ORLANDO, Fla. - The highly attended and popular comic convention MegaCon took place over the weekend in Orlando, and as in most years it dominated the weekend for its area in the city. The event drew some 190,000 attendees, and attracted a star-studded guest list and robust network of speaking events and vendor booths.
Held in the Orange County Convention Center, packed crowds are par for the course for MegaCon or other comparable fan events. What isn't usual, however, was the torrent of complaints regarding organizational and planning mistakes made by the organizers.
The business model employed by MegaCon's organizer, Fan Expo, is to charge general admission for entry and then additional paid tickets to get in line for a photo op or an autograph with one or more of the celebrity guests in attendance. Unpaid volunteers are tasked with ensuring attendees don't get both their photo and an autograph unless they've paid for both, and that no unpaid photos are taken of the talent from close outside the line.
Due to the mass popularity of MegaCon and the gargantuan quantity of tickets sold, the biggest stars had lines for their appearances spanning extreme distances. The biggest names, such as Tom Hiddleston, Hayden Christensen, Giancarlo Esposito, and William Shatner, had guests reporting six-hour or longer wait times, sometimes forcing them to miss other attractions they'd paid to book.
"The mismanagement of Hayden [Christensen]'s time was horrendous," one guest said. "6.5 hours to get his autograph." Other guests who've spoken about their experience have reported severe difficulty finding event updates during these waits, and being outright refused when asking for a refund after being denied access to a feature they paid for.
Because MegaCon primarily sells its photo ops and autograph signings as separate transactions with different lines, stars often have to travel back and forth between the two at varying intervals throughout the day. This reportedly resulted in lines with hundreds of attendees staying put for extended periods of time, as the star addressed the other line which had just been in the same situation.
One event which received common complaints was a discussion panel with Tom Hiddleston, the actor best known for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The convention reportedly cut off attendance even for guests who'd paid money to attend. "It really hurt to miss Tom Hiddleston’s panel, while waiting in line for his photo op," one attendee said. "So many of us who paid for gold tickets were forced to miss it." Others said they were told free general admission seating would be available in that panel, but that organizers seated only paid reserve seating guests.
Already, MegaCon has begun selling tickets for the 2025 event, over a year away. For this weekend's event, some guests booked photo ops or autograph sessions with celebrities before the schedule was released, resulting in an unknown number of double-bookings. It's not yet clear whether MegaCon refunds guests in the event of this happening. Issues like the ones from this year were also heavily described in the 2022 and 2023 events, and MegaCon has yet to directly address any improvements they may have made since then.
MegaCon organizers have been contacted to speak on the organizational issues, and as of Tuesday afternoon have not yet responded. Any comment they provide will be added to this article.