Beacon Journal popular culture writer
How much would you pay for a moment with Chris Hemsworth?
The movie Thor will be in Cleveland on Saturday as part of the three-day, touring Wizard World Comic Con.
The con, which runs Friday through Sunday, offers visits by celebrities including Hemsworth, former Doctor Who star Matt Smith, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actors Chloe Bennet and Elizabeth Henstridge, Robert Englund of A Nightmare on Elm Street and plenty more.
There are also comic-book creators, merchandise vendors, Q&A’s and panels showcasing stars and special topics. Sessions include Cleveland’s own Joe and Anthony Russo, co-directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, talking about making movies in Cleveland, at noon Saturday; a Q&A at 1 p.m. Saturday with Corbin Bernsen, whose TV and movie career has included making two films in Akron; and a discussion at 2:30 p.m. Sunday about movie plans for Apama, a Cleveland-based comic-book character.
And, of course, there are the fans wandering the hall in their costumes (ones that convention rules specify cannot “fire, spray, shoot or ignite.”)
So let’s say you want to have some fun browsing and cap it off with a visit with Hemsworth.
Admission to the con for a day has a base price of $35 Friday, $45 Saturday and $40 Sunday — or $75 for a three-day pass — when bought in advance. (Each ticket includes up to two free admissions for accompanied children under 10 years old.)
Add $10 to the ticket price if you buy at the door. And these and all other tickets include additional fees and tax.
So far we’re just talking about a basic pass. There’s a three-day VIP package offering special merchandise, as well as early admission Saturday and Sunday. That’s $199.99.
But let’s say you want the special Hemsworth VIP pass. After all, that guarantees you admission to his panel, a “speedpass” in his autograph and photo-op lines, a guaranteed photo op, a special Hemsworth badge and more — along with the regular VIP features.
For $474.99. Plus fees.
Too steep? Suppose you just stand in line with folks for a photo with Hemsworth. That’s $175. Yes, you and a friend can be in the photo.
Don’t forget the rules. Says Wizard World: “Keep hands above the waist, absolutely no kissing. Please pay attention for special restrictions a particular guest may have. Any inappropriate behavior may result in the forfeit of your photo op without refund … Glasses will often glare, if you do not mind removing them, we suggest you do. Glasses also make it nearly impossible for the photographer to verify if you blinked or not.” (The rules for the convention, also online, are really entertaining — and free to read.)
Still trying to budget, you think that maybe an autograph alone will satisfy. You can get Hemsworth’s on an 8-by-10 photo for $150, or an autograph on “everything else” for $200. After, of course, you have paid to get into the con.
Now, not every autograph and photo has that kind of price. An autograph from Henry Winkler or former CHiPS star Larry Wilcox can be had for $30. For that matter, you don’t have to seek autographs at all.
But for those people who want them, is the pricing fair? Is it reasonable for Hemsworth, who made a reported $5.4 million for co-starring in Avengers: Age of Ultron, to get premium rates for a little interaction with fans?
I talked about this with Eddie McClintock, the former North Canton resident and convention veteran, thanks to co-starring on the TV series Warehouse 13.
McClintock said his autograph has gone for $25 to $30 at conventions; an artist as well as actor, he also sells WH13 shirts that he designed. Unlike actors who are guaranteed a certain paycheck before a con regardless of their sales, McClintock said he gets his travel and hotel paid — then takes in only what he can make from merchandising.
And not all that money goes into his pocket; he said he has a manager who gets 10 percent of his earnings and a separate convention manager who also gets a percentage.
McClintock works pretty steadily. He has a guest shot coming up on Supergirl and is co-starring in a new series, Shooter, coming to USA Network. But WH13 ended two years ago, and that was the last time he had a regular role on TV. Conventions help pay the bills between jobs, not only for currently working actors but for ones whose careers have declined — but fans still want to see.
Still, McClintock said he did not understand at first why fans would pay for that moment with him. Mark Sheppard, an actor who worked on WH13 and is still recurring on Supernatural, explained. “What do you love?” he asked McClintock. “I’m willing to spend money so I can invest in the things that I love.”
People “want to meet you,” McClintock said. “And I love meeting fans. I love being able to meet the people who’ve made it possible for me to have this life.”
Knowing that, he said, he tries to do more than simply move folks along. (Even those celebrities who rush people may be doing so because they have a long line of other admirers waiting, he said.)
McClintock does not hide behind his autograph table. “I like to hug people,” he said. He’ll talk to them about his own life, about being sober for 15 years. Fans then respond, whether by talking about sobriety in their own families or — in a memorable meeting with one woman — describing the struggle to come out to her parents.
“I want them to walk away feeling that [moment] was worth it,” he said. And if that’s the case with any celebrity, then the price was indeed right.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal, Ohio.com, Facebook, Twitter and the HeldenFiles Online. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.