Monday, December 8, 2008

The Omaha Anime Festival has been cancelled!

The Omaha Anime Festival had to be cancelled due to a very low number of preregistrations. Having run conventions and set up events in the Omaha area, I know how expensive these things can be and in particular the terror of an organizer when registrations do not pour in as the “go/no-go” deadline approaches. So the question I pose in today’s blog is: Why did the Omaha Anime Festival not achieve its registration objectives?” I invite people to submit their answers and comments, so all the local event organizers can learn from this experience.

1) Did you know about the event?
     - Was the publicity campaign not thorough enough to let you know what was going on and where?
     - What is the best way to present new events to you: websites, mailings, emails, or some other way? How would you like to receive information about fannish happenings in the Omaha metro area?
2) Was the timing bad?
     - Did you already have too much on your plate with the holiday season itself or with other fannish-related activities already scheduled this month?
     - Was the weather a factor? Given that December weather can be unpredictable; did you think you would be unable to attend the event?
3) Was the price too high?
     - Was the discounted value of preregistration not enough to encourage you to purchase a membership?
     - Was the preregistration cutoff date set at an inconvenient time for you? Would you have preregistered if you had known better as to when the cutoff date was?
4) Was the event something you didn’t care for? If you’re just not into anime, are there other films (or events) you would like organizers to look up and bring into the area?
5) Are you willing to come to an event, see a movie and talk with other fans about it afterwards, or is a film festival something whose day has passed?
     - Is watching anime or SF/F programming something you would rather do from your home these days?
     - Or was it just the choice of films that didn’t really grab you? If the listed movies weren’t to your liking, what anime movies would you rather see?
6) Was the reason you didn’t register that you didn’t know enough about anime to want to come?
     - If the problem was lack of knowledge about the subject, what would you like to know and how best can we present that information to you to encourage you to come out in the future?
     - Do you know about the anime fan clubs in the Omaha metro area?

I really do want people to submit comments. If you have your own blog and want to leave a more extensive talk about this subject, then please post a link to it in your comment. Thank you for your thoughts.


  1. We're you planning to attend, but were just going to show up and pay the door price?

  2. Was the festival cancelled for reasons other than what is stated, but since pre-Registration had *something* to do with it, they are using it as the cover reason?

  3. I don't speak for this event or any other events so please don't associate my comments as anything other than opinion.

    I know that the pre-reg is very important to a fledgling event. Whether any of those other things were valid or not would not make a difference if the pre-reg numbers were too low to support the event.

    Support for any event of this type, not necessarily financially but as a community of event hosters, can only help all events in the area. Casting disparaging comments does nothing for the community that we as event host should be supporting.

    This discussion is very valid to help us all in the future but since we were not on the inside of this event we can only speculate at the reasons and should instead look at the great learning tool that John has put forth for us all.

    The main reason I did not pre-reg for this event is that I am flying to the Saudi peninsula on Friday and thus cannot attend. I did however encourage my 17-year old son to attend but he could not guarantee that his work would give him the time off so that he could pre-reg. He was planning to book at the door if he had the day off.

    Since pre-reg is so important, how do we as event hosts encourage people to submit early?

    Advertising is probably the first step. I also think that most cons wait way too long to post the panels and shows that go on at events. I would love to see a more congealed schedule a month out. Deviation from this schedule would not be a big problem but at least I would know more what to expect.

  4. John
    I have to say their adverting was poor at best. No signs at Borders nor at the ground zero at 50 &L area that I saw.

    You have stated that there are 7 anime groups in the city I knew of only one and that was several miles from my location.

    In answer to Father V question the correct reason it was called off was money.
    Halls cost money and the mid-american center would have been costly. Further it was possable that rental of eq was involed more expense. It is also possable that a fee to show the anime was involed, while most clubs can get permission to show for free where a entry fee is charged might change the rules.
    given the expense involed a lack of pre-regerstions was a clear sign that the group putting the event on could/would be on the hook for several hundred or even thousands of dollars. Money they most likely didn't have or couldn't borrow
    debt? or closing the event and cutting you loses while you can.

    The anime fan in the Omaha area is for the most part unknown I know of very little reseach in
    economic status
    Need to meet other fans
    in short the basic knowledge required to calulate the risks involed in an event.

    If I were thinking about doing one I would try to get a movie theator screen either the $1.00 one at 123rd and center or cimina 8 at 84th and center and try for a special event possable with one of the local charity and bring in something like Bleach Memories of Nobody, The girl who leaped though time, Skycrawlers. The event would mainly be a way to ID the fan base and setup the possablity of more events.
    if their was enough interest it might be possable to run day long strips of Black Lagoon, Someday Dreamers, and others.

