Harry Potter

Caleb Hadley, 5, of Lindon, gestures with his wand as he visits the Harry Potter celebration at Thanksgiving Point Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald

With just a month elapsed since FanX: Salt Lake Comic Convention left their spring event in the rearview, the loyalty launch of ticket sales for the 2019 fall event is well underway, and the first guest announcement is already here. 

The first guest announcement for the Sept. 5-7 event is Harry Potter fan favorite Matthew Lewis, best known for his role as Neville Longbottom in the beloved film series, as well as his work as a producer and in shows including “Me Before You” and “The Syndicate.”

Though the announcement will come to FanX groups online Friday afternoon, event co-founder Dan Farr took some time Friday morning to share the news with the Daily Herald and discuss the success of early ticket sales.

“It really does make a big difference,” Farr said of early support in conjunction with event celebrity lineups. “(It ties) back to the support of the fans and the fact that we are really shooting for the most exciting lineup ever. There’s a lot of things we’re working on, to kind of change and create some fresh ideas and fun things for the event. One thing we really are planning on and betting pretty heavy on is the lineup, and making sure that we have a lineup that blows people away.”

According to Farr, fans of the Salt Lake pop culture convention have been asking for Harry Potter-related guests for years, with Matthew Lewis especially on the radar.

“This has been several years of trying to book him – we’ve been working on it for a long time and finally schedules lined up and we’re able to do it,” Farr said. “When it finally happens, we’re really excited to see … how (fans) respond.”

The process of booking guests is a tricky one, with filming schedules perpetually posing a threat to FanX commitments, something that Farr said makes him grateful he only produces events rather than actual films or television series, where coordination is on a group level rather than an individual one.

“I see how hard it is lining people up,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to say, ‘We can sub in these celebrities versus these celebrities’ (if a conflict arises). When you go to an Avengers movie, you don’t sub out Robert Downey, Jr. because his schedule doesn’t line up. … This has given me a new appreciation for what movie producers have to go through to do that.”

As to the announcement of Matthew Lewis on the schedule so early before the September event, Farr said it was a secret too good to keep.

“With this, with Matthew, we honestly found it kind of hard to keep a secret for a long time,” he said. “It’s really fun just to see how people respond to these type of guests, especially Harry Potter because it is so popular. Utah leads nation (as fans of Harry Potter), like we do with many other pop culture franchises according to Google Trends.”

As Farr noted, Utah’s search interest in Harry Potter is highest in the nation, along with Marvel, Avengers, Lord of the Rings and more. That kind of interest has created a culture around FanX that Farr said continues even when the convention isn’t in session.

“When we started it, we thought ‘Hey, this event is a fun three days where people can come have a good time,’ he said. “What we didn’t realize is it’s really becoming kind of a lifestyle for so many people. It’s clearly much more than just the days of the event that people get to experience the fun of what these are, and that’s the magic of it.”

At this point, Farr said Lewis will be the only guest announcement made before the press conference, set for mid-June at the Megaplex Theatres at Jordan Commons in South Jordan, unless, of course, “We get too antsy.”

Regardless, Farr said there is a direct correlation between the number of tickets pre-sold through the loyalty launch and the final lineup of celebrities pegged to be guests at the event.

“We did have such strong support that we like to send a message: they understand when they come in early they’re doing more than taking advantage of a discount,” Farr explained. “It really does help us be more bold in building a guest lineup. There’s such a delicate ecosystem between guests and the number of attendees and vendors. If indicators are strong we’ve got the support, we’ll go stronger on the guest lineup.”

Aside from great guests, Farr said attendees to the event can also expect a smoother process for photo ops and autographs at the fall event, hopefully leading to less time in line, and more time enjoying all the convention has to offer.

“It’s one of those things where until we’ve perfected it, if there is such a thing, the smoother we make the experience the happier we’ll be,” Farr said. “We never want things to go in a way that makes it frustrating for the fans.”

The ultimate hope is to continue to streamline celebrity interactions to keep wait times closer to 20 minutes rather than two or three hours, hopefully making it so attendees are “able to experience more of the event,” Farr said, and get a better value for the money they spend.

“We’ve been working to get it done right and we’re pretty confident we have something to improve the process.”

For more details on the upcoming FanX: Salt Lake Comic Convention, visit http://fanxsaltlake.com or http://heraldextra.com/comiccon.

Kari Kenner manages and creates digital features and niche content for the Daily Herald.

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