hall H functions, nor do I have the best times to line up and gain entry into the Hall.  I’m just a guy who has spent many of hours in line, and many of hours in the Hall itself over the past 7 years.  That being said, here are some tips, theories, and experiences from my time with Hall H.  Let’s being with some quick Q & A.

 

 

 

When to line up?

The first thing you need to know is the policy of SDCC that they do Not clear the Hall between panels.  So, if a panel you are excited to see is the first panel of the day…you better get your sleeping bag ready and get in line the night before.  Even lining up at 3 AM or 4 AM is a far better advantage than dragging yourself to the line on or after 6 AM.  But, none of these things are a guarantee that you will enter the Hall.

If the panel you want to see is later in the day, you can probably get away with getting in line a few hours before and secure a seat.  Also consider getting in the Hall for a few panels that you may not be interested in just to secure yourself a seat.  None of these things are a guarantee that you will enter the Hall (that needed to be stated twice for good measure).

Here are the 2012 rules and regulations in regards to early line up:

  • Camping is not allowed.
  • No tents, canopies, inflatables, cots, beds, furniture, large coolers, heaters, large fans, large umbrellas, chaise lounges, open flames, or anything of similar size of any kind as determined by the Convention Center.
  • You are allowed to have one chair per person of relatively normal size. You may use a sleeping bag or blanket as well, provided it is only taking up the space of one person.
  • No facilities or services will be available in the Park, so plan accordingly.
  • Restroom access will be available in Lobby G of the Convention Center from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM each night starting Tuesday, July 10. No other access to facilities will be available.
  • Please respect the grounds and dispose of trash in trash receptacles. Please do not leave any trash or waste behind.
  • No “saving” a spot in line unless it is only temporary, such as a restroom break.

 

What to bring?

A backpack of goodies!  Books, Comics, Kindle, iPad, iPod, Smart Phone, phone battery booster or solar charger, snacks, lunch, plenty of water, and sunscreen.  Leave your weapons (unless it’s part of your costume), this isn’t the Zombie Apocalypse survival time.  In regards to food, you will be able to leave the Hall to purchase food from the inside the convention hallway.  You will be given a pass to get back into the Hall.

Where to sit?

This is a viewers choice.  If you are looking to get close, you will need to push your way to the front and you may even get split up from your group.  Be ready to rub elbows with strangers.  Personally, I just like being in the Hall, so I choose to sit in the back.  There are plenty of screens from the ceiling around the hall to see the panelist and video clips.  And the sound is amazing.  Seriously!  It’s probably better than most theaters around the country.  So don’t get caught up on being close if you are just there for the experience.

How to Behave?

Be kind and courteous to others around you.  It’s been a long day out in line, and maybe even a longer day inside the Hall.  We are all here for the same thing, to enjoy SDCC and the nerd experience.  So, put your Pens down and chill.

 

Outside Hall H

Okay, now that some of those questions have been answered…where to begin?  Let’s start in 2009, when the Twilight saga had their panel at SDCC.  This was fraught with controversy among the nerd community and die hard SDCC fans.  Aside from bringing the Twihards to the convention, it also brought campers to Hall H.  In previous years, you could line up a couple hours before the doors would open and you were guaranteed a pretty decent seat.  Or least a seat in general.  Once the camping began, and the nervousness set in for the attendees who thought they may miss their favorite panel, the lines began to stretch out longer and longer.  The first year Twilight hit SDCC, the Powers-That-Be had no idea how to control the crowds.  The line was a mess.  Confusion set in, and some lines were let in ahead of others that had been waiting for hours.

Twilight SDCC

The panels for Hall H didn’t even start until 11 AM on that Thursday.  Extremely late, and a very long time to wait in line.  I also need to mention that the Twilight panel didn’t start until 3 PM.  Lots of people who lined up Thursday morning did not make it into the first panel.  The Twilight fans had staked claim on the seats in the Hall and did not budge.  So if you were not in the Hall early to see the Disney panel, you were out of luck.  But guess what happened when Twilight ended?  That’s right, a lot of people fled the Hall, which opened up plenty of seats for the next set of panels.  The next year, SDCC made a good decision by making the Twilight panel the first panel, and when that panel ended it was much easier to get into the Hall.

The main reason I bring up Twilight and its affect on Hall H is to illustrate that for each packed panel, there are several people who have no interest in the next panel and will leave the Hall.  This is sometimes how you have to approach the Hall.  You get in line knowing you may not get into a particular panel, but your hope is that things clear out and you can at least make it inside soon after that panel ends.  It doesn’t always work that way.  I sat in line for the Warner Bros. panel in 2010 starting at 6 AM and didn’t get into the Hall until 1 PM.  Green Lantern and Harry Potter were the first two parts of the WB panel.  Once HP ended, the Hall cleared and I walked right in for Sucker Punch and stayed there pretty much the rest of the day.  I missed a couple panels, and was a little sad I missed out on the Harry Potter panel.   Again, it’s the risk you take and the understanding that you may miss out on something.

