January 1, 2018
Largest North American Anime Conventions of 2017by Patrick Delahanty, Executive Producer, AnimeCons.com and FanCons.com
Every year, in the first week of January, AnimeCons.com takes a look back at the previous year to see which anime conventions were the largest in North America, how the numbers have changed, what may have caused the changes, and if there's any trends that may affect other anime conventions or fan conventions as a whole. As we always remind people, this absolutely is not meant to be a list of the "best" anime cons, but merely the largest.
Before we present the list, an explanation is needed for the different ways that conventions count their attendance:
- The most common method for conventions, but one that is very misleading, is used by most non-anime conventions and trade shows. A "turnstile" attendance count method counts people multiple times for every day of the convention that they attend. For example, if there are 10,000 people at a three day convention each day, they would report their attendance as 30,000...as if each of those 10,000 people passed through a turnstile once per day. A four day convention with 10,000 people each day would report a turnstile attendance count as 40,000 people. Although anime conventions are starting to report turnstile numbers, they are often offered in addition to one of the following two counting methods. Although this site considers turnstile counts to be misleading and disingenuous, we've recently started listing them in order to be able to help people distinguish the difference and be able to compare attendance numbers more fairly.
- Another method is to count each person who was issued a badge. This is often referred to as "total attendance", "badge count", or a "warm body count". This will include attendees, staff, press, vendors, guests, and anyone else who was wearing a convention badge. If the people attended multiple days, they just get counted once. It does not include people without a badge such as convention center-provided security, hotel employees, or custodial staff.
- The final method commonly used to report attendance is a paid attendance count. This simply counts the number of people who paid for a badge. Unlike the warm body count, it doesn't include staff, guests, press, or others with a badge...unless they paid for it. This method also only counts people once even if they're attending multiple days.
All the attendance figures we present in this report and on AnimeCons.com have been provided by convention staff members themselves. They have been announced on the convention's own web sites, on the convention's social media, reported directly to this site, or one of our site's staff have reported back a number officially announced by an authorized representative at the convention (such as announced at closing ceremonies). None of these numbers are guesses by AnimeCons.com staff and none have been pulled from anonymous sources such as unsourced Wikipedia entries. Where attendance is marked as "approximately" signifies that the number reported by the convention is likely rounded and not an exact count.
Our annual list also only consists of conventions with a primary focus on anime. This means that multi-genre conventions are not included. We also do not include conventions such as comic cons or sci-fi cons that have anime programming. To include those in this list would be impossible due to the number of those conventions in existence, the unavailability of attendance numbers for many of them, and the vast differences in counting methods. Anime conventions that share admission with non-anime conventions (such as comic, steampunk, or video game conventions) are also not included on this list because it is impossible to tell how many are attending the anime part of the convention.
Largest North American Anime Conventions of 2017:
- Anime Expo - 107,658 warm bodies (up 7.21%)
- A-Kon - 33,102 warm bodies, 25,289 paid attendees (up 11.08%)
- Anime North - 32,167 warm bodies
- Anime Weekend Atlanta - approximately 31,500 warm bodies, 29,872 paid attendees (up 3.79%)
- Anime Central - 30,221 warm bodies (down 3.97%)
- Anime Boston - 25,848 warm bodies (down 4.18%)
- Sakura-Con - approximately 25,000 warm bodies (up 8.70%)
- Otakon - 24,894 warm bodies, approximately 22,000 paid attendees (down 14.49%)
- Youmacon - 22,142 paid attendees (up 5.26%)
- Otakuthon - 22,065 warm bodies (up 3.52%)
- Anime NYC - approximately 20,000 warm bodies (first year)
Anime Expo safely holds onto the top spot for the 14th year in a row. The vast difference between Anime Expo's attendance and the other conventions on the list means that it will likely hold this spot for years to come. In 2017, they grew by 7,238 attendees. Their turnstile attendance count was also up 52,379 to 357,178. While overcrowding and lines remain a common complaints among Anime Expo attendees, it continues to be a convention that many people (particularly those outside California) tend to put on their bucket lists.
For the second year in a row, there's a different convention climbing into the #2 spot. Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas has reported an increase of 6,055 attendees and yet another year of reporting more than 20% growth. However, as we've said in previous years, the growth rate simply cannot continue in such a competitive market as Texas where popular conventions in nearby Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio markets are also gaining attendees and even more conventions continue to appear every year. Anime Matsuri has been removed from the list. See update below.
Speaking of Texas, the #3 spot is once again held by the longest continually running anime convention in North America, A-Kon. The convention has reported a 1.42% growth rate over their 2016 convention. They had reported greater than 10% growth rate for the previous three years, so the slower growth this year may be attributed to the convention's 30 mile move from Dallas to Fort Worth. However, A-Kon continues to be a popular destination for anime fans every June.
