Salt Lake City is poised to challenge first-year comic con records
Convention • Tickets to fest selling as fastas tribbles multiply.
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New York. Denver. Chicago. Los Angeles. When all the tickets are stubbed for the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con, the list of first-time North American cons with greater attendance is likely to be short. If there's a list at all.

Although there's no central source of comic book convention gates, Salt Lake Comic Con founder Dan Farr has been told that New York Comic Con had the biggest first year with 33,000 attendees. As of Thursday, Farr's event had sold 23,000 tickets, and he thinks 40,000 is a low-end estimate for the three-day festival that begins Sept. 5 at the Salt Palace and includes guests like William Shatner and Adam West.

"We're kind of in the euphoria stage," said Farr. "Everyone in the nation will be taking notice of Salt Lake."

Farr initially thought that Salt Lake would draw between 5,000 and 10,000. He revised that range to 10,000 to 20,000 after seeing the interest generated on the Salt Lake Comic Con Facebook page, but one celebrity's manager urged him to be realistic. "He said 10,000 was generous."

Now, Farr has set his sights on Denver, which billed itself as the second-biggest comic con open ever in 2012 with 27,700. He's sure Salt Lake will beat that. But Farr believes Denver's second-year number, 60,000, is already attainable this year.

Should Salt Lake draw a more conservative 40,000, it would be one of the top 15 box-office hauls for a North American fan convention. The biggest convention, San Diego Comic-Con, draws more than 100,000, as do New York and Toronto. There is a steep dropoff after that, however, with Seattle ranking fourth — according to a list provided by Farr — with 64,000 in 2012.

Farr said there is also a question of how other conventions total their attendance. He's measuring unique visitors, meaning that those who buy a three-day pass are counted once. It is also worth noting that many conventions run through Sunday, so Salt Lake City — which does not, due to the heavily Mormon population — is actually at a disadvantage.

Forty thousand would make Salt Lake Comic Con the biggest convention in the state of Utah. Both Outdoor Retailer conventions together drew 45,000 in 2012, according to the Governor's Office of Economic Development, although it is likely a more valuable asset due to its lure for out-of-state guests.

"Right now it is," Farr said. "I don't know that that's always going to be the case."

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper