SDCC Hall H Tips & FAQ – The Juggernaut of SDCC
Hall H Tips & FAQ
Hotels and badges aren’t the only competitive aspects of San Diego Comic-Con. Sometimes getting into a panel can be a challenge. But, like with all other things SDCC, it’s not impossible. With some time and understanding of how things work, you too can conquer Hall H, the biggest and most popular room at SDCC. The convention is fun, despite its challenges, and even things that seem impossible are absolutely doable.
The Hall H Basics:
- Hall H is the largest panel room at San Diego Comic-Con.
- It holds approximately 6500 people (max capacity)
- It is where most of the major film panels and many popular TV show panels take place
- It is located in the south east portion of the convention center across from the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel.
- The line has its own Twitter account. No really. And whoever runs it is hilarious (and helpful!)
What time do you line up for Hall H?
Unfortunately there is no straight forward answer for this and there’s a few reasons why:
First, it’s going to fluctuate depending on the programming for the day. Sometimes the “lighter” days – like Thursday or Sunday – don’t even require waiting in line overnight or early in the morning at all. You can walk right in. In 2015 I showed up to Hall H on Sunday at 8:00 am and was in the room by 9:30 am. The line was constantly moving and I was barely sitting down for more than a minute or two before they let in another batch of people. Other days may meet the maximum capacity in the line in the early hours of the morning or the night before via the wristband handout system (more on wristbands later). There’s too many variables at play to state a specific time with any certainty.
Secondly, the line forms slowly over night and if you don’t care about being up front, your line up time could be many hours off from the people who are aiming for those first few rows. Wanting to be up front vs. wanting to just get into the room are two very different things. The further up in the room you’d like to be, the more time you’re going to spend in the infamous Hall H line. Know what you want to do and plan accordingly.
Thirdly, stating a specific time anywhere online can negatively effect the length of the line for everyone not just for this year, but for many years to come. The moment someone states an exact time online, people will start to try to ‘beat’ them. For that reason, I advise against broadcasting your scheduled line up time too loudly. Talking to your friends about their plans, of course, is perfectly fine! Line buddies are essential, after all. You just want to be cautious not to cause a domino effect that leads people to try to one up you by showing up an hour before your stated time.
All of that said, here are a few general guidelines.
- Near the Front – If you are wanting to be in the first third of the room or so, this will usually require showing up the night before for a wristband and likely camping out or showing up in the early hours of the morning. If the line up isn’t as competitive, it’s possible to show up after sunrise and possibly be in the first third of the room, but it’s not guaranteed.
- Anywhere – You can likely just show up early in the morning, sometime after sunrise, and be fine. As mentioned above, you may even be able to just stroll right up and walk in if there’s not many large or popular properties in the room that day, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Just look at what you’re up against, gauge the fandom size, and plan accordingly.
- Near the Front – You’re going to get to know Next Day Line (NDL) really well. I’ll explain what that is in the next section. Saturday is the most competitive day and the people at the front will be the ones who scope out NDL.
- Anywhere – Typically with both Marvel and DC dominating the Hall H schedule on Saturdays, you likely had to arrive the night before or in the wee hours of the morning simply to get into the room. This year, with one of the two biggest players out of the picture (WB/DC is skipping for 2019, no word yet on Marvel), it could turn into a possible walk-in in the morning. It’s hard to tell, though. As with all things, once the schedule is released, you need to look at what’s in there and determine how much time YOU are willing to put in.
Where is the line for Hall H located?
There are TWO Hall H lines. There’s the regular Hall H line, and the Next Day Line (NDL).
The regular Hall H line for the current day’s programming is located on the lawn under the white tents just outside of Hall H across the street from the Hilton Bayfront.
NDL is located behind the convention center along the waterfront near the yachts (UPDATE 2019: The new map is in the Quick Guide on page 8). It can kind of wrap all over the place back there so just ask the people standing in line which direction the “end” is and head that direction to join it.
If programming is still going on and you get under the white tents for tomorrow’s panels, you are in the wrong place.
What’s the deal with wristbands?