Anime North in Toronto, Ontario holds onto the #4 spot for the second straight year. This year, they reported a warm body attendance count of 32,167. Last year's attendance was reported as 29,973 paid attendees, so we're not able to compare the two years to calculate a growth percentage, but it would appear to be up.
Moving up another spot this year, Anime Weekend Atlanta, another of the longest running anime cons in North America, comes in at #5. Although we didn't have a warm body count for them last year, their paid attendance count is up 3.79% from 28,789. This is slower growth than the past few years where AWA had reported more than 10% growth.
Although it was in the #3 spot last year, Anime Central near Chicago drops to #6 in 2017. The convention's attendance has dropped 3.97% from 2016's 31,469 warm bodies. The convention had rather significant growth in 2013, but was seeing less than 5% growth since then. This is the first reported attendance decrease at Anime Central.
Anime Boston moves up a spot to #7 this year even with an attendance drop of 4.18%. The turnstile attendance count dropped 5.19% to 74,578, which would seem to indicate that more people that more people were buying 1-day badges. This is the second straight year that Anime Boston's attendance has dropped and it's likely still attributable to increased convention center security following guns that were seized during an August 2015 Pokemon Championship at the venue which resulted in excessively long security lines at Anime Boston 2016. Although the security checkpoints were improved in 2017, a number of attendees had cited the lines as a reason for sitting out a year to see if the situation would improve. For the most part, it has, and hopefully those attendees return again in 2018.
Seattle's Sakura-Con reported approximately 25,000 attendees in 2017. Last year's attendance was reported as 23,000 which is an 8.70% growth rate and puts them up a spot to #8.
By now, you may have wondered what happened to Otakon on this list. In 2015, it dropped to #5 with the largest attendance drop we've ever seen by any convention. It held onto the #5 spot last year and grew to 29,113 warm bodies in 2016. The convention moved from Baltimore to Washington, DC in 2017 and it seems that the attendees did not follow. Otakon lost over 4,000 attendees and dropped to #9 on our list and is no longer the largest anime convention on the East Coast. With Otakon Vegas not reporting large growth over its first few years, hopefully Otakorp has planned for rainy days such as this in order to be able to handle the situation financially.
Detroit's Youmacon returns to our list for the second year in a row at #10 with a paid attendance of 22,142, up 1,106 people from 2016. Last year, Youmacon and Otakuthon were essentially tied for the 10th spot, but Youmacon has now pulled ahead slightly.
For #11, we head back up into Canada for Otakuthon in Montreal. The bilingual convention reported 750 more people than 2016 for growth of 3.52%. Magnifique!
The twelfth anime con on our list just held their first convention in November, Anime NYC. On their site after the convention (although now only available via archives), Peter Tatara, the Event Director, was quite clear about their attendance reporting saying, "Anime NYC welcomed over 20,000 fans. That's not turnstile, but 20,000 unique, individual fans who came together to celebrate what we all love." (This was likely noted due to some other NYC cons which have been known to report turnstile numbers.)
It's worth noting that there is less than a 10% difference (or only 2,881 people) between the third through sixth conventions. There is also a difference of less than 1,000 people between the seventh and ninth conventions on the list, which just about puts them in a three-way tie.
As always, we remind you that these are merely the largest conventions and are not necessarily the best. If past history is any indication, this list is almost guaranteed to be copied and used as some other site's "Best Anime Cons" list. That's a shame because there are some absolutely wonderful small and mid-sized conventions out there that are not mentioned on this list. You can have a lot of fun at smaller events and we strongly urge you to find the conventions near you and try them out.
If you want to compare the growth of conventions over the last ten years, here are some links to our annual reports (either written or as reported by our AnimeCons TV): 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
To start planning your 2018 conventions, our AnimeCons.com and FanCons.com sites are an excellent resource to find lists of conventions in your area or around the world. We also offer FurryCons.com, SteampunkCons.com, ToyCons.com, and VideoGameCons.com for some more niche interests. For Amazon Echo or Alexa device owners, we also have free Flash Briefing skills for FanCons.com and AnimeCons.com which can audibly tell you what conventions are coming up in the next week. We also have iMessage stickers for iOS users and an AnimeCons TV app for Apple TV.
UPDATE: Anime Matsuri has been removed from the list due to significant discrepancies between the numbers they reported (36,270 warm bodies) and the number of tickets sold reported by the venue (19,774, not including 1,811 tickets sold to the car show). Also, it is mathematically impossible for the convention to have had their reported 36,270 warm bodies and also have their reported turnstile attendance of 112,500.
Patrick Delahanty is the creator of AnimeCons.com and executive producer of AnimeCons TV. He is the host of Anime Unscripted and is one of the founders of both Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference. Patrick has attended 173 conventions, cosplaying at most of them.