By Wes Smith
San Diego Comic Con kicked off its first official opening day with celebrities, concerts, packed exhibit booths, and a transformed Gaslamp District.
The convention, which pulls over 130,000 convention attendees and countless others looking for off-site events, is the largest fan gathering in the United States. This year’s opening slate continued the trend of big announcements reserved for the largest crowds.
While Preview Night is open to many attendees who purchase tickets, Thursday is the first official day of the convention and when most of the panels begin in earnest. The upper floors of the convention center and ballrooms of local hotels maintained a constant stream of programming throughout the day.
Perhaps the largest panel of the day came from Hall H, the largest ballroom of the convention, where Paramount Pictures brought out Christopher Nolan to speak about his next film, Interstellar. Nolan, notoriously protective of his properties, has famously avoided the convention in the past during his production of the Batman franchise.
The Hall H panels also featured a panel on the upcoming film The Giver, which featured Jeff Bridges and author Lois Lowry. Fans seemed eager to have questions answer about the adaptation of the popular book among Millenials.
“I told them we have to keep the kids 12,” said Jeff Bridges about aspects of the book he fought to keep in the film. His insistence on true-to-book ages was a highlight.
Other special guests attend panels included the cast of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, Benedict Cumberbatch for Penguins of Madagascar, and TV Land stars Betty White and William Shatner.
Inside the exhibit floor and outside the convention center, companies sold or gave away exclusive items, a tradition at SDCC. Fans followed vehicles from Universal’s upcoming Jurassic World for an exclusive print, while Hasbro sold a full Transformer’s set inside the main hall.
As the convention grows, so do the activities outside the convention. This year included a Gotham City zipline, Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, and a 40 ft. Godzilla sculpture.
The evening concluded with a dance party at Nerd HQ in Petco Park and the MTV Fandom Awards outside the baseball stadium. The awards show drew thousands of spectators after MTV announced a headline show from Linkin Park.
More cosplayers, panels, and events are expected as Friday and Saturday approach. The economic impact is estimated to be over $175 million, according to Mayor Faulconer.