Twilight enchanted, terrified, and sent viewers into mild hysterics for years. The Stephenie Meyer book series turned blockbuster franchise has had a huge impact on pop culture, but it also played a part in shaping one of the most pervasive nerd culture staples: Hall H panels at San Diego Comic-Con. To celebrate the anniversary of the movie and its historic Hall H debut, we reached out to Comic-Con International and chatted with Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer over email about the 2008 Twilight panel, its impact, huge attendance, and what it means to the people who put the convention together over a decade later.
SDCC had already been shaping pop culture for 38 years in 2008. As Glanzer explained, debuting a new hit film at the convention made sense. “Comic-Con has many great relationships with a variety of companies, including television networks and movie studios. In fact, in 1976 Lucasfilm sent representatives to Comic-Con to talk about their new film Star Wars a full year before its release and at a time when few outside of Hollywood knew much about it.” The team at Comic-Con saw the same potential in Meyer’s smash vampire YA, so when the studio reached out it made sense. “I think the same was true of Twilight. We were approached by the studio about the possibility of having a Twilight panel. Since many on our team are voracious readers and up on current fare, it seemed like a good fit.”
The Twilight panel has become legendary among Comic-Con attendees in the years since ’08. It introduced a whole new demographic to the convention. But the amount of fans who attended never took the convention by surprise. “We try to place programs in rooms that can best accommodate anticipated attendance,” Glanzer told Nerdist. “We knew the books were widely popular and thought this would appeal to that audience. So it made sense to place the presentation in one of our bigger rooms. We had anticipated a good turnout for the presentation because of the popularity of the books. However, I think what might have been a little surprise was the enthusiasm of the audience.”
That excess of enthusiasm established what would become one of the most integral parts of SDCC: fans queuing up outside of Hall H to get into the panels. “We had presentations in the past that were eagerly anticipated,” Glanzer shared. “But I don’t believe we had instances of people lining up as early to try to secure seats at the front of the hall.” It’s hard to imagine a San Diego Comic-Con that doesn’t feature hundreds of super-fans camping outside the flagship exhibition hall. But without Twilight and the power of the young female fandom that may never have become such a regular and recognized part of SDCC tradition.
In the annals of Comic-Con history the impact of the Twilight panel is often left out. But to Glanzer it represents one of the most important parts of what makes SDCC so special. “I believe it really speaks to the wide variety of interests of the Comic-Con fans,” Glanzer pondered. “Comic-Con has always been a meeting place for diverse interests and Twilight was a good example. In addition to comics and related popular art, we have a great many fans of science fiction, fantasy, video games, and the like. The enthusiasm showed us that when fans are truly excited about a project, they have no reservations in letting the public know.”
Though Glanzer couldn’t draw a direct link between the Twilight panel and the way studios promoted and presented films at the convention in the years later, he did have thoughts on how the turnout represented the appealing diversity of content that makes the show stand out. “Comic-Con has long had a diverse attendee base. In addition to genre-related interests, many attendees are also budding filmmakers, costumers, designers, writers for books, film and television, and have interests in a variety of popular arts areas.” Glanzer noted one thing the Twilight panel did teach the studios: “The enthusiasm of this audience showed studios that a great presentation can lead to a great response.”
The watershed moment for Hall H contributed to what Glanzer sees as the organic evolution of the convention and its presentations. “There has always been a natural progression in how the panels and programs are presented and received,” he said. “Like I mentioned, Lucasfilm came to Comic-Con in 1976 and that program featured a slide presentation on Star Wars. As time has moved forward so too has technology. And I think that continues to today.”
We asked Glanzer if he had any thoughts about Twilight’s wider impact on Comic-Con. He shared this lovely thought that sums up exactly what we love (and miss) about SDCC: “I think it is important to realize that Comic-Con is an organization that celebrates and promotes comics and related popular art. There is potentially something for everyone. And, conversely, not all things are going to appeal to all persons. But I believe it is the diversity, that ability to choose what you want to take part in, that makes our event so great.”
Featured Image: Thibault via Flickr Creative Commons, Summit Pictures