Twilight opened up the eye’s of the attendees and the studio’s.  Attendees freaked out at the lines and packed Hall.  The studio did exactly what it set out to do, draw a big audience and get the word out that Twilight was a big franchise with a big following.  Love it or hate it, they made Hall H THE place to be.  Today the studios continue to bring their movies to SDCC in the hopes of creating buzz.  Some have dropped out during certain years, but come back with new things to showcase the next.  There is a lot of buzz recently about Marvel at SDCC for 2013.  I think some of those fears have been put to rest with confirmation from Marvel that they will in fact have a panel/presence at SDCC 2013.  And now we are back to panic mode.

Hall H Line To Marina

Within minutes of hearing about Marvel being in Hall H for 2013, with a day and estimated time for the panel, people on Twitter were already speculating long lines and when to get themselves there.  The panic and anxiety over this line is already in full motion and we are months away from the event itself.  Will people be camped out on Wednesday night to get into Hall H for Thursday? Even when the Marvel panel is rumored to start at 3 or 4 PM?  I will tell you this, if the first two panels on Thursday are big name franchises (like another Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, Disney, etc.), then you can guarantee people will be camped out, and with good reason.  If you show up on Thursday morning at 6 or 7 AM with three killer panels taking place that day, to quote @mcbrittanie on Twitter “if you’re not in either line already, you’re S.O.L.”  And that goes for Ballroom 20 as well.

Ballroom 20 is no slouch, with room for 4200 people.  I’m just not a Ballroom 20 kind of guy.  It’s mainly TV shows in that room, and it does get jam packed with lines stretching clear around the convention center (more sunscreen).  But, I can’t really comment on that room.  I only stepped foot in that room a couple times.  Once in 2008 for the Hamlet 2 and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay panels, and in 2009 for the Zombieland panel.  But my heart belongs to Hall H.  Most of the things that interest me are from the movie side of life, and the majority of them tend to be held in Hall H.  I think Hall H is still the biggest draw.  It’s obviously a larger venue with a 6000 person max capacity.  Last year we got thrown a wrench in the system with TV showing up in Hall H and bringing the Hall to capacity very early.

Hall H Line 2012
Hall H Line 2012

When TV jumped the Ballroom 20 in 2012 and landed firmly in Hall H with Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones, the masses found out real quick how popular TV can really be.   Big Bang Theory was the first panel of the day.  As a show that can be seen by anyone in the country (CBS is free, while AMC is pay cable, and HBO is another extra fee on your cable bill), it was a huge draw for the masses.  The line for Hall H stretched clear around the convention center.  There were volunteers who were trying to take estimated counts and were letting people know if they had a chance to enter the Hall depending on where they were standing in line.  And of course they were very wrong.  I got in line a little before 6 AM, and it didn’t move for hours.  When the line finally moved, I ended up in the next line that would supposedly enter the Hall.  Our line was firmly planted outside during Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead.  Once The Walking Dead was over, hours later, people finally started to leave the Hall and we were able to enter and find a seat.  Why?  Because Game of Thrones is an HBO extra paid channel and the truth is that the amount of people who watch Big Bang far outweigh those who watch GoT and Walking Dead also outweigh the GoT viewers.  Make sense?

Prepare To Do A Lot Of This
Prepare To Do A Lot Of This

This is Hall H in a nutshell.  Unpredictable at best.  You either Love It, Hate It, or Love to Hate It.  It’s a real crap shoot and I don’t know if there is a best way to go about lining up for Hall H.  I know, this is a long article to finally get to the bottom and hear there is no full proof solution to entering Hall H.  The truth is there really isn’t.  The one thing you need is patience.  If you can’t sit still, get agitated easily, and allow your emotions to take over…you will hate the experience of Hall H.  If you enter the line knowing that you may not enter the Hall, and are actually okay with the fact you may miss a panel or two, then you might survive.  And don’t be afraid to leave it behind.  If you know for a fact that you will not even get close to the entrance of Hall H, you may as well pack up and hit the exhibit hall (again) or set foot towards the off-site festivities (which grow each year).

If you have any questions or any of your own thoughts/experiences about Hall H, please let us know in the comment section.

9 comments

  • Here’s my recommendation: Last year, I did a twitter search for “Hall H” and “Ballroom 20” every morning around 3AM-ish. People usually tweet the status of the line and you want to head out and get in line or wait a little bit. Also, If you are in line for Hall H or even the Indigo Ballroom, if you’re craving a coffee, the Hilton Bayfront does have a Starbucks, but the lineup to get inside is insane. Last year, the hotel had a cart by the side entrance (by the parking complex) that served breakfast sandwiches, muffins, coffee (none of the fancy Starbucks stuff), tea and juice for a reasonable price.