    But in the end it all comes down to money.
    And most of us like SF fans are poor And today economy both lends itself to entertaiment venues and to cutting back to pd primary bills

  5. Everyone has hit most of core issues on the head for the cancellation of the event. I agree that the promotional effort for the event was poor and lack luster. The only promotional materials I spotted were at Anime Nebraskon and Suncoast. The problem with promoting with border or other big box retailer that have a anime section is that most companies have policies or have rules in place that prohibits such promotions with out a approval of DM or a community manager depending on the store.

    I am constantly amaze with the growth of the anime community in the Omaha area and getting to a point where its getting harder to kept tabs on all the groups that are currently popping up in town or currently holding active meetings
    Short list of the anime clubs in Omaha area:
    -Anime Sunday
    -Otaku Get Together
    -UN Otaku
    -Anime Hoshi
    -Sumps library anime club
    -Creighton anime club
    -Unknown number of High school anime clubs
    - Bellevue anime club <= new group, no official name as of yet from informant

    I also agree with father v that main reason was the financial card, but I think there is more to this topic waiting to be revealed to the public. From what I have been hearing from various sources and groups that the main event in july in which the December is a offshoot will cost at least 7-8k for the facilities alone for a three day event. So its safe to assume that the December event would have cost a min of 1000-1500 for the hall space based of the three day price for the july event, but this a mere conjecture based off the rumor price for the facilities and reg rates.

  6. I did hear about this event, but only shortly before it was supposed to take place. I didn't have enough time to clear my calendar and wasn't sure if I could make it, so I decided that I'd wait and see and pay at the door if I could go. I would agree with the other posters that the primary difficulty is just getting the word out.

    As for the anime community in Omaha, I'm not really aware of any group other than Anime Sunday, and I haven't gone to that mainly due to apathy and apprehension... I don't feel like I can really get to know other fans if I show up and just watch it with strangers.

    John, though I haven't been to any OSFES events, I'm glad that you are emerging as a focal point for Omaha fans of all types. Perhaps we need a stronger integration of the different fan groups/communities... aside from the Yahoo Group, is there any space (online or otherwise) where all groups can get word out when they have events, get togethers, etc?

  7. What Bob said earlier about tastes is correct. I'm not an anime fan necessarily; there is some that I like, but I find that most of it is subject to too much of the Asian fanbase for my American tastes. By that I mean I prefer short, quick stories that make sense according to the fiction I've grown up with: guy gets the girl at the end of the story and the evil nemesis is thwarted, etc. And too much anime, these days, is about a very subtle story that I just don't get.

    I've found something else other than anime for my tastes. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm a gaming geek. Been to all of the Nuke-Cons since its inception, helped many times in GMing and other assistance. (Then why didn't I go to the OSFEST convention? Money. Nuke-Con is a tradition for me. OSFEST is not.) December 13th is the weekend for Living Forgotten Realms at Ground Zero, 50th & G. I'm committed to running there. My love for gaming wins out over my admittedly simple tastes in anime.

    Too, there's my opinion that I've been wounded by the anime community in Omaha. I'm sure that there are those who will apologize, but when I admitted that I liked DBZ and was derided for my opinion by a member of one of these groups, well, it hurt me. I don't need to be a part of the fandom that ridicules me just because I happen to only like anime that's shown on Adult Swim.

  8. While this is earlier than I had anticipated to have to comment about the festival I believe things should be said.

    In regards to Father V's accusation that I was covering up the "real" reason that the event was canceled - I was standing to quite a good sum of cash and unfortunately while I believe in charity I was faced with the fact that if I did fund the event I would be out of an apartment. (some people who were close to me knew how I was not wanting to cancel this event - looking for any way to make it happen) Also to touch on what callaway said - the screening fee for Spirited Away was several hundred dollars btw - so any group who screens it (even educational and non profits) without a licence from Disney is doing so illegally.

    The intention of this event was to give the fans of this area something different to do and to raise funds for OtakuOmaha. We had people as far as South Dakota register (interesting note - less than half of who registered was from within a hours driving distance) which actually surprised me given that while there were forms of advertising done - I did not expect the reach that some of it got.

    Also a little information to clear the air for callaway brought up -

    Promoting events is not a new thing for me and I'll admit that this was probably my weakest performance of all of the ones I have staffed and put on. Last year I was professionally hired by Bandai Enertainment (the Gundam people) to consult with them and work to setup their convention program which had them attend over 10 conventions last year. In addition, I personally signed off on the last 2 years of the OtakuOmaha convention (and the prior 4 years of the club) to a what I view as a success. This year's OtakuOmaha is quite stressful as the jump in expenses and expectations is quite high - our budget that I'm signing off on personally is many times what Delta quoted. (even the MAC amount is quite low...)

