Hello Junkies! Bob here, AFJ's reporter at Star Wars Celebration. I should state that this is not my first Celebration. In fact, I was crazy enough to go to Messe Essen, Germany for Star Wars Celebration Europe II. Yes, I love Star Wars that much that I went to another country for a convention on it. That experience, outside of a Sunday where I couldn't get into seeing Attack of the Clones, in 3D, was incredible. The event was well organized, the volunteers were pleasant, and above all, I was able to see, do, and buy everything I wanted. In fact, I was so jazzed about the celebration that I even sang its praises to numerous other outlets that it was better than Comic-Con.
If Celebration Chicago, today, would have been my first experience, I would never even consider coming back again. In fact, today, while waiting in line to get into the showroom floor, I actually considered leaving. Which would encompass, a 10-hour drive and telling the boss why I left. To be clear, today was really about getting/ buying the Star Wars Celebration exclusives. Outside of autographs and photo ops with Star Wars personalities, there really wasn't much else to do but shop. There were no scheduled panels for Day 1.
With Disney behind all of this, you have to wonder how the convention's only store would lose the ability to cash out people willing to spend their hard earned money. Let alone flounder for 3 hours while rabid fans stood there with prize possessions waiting to be purchased. With this issue alone, the entire day was decimated, because not only did you have the same people in the store, in line, waiting, you had hundreds of others that were not able to get into the store. Yes, people were ready to spend and never even got the chance. The upside was for the dealers, on the showroom floor, who were now flooded with people only too eager to buy.
Star Wars Celebration did have this response, via Twitter, to the day's woes.
— StarWars Celebration (@SW_Celebration) April 11, 2019
In a word, wow.
What happened? There have been at least two celebrations since my properly run one in Germany. Yet, as I started to talk with my new neighbors and friends, I learned that Celebration Orlando, Day 1, was a nightmare too. Andrew, a member of the 501st, from England, told me that the Celebration in London was a treat. As we sat there looking at the Celebration app for answers, of which there only came more frustrations, I started to think about the highway and going home. This wasn't what I signed up for. I knew there would be lines, but no chance of buying anything from the Celebration store was ridiculous. That's like going to a baseball game and not being able to buy your team's hat or jersey. In short, Star Wars Celebration lost a lot of money today and some fans. I actually wondered if the volatile Star Wars fan base, "The Last Jedi Haters" I call them, would actually turn up. Turns out, Celebration made enough of their own people upset.
How could this problem be solved? I can't speak to the logistics of what went into the store. For example, how many servers were running and so forth? What I do constantly see is a lack of foresight by the industries that feed off of pop culture. Case in point, Fandango being crushed by Avengers: Endgame pre-sale tickets. Did they not learn anything from Star Wars: The Force Awakens? We here at AFJ see this all the time with pre-orders for action figures. Whether it be Mezco Toyz and their hot new exclusive pre-orders or Hasbro's online retailer with post-Comic-Con exclusives for sale; their systems cannot handle it. So when you bring thousands of Star Wars fans to one location and have nothing for them to do but shop, what did you think was going to happen? Perhaps more than one store? Perhaps kiosks scattered across the con floor with the same product? Next time a presale of exclusive items with an online order form and a predetermined pickup location might be a grand idea. I've seen this work at Comic-Con in San Diego.
Another major issue for Star Wars Celebration was the lottery to purchase retail exclusives (Hasbro, LEGO, and Funko) and their slow response in allowing fans to know if they won or not. AFJ is primarily a toy site. We deal with action figures every day. So the chance to go to Star Wars Celebration and pick up two new exclusives was fantastic. However, after entering the lottery for both Funko and Hasbro, I received an apologetic email for Funko on Tuesday, that I would not have the chance to buy any of the exclusives. As for Hasbro, I received the same sad email while I was waiting in line for the Hasbro booth. I was playing the odds and lost. What made it worse was, I couldn't buy the exclusives if I waited in line. Only lottery winners have that opportunity. So, again, someone here doesn't want my money. Not to mention as a fan, I am, again, leaving empty-handed. Do you want to take bets in August that the Hasbro site will crash when the sell the left-over exclusives?
Again, Star Wars Celebration has issued a statement that changes are being made, for the rest of the show. This is from the celebration site HERE.
"Entrance to the show on Thursday morning was not as fast or as smooth as we wanted it to be and for that we are very sorry. We always try to strike a balance between safety and convenience and in that spirit we made some changes that we hope will make Friday and the rest of your Star Wars Celebration experience much better.
We are adding additional entrance points around the building that we believe will ease access to the building and make things smoother for you. We will continue to use the West Lobby E/F as our main entrance and we are also adding the C Lobby (right in the middle of the building) and the Westwood Lobby behind the building as additional entrance points for fans. That makes three different locations that will allow fans to enter the building instead of one. We are also adding additional will call/ticket pickup stations at each entrance location for those fans that need to pick up their tickets.
Doors to the main entrance at the West Lobby E/F will open at 5am and the two new additional entrances will open at 6am. Upon entering the building all fans will be directed to the Queue Hall for all Galaxy and Celebration stage panel wrist-banding and entrance to the show floor.
The Celebration Sleepover procedures for this evening will stay the same. Starting at 8pm the queue hall will open for fans planning on spending the night.
We thank you for your patience and we think these changes will help you get into the building faster for the rest of the weekend. May the Force be with you"!
No Celebration, May the Force Be with you. You need it more than we do at this point. #AFJ4LIFE