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AnimeCons.com Lists 10 Biggest Anime Conventions of 2008

By January 26, 2009

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AnimeCons.com has pulled together a list of the 10 biggest anime conventions in North America. While there's some minor controversy about how the convention promoters have pulled together their headcounts of attendees, it still does provide a ballpark estimate of the crowds that came out for these shows.

  1. Anime Expo - Los Angeles, California: 43,000 estimated warm bodies
  2. Otakon - Baltimore, Maryland: 26,394 paid attendees
  3. New York Anime Festival - New York City: 18,399 warm bodies
  4. A-Kon - Dallas, Texas: 15,000 estimated paid attendees
  5. Sakura-Con - Seattle, Washington: 13,600 estimated paid attendees
  6. Anime Boston - Boston, Massachussetts: 14,339 warm bodies (13,248 paid attendees)
  7. Anime Central - Chicago, Illinois: 13,900 estimated warm bodies
  8. Anime North - Toronto, Ontario: 13,300 estimated warm bodies
  9. FanimeCon - San Jose, California: 13,000 estimated warm bodies
  10. Anime Weekend Atlanta - Atlanta, Georgia: 11,101 paid attendees
"Paid attendees" means the total number of attendees to paid to attend the event, including single and multi-day attendance badges. "Warm bodies" means that the promoters provided an attendance number that includes paid attendees, volunteers, press, exhibitors and industry guest badges. It seems that there's no consistent way to get attendance figures from promoters, so you can take these numbers with a grain of salt.

Note that this list focuses on anime-themed events, and does not include conventions that broadly combine anime / manga programming with comics, sci-fi and gaming, nor does it include comic / art events such as Alternative Press Expo or Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Otherwise, San Diego Comic-Con, with attendance topping 100,000 per 4 day weekend is the granddaddy of North American comics events. Many other popular comic conventions also attract large crowds.

AnimeCons.com Senior Editor Patrick Delahanty added this commentary about attendance trends in 2008:

"In last year's review, Anime Expo 2007 had a reported attendance of 44,000. Their 2007 attendance has since been corrected to 41,671, which means their attendance for Anime Expo 2008 went up less than 2000 people. Otakon's paid attendance went from 22,852 at Otakon 2007 to 26,324 at Otakon 2008, an increase of 3,472 people. It's quite likely that the relatively low growth rate for these two large conventions is a result of the poor economy since larger conventions are often more expensive to attend than smaller ones, so people may end up looking for more local options rather than traveling to a large convention."
And while he notes the "remarkable growth" of Seattle's Sakura-Con as it moved up from 8th to 5th place on the list, Delahanty also casts a leary eye at New York Anime Festival's attendance numbers:
"Third on this year's list is New York Anime Festival.... For 2008, they're reporting 18,399 people, which seems to be on the high side to many people who attended the convention and have also attended other conventions of similar size. Some have wondered if NYAF is reporting "turnstile" attendance (counting someone three times if they attended for three days), but NYAF staff have denied this counting practice. What seems to be more likely is that dealers were reportedly receiving ten exhibitor badges per space purchased, regardless of how many people they had working for them. We have also received reports of other badges being liberally distributed to industry and press."
Given the rough economic conditions in the U.S., attendance will likely go down in 2009 at anime and comic conventions, and it'll be interesting to see how things shake out this year.

In the meantime, I've updated the 2009 - 2010 Comics and Anime Convention Calendar, so that it includes events up through January 2010, so check it out to find a show near you. Next up on my itinerary: New York Comic-Con, on February 6 - 8 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City. See you there!

Image credit: © Deb Aoki

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