San Diego’s Comic-Con International 2014 officially opens to fans on Thursday and organizers say it will be the epicenter of all things pop culture.
David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s Director of Marketing, told NBC 7 more than 130,000 fans are expected to attend the event at the San Diego Convention Center through Sunday.
That’s a long way from the 300 people that attended the original San Diego Comic-Con 45 years ago in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel on Broadway.
“When we started 45 years ago, nobody ever envisioned this,” said Glanzer. “There’s so much going on here now – anything having to do with pop culture, this is the epicenter of it all for the next few days.”
Inside the convention center, lines were already forming Wednesday for preview night.
The very first person in line to get into the exhibit hall was Caroline Sargent, a visitor to San Diego from the United Kingdom.
Clad in a Comic-Con T-shirt, Sargent told NBC 7 this is her fifth year attending Comic-Con but her first time landing that coveted No. 1 spot in line.
“It’ll be exciting to be the first person inside,” she said.
Sargent had been at the convention center since 10 a.m., waiting for the doors to badgeholders at 6 p.m. She said she planned to be back in line Friday night to wait for entry into the big panels planned for Hall H on Saturday.
Just outside, San Diego was transformed into a fantasy world of comics, television and movies, with huge signs covering high rises and endless photo opportunities, including NBC’s “Blacklist” exhibit taking over a local fish restaurant.
“There are a lot of different companies involved with Comic-Con, but NBC has proven to be a really good friend to Comic-Con,” Glanzer said.
Like every year, seasoned attendees know they should keep a lookout for celebrities, who can pop up just about anywhere at Comic-Con.
“One of the great things about Comic-Con is the surprises. There are always surprises at Comic-Con,” said Glanzer.
“We might see Jeff Bridges here; Salma Hayek might be stopping by. I think there are going to be some unannounced guests also,” he added.
Glanzer said the pop culture spectacular will also spill out onto the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter, where outdoor Comic-Con exhibits and interactive displays await fans.
“One of the things you'll see a lot more of this year is outside activations. We don't have enough space in the convention facility so we're moving off site a little bit and this is an indicator of that," he explained.
Though the big-name Hall H panels will continue to be a major draw for fans this year, Glanzer told NBC 7 that the biggest Comic-Con trend of this year has yet to be determined.
“Everybody wants to be the big thing at Comic-Con but the truth of the matter is we won’t really know what the big thing is until Monday because it’s the fans that will go on social media and tell us what the big thing is,” he said.