There are hundreds, probably thousands of cautionary tales out there regarding bad conventions. Every week you hear about conventions that have failed. Some of these are due to bad organization, some just due to a variety of circumstances, others are because they are run by con artists.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spot which conventions will fail. But it is easy to spot when a celebrity is upset with one.
To all my colleagues out there who are booking conventions.. DO NOT do any shows with Paul or Karine Villiano. They have recently stiffed myself and several guests who appeared at their convention in Colorado.
— tim russ (@timruss2) July 26, 2018
Comments like this make me look into things further.
The BIG Fails
- It’s been reported that on Friday, the first day of the convention, one of the guests was told by a convention organizer that the green room would not be restocked with basic supplies such as water, “because they were waiting for more revenue to come in.”
- On Saturday, one of the guests agents attempted to collect the remainder of the contract for their guests and got a little bit of a run-around. They were finally given a credit card number and were told it was their “investor.” Two of the three charges went through without issue, however the third charge was challenged and refused. The credit card company then told the agent that the other two charges were in dispute, so in order to save his company’s credit, he reversed the charges.
- There was an “investor,” however no contract existed with the investor. On Sunday morning, the organizers were telling people that they couldn’t pay because their ticket sales weren’t what they expected and that their “investor” had bailed on them. The “investor’s” credit card from Saturday apparently belonged to a person identified as the father of one of the organizers. This particular “investor” was seen in Estes Park on Sunday, so he apparently did not leave.
- (Included 8/2/18 5:52 am CST) After the obvious failure of the convention, I am told that organizers stated something to the effect of “don’t worry, we have insurance to cover this’ then presented insurance papers to the doubters. the insurance papers I have seen from one of my sources is to cover the convention location, not the convention itself, if it fails. It has also come down the chain that people were told that the insurance claim was denied. Well if it was claimed against what I saw,then it definitely was.
If you want the whole story, then keep reading…
Estes Park Comic Con
Estes Park Comic Con, which was held the weekend of July 13th, was a convention that looked good. They had things booked well ahead of time, and communication with their guests was good. The questionable things were their location and the quantity of guests.
Estes Park is a small resort-type town at the base of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It has a population of approximately 6,000 people and most large population areas are over an hour away.
It is a beautiful area. The guests and agents I have spoken to were impressed with the surroundings of the convention, and they were even more impressed when they were taken on a sightseeing tour of the area. It’s not uncommon that a small convention does more than provide food, a room, and maybe some on-site entertainment. The convention seemed to show definite promise.
Hints at Failure
It was only after the fact that they found out the tour was a donation to the convention and wasn’t truly provided by the convention organizers.
Maybe the guests should have been a little suspicious when they found out they were booked at two separate hotels. A small convention, with adequate planning, should be able to book enough rooms for their attendees at one hotel.
I’m also told that there were some major transportation issues. Some guests rented cars because nothing was arranged, and others had already been waiting several hours before transportation arrived for them. Transportation issues with conventions are not entirely uncommon, but when you add things up, this is a pretty good warning sign.
Another warning sign I have found is that there was a GoFundMe set up nine months ago, that never left the ground.
They didn’t book any HUGE movie stars, but they did book a variety of well-known celebs with decent followings:
- Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
- Ethan Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager)
- Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
- Terry Molloy (Doctor Who)
- Cassandra Peterson (Elvira)
- Sam Jones (Flash Gordon)
- Michelle Harrison (Continuum)
- Vernon Wells (Power Rangers Time Force)
- Jed Rees (The Chris Isaak Show, Deadpool)
- Janeshia Adams-Ginyard – Stunt actress
- Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island) – CANCELLED
- Noelle Hannibal
- Erick Stolhanske (Super Troopers)
- Dirk Benedict (A-Team, Battle Star Galactica)
- Paul Soter (Super Troopers)
- Trevor Stines (Riverdale)
Fifteen guests is a LOT of people for small, first-year convention. I’ve stated it before, guests are expensive! Not only do you have their retainer fee, but you also have flights, hotels, and food. Then you also must cover whomever else they chose to include in their contracts such as a handler, agent, and spouse. Guests also usually have a guarantee from the convention organizers that they will make a certain amount at their table in autographs and photo ops. If they don’t make the guarantee, the convention organizers must make up the difference.
A first-year con in a small town should never have booked this many guests; they were probably lucky Dawn Wells cancelled as I’m sure that saved them some money.
The convention itself was held in the Estes Park Event Complex, and it was basically empty. It was nice that there was a lot of room to move around, but they didn’t sell a lot of tickets. Reports have it as less than 1,000 tickets were sold. Estimates by people on-site at the conventions say there were maybe 100 people a day.
One reason was the ticket prices. $30 for a day, or $75 for all three days. A four-day pass to Wizard World in Chicago is only $95, and the ticket prices were about the same as tickets to Colorado Springs Comic Con, which is larger and more established. Few were going to pay those prices for a new, small, unknown convention an hour away from anywhere.
From attendees, I’m hearing a lot of disappointment. They felt they did not get their money’s worth. I’m told there were a lot of empty vendor tables and what was there were pretty spread out. Talking with a few artists and vendors, they felt that the convention was well-organized, even if they were very disappointed with the turnout.
The event boasted several cosplayers, so they were definitely trying to promote cosplay.
To encourages cosplayers, you need things they are interested in and there was nothing. There was a definite lack of panels, events, and workshops. (Revised 8/1/18 5:35 pm CST – originally stated there was no cosplay contest) I was told that they didn’t even have a cosplay contest. after reviewing the schedule I see that they did have one. The problem is that the contest was on Sunday at 5:00, a day when a lot of people leave early, and for a convention this small and this slow, very few were going to stick around.
What they did have on the schedule for panels were blandly named Cosplay Panel #1, Artist Panel #1, etc. No topic and no list of participants. From what I have heard, some of the participants didn’t know they were in these panels until the panels were occurring, so they obviously had no clue what they were supposed to be talking about.
If you look at the schedule, you will also see that they had several of the celebrity Q&A’s scheduled for Sunday. Sunday is the day that things wrap up, those are the days everyone goes home. Considering that the nearest airport is over an hour away, an afternoon Q&A leaves your guests scrambling to catch flights.
This convention was headed by Karine Villano and her husband Paul Villano of Villano Brothers Entertainment LLC. Villano Brothers Entertainment LLC was registered to Peter L. Villano on May 29, 2017.