    As one who did look at bringing an event to a theater I will say that since very little anime is actually on reels (just art house stuff typically) a digital projection theater would be needed. (So narrows that down to Filmstreams, Village Point, the new Rave theater, the AMC, the CB theater and the one in north Omaha) Secondly you gotta look at securing the rights from several middleman parties - the Bleach and Death Note features were actually streamed by a company who was contracted by VIZ to handle that work.

    Also you got to look at the cost of rental on a peak time... that alone made theaters a prohibitive thought - just for 1 show alone for a couple hours. (now lets talk 8 hours... yea..)

    The funny thing is that this event didn't have a crazy budget or even high expectations for attendance. When I jumped in and dreamed this up I was in the position to pay for this even if no one showed up. (however today's economy has left me lucky to keep living as I start up a 2nd job working overnights to pay for my store and my medical bills)

    Please don't quote me on this but the entire festival was slated to cost far below what was mentioned. (I lost a little under $100 after everything was said and done)

    I dunno about others but I don't exactly throw down hours of time, sweat and blood putting together fun things for people to do to keep myself healthy. Amazingly enough - I do it because of the people who have a good time and enjoy themselves. I apologize for those who were excited and wanted to see such an event go on this weekend - like yourselves I was psyched to watch something new be born and work with the challenges that were put before me. (programming person didn't have cosplay rules ready? why not just have a presentation and have a discussion about the cultural aspects to these films, etc) Mebbe one day down the road things can get going with enough steam behind it to see this event come to fruition.

    At the end of the day I will take all responsibility and blames that comes with this event. I'm thankful for the number of volunteers who helped out in trying to get the word out and working on various other aspects of the festival and for the individuals who believed in this event and preregistered. I'm also thankful for those who are close to me and helped me deal with the stresses that comes with the territory.

    If there are any other questions or concerns, I'm happy to discuss things with people.

  9. Hmmm, well I hadn't even heard of the event here locally.

    I think December was a bad month to plan this. I think spring is MUCH better for you. People are wanting to get out and do things..right now they feel all rushed and the weather definately doesn't help.

    I am definately not into anime in the slightest, but I am into comics, other animation and some sci-fi.

  10. Jonandre:
    A shout out to a fellow gaming geek.

    I think you have touched on something else I've noticed in various fan communities, which is an unfortunate sort of elitism. I've encountered it before and honestly it discourages me from really wanting to be part of a group. Not everyone is like that, of course, but when that's your first impression of a group it's hard to want to give it a chance.

  11. Anime is something I can do without but will attend/look at to kill time.

    The only reason I would attend is if I needed something to kill a day with.

    Web promotion seems to be a fine way to go.

    Bottom line, ok idea, but not high on my list of priorities.

  12. As many have stated, I too am not a big anime fan. I am not into the con scene for that. I am into it for a community.
    I thank Justin for his efforts to avail the otaku of Omaha with any opportunity to share our interests.
    I was in on early thoughts about the event and was optimistic that it would succeed in its original purpose to give fans a chance to gather.

    That said... how would you suggest advertising con-like events specifically to the Omaha market?
    OSFEST (SCIFI) - online, comic book stores, game stores, used book stores... where else would you focus?
    Otaku Omaha (anime/manga) - online, sushi restaurants, asian markets, game stores, book stores... where else would you focus?

  13. I had planned on attending, but I hadn't pre-registered. I usually pay at the door for most everything I attend, so didn't even think about it. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an excellent film, and I was looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. Guess I'll take this into consideration for the next event I want to attend.

  14. My position on this is that it was too much too fast. Starting events require seed money, which means strict discipline on spending. Which typically means that events like this have to start at a college level, where space is plentiful and cheap, and then grow out into using commercial spaces.

  15. I think the event would have been much more successful had the following happened:

    1) Don't concentrate solely on one aspect of fandom. Omaha's not a large city like Chicago or Atlanta where the anime fandom can support a convention by itself. Instead, spread the interest around a bit: Include gaming (both Role-Playing and Card), Sci-Fi, maybe some LARPing. You'll draw more people interested in a convention that way.

    2) Don't schedule at ANY point between Thanksgiving and January 2nd. Sure, there are plenty of bored anime fans with nothing to do because they don't have large families or circles of friends to be involved with during the holiday season. But there are FAR MORE who have the family, friends, and increased workload from the holiday season. If you want to do something like this during the holiday season, make it short, sweet and simple.