  • 2012 was my first con, and me and 3 friends had an interesting experience on the Wednesday night.
    The Twilight panel was on Thursday morning, so naturally people had been camped out since Monday afternoon. I should say that what we had no intention to join the queue, but plans change.
    Being from the UK, I joined a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/comicconukattendees/) for people from the UK going to SDCC, so I could get tips from veterans and understand just what the hell I was letting myself in for.
    Having only arrived at our hostel on Tuesday night, about 26 hours after we left for the airport, we were already knackered from that.
    Anyway, after Preview Night, we had arranged to meet up with other members of the group at the Hilton Gaslamp. Time flew, and next thing we knew, it was 12am and the only way back to our hostel (in Point Loma, about 7 miles north of Downtown) was a taxi. We decided against that option and, after reading that camping outside Hall H for panels was the norm, we joined the queue (but not after a few more drinks and pizza) about 2am, just getting on the final grassy area. As you do.
    It was a very odd sight seeing “Twilight Moms” and people who had been camped out for days. I think we were the only male people in the surprisingly short queue (probably about 100 people ahead of us).
    The night progressed with NBC trying to interview us at 3am, and we repeatedly told them we weren’t Twilight fans. But they persevered with trying to interview us, mainly by shining a very bright light in our eyes. Safe to say, they were told where to shove it. Repeatedly.
    We were also wearing just shorts and T-shirt, which is brilliant during the 90+ degree days, but not so much during the freezing nights. Using our swagbags as makeshift sleeping bags, we managed to get an hour or two of sleep.
    About 5:30am, when the bus started running back to Point Loma, we made our way back to the hostel to get changed and showered. Fox also interviewed us, but after having about 14 hours sleep in the last 3 days, we weren’t in any mood to be interviewed and ended up giving horrendous answers to their questions (although they were rubbish questions like “how do you get around San Diego?”, so that didn’t help).
    Safe to say after that night, in case it should happen again, I took a jumper with me every day.
    It was an exhausting and weird night, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world

  • As a 11 year Vet of The Con and avid tv fan all of what was said about hall H applies to 20. Except the line starts inside the convention until last year when SDCC severely underestimate Firefly fandom. That line started the night before and stretched all the way past the rocky bluff in the marina. In fact I ran into a line places and asked “what’s it for” practically fell over when they said BRM 20. My tips. Single Rider always garners better seat. You can Tag Team seat in 20 with a bathroom pass. Last 2 years ago got in hall H line @4am Sunday for Supernatural/Dr Who/SOA got middle section last year 3 am for Fringe/supernatural /dr who/soa same seats. With Dr Who 50th I figuring 2am for middle section

  • I definitely have to agree with all of the advice above. Having been to SDCC 3 times now, it’s really interesting to see what panels are going to be in Hall H and Ballroom 20. As you mentioned, Michael, knowing what panels are going to be where might be your best bet. In 2011, we got in line at 2am for the Doctor Who panel which was after the Glee panel. We managed to get under the white tents (we were told that if you were under the white tents, you were guaranteed to get in). The Glee fans definitely underestimated the Doctor Who fans, though, because there were numerous complaints/tweets about DW fans hogging the front of the line lol. What a difference it was the following year (2012)- we wanted to attend the Lengendary/WB panel that was midday and once again got in line for Hall H at 2am. However, this time, not only were we not under the white tents, we were no where near them- we were across the street right in front of the Hilton. Granted the line up for Hall H that day was Django Unchained, End of Watch, Silent Hill, Pacific Rim/Man of Steel/The Hobbit, Iron Man 3 and Kevin Smith, we knew it was going to be a big line, but this really just highlighted how panels can make a difference w/the lines.

    As for Ballroom 20- that line is insane. I’ve also been numerous times, but that line is much harder b/c camping out starts at the doorway of the con center. Unlike Hall H, where the white tents designate the start of the line-up, Ballroom 20 starts at the door and moves backs; when the con center is opened, the line is led into the con, up the escalators, down a hallway, down some stairs, up some stairs and if you’re early enough, you’ll be standing under the white tents for Ballroom 20. If not, you’ll be standing on some stairs (in the sun), beginning the trek to go up and down and snaking through line after line. And again, the panels dictates the lines; as Redsonja1313 said, people completely underestimated the crowd for the Firefly panel- except the Firefly fans that is lol (well, it was their 10 yr anniversary!).

    Also as Alexis says- Twitter is a great source to get a gauge on the line. People will be tweeting where they are/how many are in front of them and whether or not they got in. Lastly- and this is probably one of the most important aspects- is be safe. I always traveled with a group when heading to the con center from our hotel room. Long story short- my friend left early for the Firefly panel; I had fallen asleep and she didn’t want to wake me. I ended up not making it to the line b/c I wasn’t comfortable walking by myself (as a lone female) through downtown SD that late/early. And I’m glad I didn’t- the following day when we headed out at 2am for Hall H, we encounter many many drunk and disorderly individuals (we are in downtown SD). While it was only ~5-10mins walk to the con center, I’m not going to lie that we breathed a sigh of relief when we were out of party central and on the grounds of the con center, greeted by sleeping individuals lol.

    If anything, getting into Hall H/Ballroom 20 is always an experience and have fun with it! You’re at Comic Con!

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