Off-site experiences at San Diego Comic-Con have been growing with each passing year: FX Networks and Adult Swim have pretty much made the grass opposite the Hilton Bayfront Hotel their own, and the GAME OF THRONES Experience has seen lines wrapped around the block for the past couple of years. However, 2017 was the year that 99% of offsite experiences / activities upped their game and almost eclipsed what was happening inside the San Diego Convention Centre itself.
Here are some of the offsites that I experienced this year:
CARTOON NETWORK’S BALLOONS (Martin Luther King Promenade Childrens Park)
Technically, not something you can “experience” – however, if you don’t have these surreal floating balloon faces weirdly staring at you at some point each year, then something doesn’t feel right about your con.
FXHIBITION (opposite Hilton Bayfront Hotel)
Now a main competitor in the Off-Site stakes, FX claim the lawn in front of the Hilton Bayfront as their own every year. This year, the channel brought experiences for shows such as LEGION (VR Experience), ATLANTA (capture videos of walking on walls and the ceiling), ARCHER (a wet bar – handy), AMERICAN HORROR STORY (a hypnotic zoetrope), THE STRAIN (free sunscreen – very handy) and SNOWFALL (er, a shoe lacing station).
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (in front of Omni Hotel)
A very basic walkthrough experience that culminated with having your photo taken in Kong’s hand. If you got there early enough, you also got a free comic. And swag is always good.
ATOMIC BLONDE SCREENING (Horton Plaza Cinema)
All eight screens at the Horton Plaza cinema were hired out to screen Charlize Theron‘s kick ass ATOMIC BLONDE. Beforehand, there was a food & beverage reception accompanied by a DJ spinning hip 80s tunes. A cassette tape(!) of the soundtrack to the film was given out to attendees before being marched by a group of Atomic Blonde’s over the the cinema for the screening.
If you were lucky enough to be in the first couple of screens, then extra goodies were on the seats waiting – a blonde wig and black sunglasses. A further surprise happened when Theron herself arrived to intro the film! Staring out into a crowd full of people wearing blonde wigs and black sunglasses back at her, she yelled, “This is the stuff of nightmares – I FUCKING LOVE IT!”
THE LAIKA EXPERIENCE (Gaslamp, 52o Fifth Avenue)
Laika Animation Film Studios have been going from strength to strength with their releases, culminating with an Oscar nomination for the phenomenal KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS. To celebrate their impressive rise to the top of practical animation filmmaking, Laika opened up a walkthrough viewing experience showcasing many of the models from their movies – CORALINE, PARANORMAN, BOXTROLLS and KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 VR EXPERIENCE (Lot 1035, 1st Avenue)
Possibly the most talked about offsite experience, and rightly so. Entering into world of Rick Deckard and company – via a fully immersive VR experience – you experience the chase of a stolen Spinner which resulted in an airborne dogfight. Once the VR goggles and headphones were off, you were launched into an street scene from BLADE RUNNER 2049 with interactions and live actors.
There was the option to sit at the bar of the noodle shop to sample some of the noodles, if you were so inclined, and if you were over 21, you could taste three different types of Johnnie Walker whiskey (as seen in the film, by all accounts – the company was the primary sponsor of the off-site). It was a huge offsite experience and one that fully immersed you in the world of dystopian Los Angeles.