    3) Advertise, advertise, advertise. The advertisement for a weekend convention starts nine months in advance and involves not only dropping fliers off at the local hobby stores but also word-of-mouth, radio & television if at all possible... talk to Cox Communications as to whether a spot could have been aired on their FreeZone anime. Talk to Cartoon Network about a shout out on their web page. Use any and all avenues available to you.

  16. In response to Jonandre -

    1) I believe that the trends of my anime club and convention attendance would prove that there is a strong anime community in this area. (For instance OtakuOmaha is larger than Nuke and OSFest right now - both of those are mixed events)

    Also this event was not a convention but rather a 1 day film festival.

    3) I agree that advertising was sparse and limited unfortunately which many things came into play with that part of the event. The TV spots that you recommended would actually cost me more than the actual costs of the convention. For our larger annual event I have placed a sizable advertising budget and have a staff member dedicated to getting the word out.

  17. One way to publicize that no one has mentioned already is your local public library. We have an e-mail list of 12,000, over 600 people come into our downtown library every *day* and we love supporting local groups.

    We just hosted a fan art show at the Main Library, had 30 entries and 45 people show up for our awards ceremony.

    Remember to use all of your resources!

  18. John, would it be possible to perhaps start a list of suggested advertising places so that when these events need to advertise, someone like Justin has a list of places that potential attendees would be most likely to see the advertisements?
    I realize this may not be the most appropriate place for that list butit does seem to be where a lot of us have congregated!

  19. River: That is a great idea. I'll get a posting up in a few days where people can comment about places to advertise. Then I will pull them all together in a future blog for anyone to use. We need to get the word out about fandom in Omaha. Thanks!

  20. "1) Don't concentrate solely on one aspect of fandom. Omaha's not a large city like Chicago or Atlanta where the anime fandom can support a convention by itself. Instead, spread the interest around a bit: Include gaming (both Role-Playing and Card), Sci-Fi, maybe some LARPing. You'll draw more people interested in a convention that way."

    One thing you may not realize is that at this point, there isn't a lot of overlap between anime fandom and general SF/gamer fandoms outside a few older fans. Your average con-going anime fan is young (around 18) and they got into anime as its own thing rather than being introduced to it via an interest in SF/fantasy. In fact, I'd say you'd proboably get fewer people showing up to a general event than an anime specific event.

  21. To Justin:

    "Accusation" can hardly be attributed to my post, especially as the remark was a question, rather than a statement.

    From your own comments, it sounds like my question was not far off the mark, since you say it was a question of having an apartment or funding the festival.

    Likewise, you spend a long time in your response justly enumerating the expenses involved in the undertaking, as well as the possibility of fruitless labor. In short, you mention many reasons (all of which make sense) for not holding the event.

    Looking back over your reply several times, there is no mention at all of a pre-registration problem. We both know that pre-registrations more than 6 months before the event are not terribly indicative of actual participation. It was for that reason I wondered outloud what the more substantial reasons were for cancelling, which you have now detailed.

    You had a bunch of very reasonable arguments for cancelling the event. Still, to say it was because of pre-registrations? Even you do not do so here.

  22. My understanding was that the event was in summer of 2009. Was I incorrect in this understanding? If so, I gladly yield to correction.

  23. Dear Father:
    I am sorry for the confusion. I just looked back at my posting and saw that I did in fact not actually put the event date in the article. The event had been scheduled for Dec. 13, 2008. It was cancelled for lack of preregistrations only a week prior to the event, which in my experience is a good indicator of at the door memberships.
    Again my apologies; John

  24. Father V raised another point in light of the confusion. People may have been confused thinking it is a traditional con but when they go to the events webpage they find out it’s a paid entrance screening to series of anime titles. Coming from a fans point of view, there are groups out there in which you watch the same amount of anime for only a couple gallons of gas to get to the location where the screening is happening at. Especially with the economy the way it is now. I will go with the free screening compared to spending 12 to 17 buck for an event that is the exact same thing as the free event, but that is my opinion on the subject.

  25. I have never been too proud to admit wrong. A week before the event is indeed reasonable to cancel an event based on preregistration (I'd even say 30 days before an event). I was wrong. Sorry.

  26. Manya

    who is the correct person to contact with local news to get into the library's emailing list?


  27. Hi Anne,

    You can e-mail me!

    I will say that we don't send out an e-mail newsletter with community events that are *not* connected to the library. Partner with us, however, and we will.