Wristbands are a somewhat new system, but SDCC attendees have adapted quickly. They are generally handed out at the beginning of the NDL after the previous day’s programming is complete. The 2019 schedule is as follows:
Wednesday July 17: 8 pm
Thursday July 18: 6:15 pm
Friday July 19: 8:45 pm
Saturday July 20: 9:30 pm
Remember, you do not need to wait in line overnight to receive first seating. Your wristband ensures first seating for the first panel of the day in Hall H. You are welcome to have someone hold your place in line or simply return to the end of the wristbanded line prior to 7:30 AM.
Wristbands will only be used for the first panel of the day in Hall H. Once the wristband line has been let into the hall, individuals without wristbands will be allowed to enter.
2018 Update: This year’s wristbands will be tracked via RFID. From the website:
Hate waiting in line? We do too! To help you manage your valuable time at Comic-Con and to discourage line cutting, the Toucan Tracker wristbands will be returning to Hall H for 2018!
Toucan Tracker wristbands give attendees flexibility based upon their priorities at Comic-Con. If you wish to get a front section seat in Hall H you are welcome to wait in line overnight once you receive your wristband. If seat placement is not a priority to you, wristbands allow you to reserve general seating in Hall H and come back in the morning. Toucan Trackers are essentially a way for you to know that you have a seat in Hall H, whether you are physically in line or not!
Toucan Tracker wristbands will be distributed at the front of the Next Day Line for Hall H. Distribution times vary by day. Please see the map above for the location of the Next Day Line.
You will need your Comic-Con 2018 badge or barcode confirmation to receive a wristband. Please note that IDs will be checked, and the name on your photo ID must match the barcode confirmation.
But weren’t there counterfeit wristbands in 2017? They didn’t get in!
Right you are, friend! And that sucked, but it was a one-time occurrence. It’s not the norm at all. However, due to this, the system could very well change this year to prevent counterfeiting. This section will be updated with any changes.
What time do wristbands get passed out/does the line move into the chutes/do we get let into Hall H?
I’m going to walk you through step by step how things happen for NDL/Hall H line. Keep in mind these times are estimates based on what’s currently available on the Comic-Con website as well as past experiences.
Prior Day – 6:15 pm-9:30 pm: Wristband distribution begins. This will continue until all wristbands are passed out.
Prior Day – After wrist band distribution begins/before midnight: Those wishing to camp out are loaded from NDL into the tents.
Day of Panels – 5:00 am- 6:00 am: Line condensing. Those camping out are asking to “pack up” to make space under the tents for more people. There’s a lot of movement at this time. Once people have condensed, they are loaded into the three shoots at the front of the line. People who can’t fit into the shoots line up in the tents behind them and the line then stretches outside the tents along the waterfront behind the convention center (if there’s that many people in line, of course).
Day of Panels – 7:30 am: Wristband line is closed. People without wristbands may join the end of the line.
Day of the Panels – About 1 – 1 1/2 Hours Prior to First Panel: Room loading. Everyone gets let into Hall H in an ‘orderly’ fashion. The exact time is sort of vague and when I’ve asked volunteers I’ve been told different things. It can be frustrating waiting for this part after having spent so long in line and then not know exactly when you’ll move into the room itself, but that’s unfortunately the way it is.
Hall H Conclusion
Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is 100% predictable. However, you can use the past years as a gauge for how to tackle the juggernaut of SDCC programming and have a shot at seeing your favorite shows and movies up close and personal.
This article is meant as a guide only and, as with all things SDCC, things can and WILL change as the convention evolves. Even people in the past few years may have had different experiences. Perhaps a Saturday on a year I didn’t attend was a walk in despite me saying that it’s rarely a walk in in my guide above. This article is a guide based on experiences between me and my friends. And sadly, we can’t be everywhere and experience everything, but we’re pretty well versed with all things SDCC and we’re happy to share what we know with you!
Need more tips? Check out our SDCC FAQ & Tips Guide!
Author: Angel Wilson
Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award nominee for contributing fanfic on AO3.
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