With a flurry of big-time guest announcements in the past month for the almost-upon-us Wizard World Philly 2017 - Say Anything star John Cusack (The Grifters, Better off Dead, Serendipity, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity) was just added for Friday and Saturday - the convention giant has once again made the show one of the most appealing on the con calendar.
Contrast this with the guest list only a month ago, when it seemed the star wattage would be perhaps the lowest in the history of Wizard Philly.
When Wizard World CEO John Maatta took over the company barely a year ago after a bout of over-expansion and questionable decision-making, many industry watchers wondered if the company would even continue its shows, or vastly reduce their schedule. Maata said that was not the plan but did agree that the extremely late announcements of guests for the Philadelphia show was not ideal.
"That was problematic," Maatta acknowledged in an exclusive interview. "Of course, it is better when people are aware of these guests so they can make plans earlier. It just didn't work out that way."
Maatta said he wants to give people a unique experience at all the Wizard shows - and correct some mistakes the company made in recent years.
He also had a surprise announcement when asked why Wizard World, which usually had their show dates a year ahead of time, had only a New Orleans show on the schedule for 2018.
"We are not contracting," he said, refuting sites that have mocked the Wizard shows in smaller cities like Tulsa and Des Moines.
"You know, in cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, we sometimes get jaded with these big pop culture events," he said. "But we were just in Des Moines, and both the fans and the press were so appreciative. It was a fantastic show. We had Stan Lee there and he made a point of saying he had a great time. So those shows aren't going anywhere."
Maatta went on to say, "In fact, there is a very good chance we will be adding 9 shows this year."
Maatta also admitted last year's Wizard World Philly - which included over half a dozen Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, both leads from The X-Files and the 3 main stars from the Back to the Future trilogy - was a tough one to top.
But that doesn't mean, he emphasized, that such big names are a thing of the past. Wonder Woman Gal Gadot is one he is hoping to land.
"We have been in contact with her," he said. "Every big name you can throw at me, we've talked to. But that's where it's tricky, because obviously, those that would be most in demand are kind of busy. Going to cons isn't going to be their first priority. But we do what we can to make it appealing to them and hopefully work something out."
"There isn't a magical formula for putting these shows on," Maatta concluded. "But hopefully, with each show we will succeed in creating magical memories for our fans."