Creation Entertainment has big plans for 2014, with Official Star Trek conventions already lined up for April (in Philadelphia/New Jersey area), June (Chicago and Boston), July/August (Las Vegas) and December (San Francisco). The guest lists for the shows are in place and in several cases tickets are already on sale. StarTrek.com caught up with Creation co-CEO Gary Berman for an update on the upcoming Star Trek events. Here’s what he had to say:
Let's start with Boston. The most recent Boston show was one of the biggest non-Vegas -- if not the biggest non-Vegas -- Creation shows in 20 years. How shocked were you to discover just how much of a Trek market Boston was or is again?
BERMAN: I think we as well as all the other licensees are noticing a huge pick-up in the popularity of the franchise, not only in sales but also in excitement. The new films are an important part of this, but I do believe there is more to it than that. Star Trek has crossed over into our culture now, more so than any other genre program, and the episodes and movies are seen on so many different platforms. Obviously, the writing and FX teams were amazing in being able to predict what has now come true and, of course, the stories themselves have held up remarkably well.
I also love seeing the younger kids coming to the convention and seeing how exciting it is for them to find so many others into the shows they love. It does indeed bring back a lot of memories for me as an attendee of the first Trek convention and then having started to run them some years later. It's all good! Of course, Boston has always been great for Star Trek, particularly going back to the era of TNG, which was always HUGE there.
Tickets are on sale now for the Boston convention. What's on tap? Which guests do you think fans will be most excited to see/meet?
BERMAN: Yes, they just did go on sale and I think without a doubt fans are going to be excited to see Scott Bakula, as he is making such a rare appearance outside of our Vegas event. I remember working with him when we were doing the Official Quantum Leap Conventions, and there are very few performers of such talent. And, of course, his popularity has continued today. His versatility is pretty amazing; what an awesome singer. He's always been one of my favorites, so it was great he ended up in the Trek Universe. Of course, meeting any of the captains is great, and we know that Bill was with us last year and Sir Patrick is on Broadway, so to have Kate Mulgrew and Avery Brooks is an added treat. We’re so glad that Kate has such an amazing new role to be proud of with Orange Is The New Black. It just goes to show how talented these folks are.
After that we've tried to fill the roster with guests that haven't been "regulars" on the East Coast. So, for me, seeing Robert Beltran, Terry Farrell and Anthony Montgomery will be great, too. Of course, having Rom and Nog (Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg in costume) there will be pretty cool, and they have been huge hits elsewhere so far. And we're still working on more guests.
We noticed that there will be science panels. What can you tell us about those?
BERMAN: We've always loved the fact that Trek fans are really into the science end of the shows. Even our earliest conventions included speakers like Isaac Asimov (who I still can't believe used to come for free because he loved to be around fans). These science panels, of which we do many, particularly in Vegas, really show the impact that Trek has had on real life. And, of course, we try to have qualified speakers who know these fields, and they always end up being huge Trek fans themselves. In fact, many times they went into the sciences because of Mr. Spock.
Let's switch to Vegas. Last year, you topped well over 100 guests. How many are you aiming for this year?
BERMAN: We don't really have a goal in mind, but I do know that as we're on the way to the 50th Anniversary we want to "up" the ante all around, particularly with Vegas. It is important to us that fans feel that they are having a wonderful vacation along with hanging with thousands of fellow fans and potential friends. Meeting the celebrities adds to the fun, of course. I know we want at least one more than last year, but knowing our past it is easy to guess we'll go beyond that. The challenge, of course, becomes how to present all of them in a meaningful way, and we don't want to slight any of the talent intentionally. So that we are working on, as well as adding lots of extra things to do beyond the program we had last year and beyond the two theaters and vendors area. We hope the rest of the space will be themed out with activities for our attendees to enjoy. In other words, we want to immerse everyone in the Star Trek universe throughout the entire space, not just the ballrooms themselves. We definitely have some cool things in the works, and there are going to be some major surprises for our thousands of folks who come in costume.
You're at 40 guests and counting, and the calendar page just turned to 2014. Who among the booked guests do you think will generate the most excitement amongst fans?
BERMAN: Good question. I know we are working on some amazing folks for the additional 60 plus guests, but from the ones we have now, I always get the most excited about seeing Mr. Shatner. He'll be 83 at the time and he remains as energetic, entertaining and inspiring as ever. I just saw a documentary on him where he says he was blessed to have the energy to try something new every day. It has really been incredible to have him be part of the Star Trek universe and be such a good friend and a mentor to our company over these decades. Whenever I have trouble tackling the day, I just think about him and what incredible thing he might be doing and that gets me through. There's definitely a reason he is a show business legend, and I'm currently re-watching Boston Legal right now. I'm positive we'll be talking again soon about having some guests you'd never expect we'd get, so keep your fingers crossed.
What kinds of new events within the convention are either locked in or in the planning stages
BERMAN: It has been some years since we have had The Nevada Pops do STAR TREK: THE CONCERT for our Saturday Night Gala. With 45 performers, it really has to be experienced and I'm so glad they are back. I also always look forward to the parties way up over 50 floors on the top of The Rio in the VooDoo Lounge. Having been to a zillion convention parties, I think these are the finest of their kind and also in the most futuristic place. I'm glad that both are always sold out and that about 1,200 fans get to experience this. Best of all, the food is awesome. As I mentioned earlier, we are working on some new things for costumed folks that come, as they are such an important part of the show. And on the new side, we are trying to recreate the atmosphere of a Quark's Bar type meeting place where our attendees can hang out at night. Somehow one of the casino bars in part of the hotel just seems too small.
We are devoting considerable attention now to doing special "techno" highlights that live up to the Star Trek spirit, and I think fans are going to really love what we have in mind. Last year, we had some major improvements in signage and display areas, and we'll continue in that vein, too. We're bringing in new folks to improve the tech aspects in both theaters. We are also planning a panel on STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE, which will look back at the amusement area with some of the folks who helped create the magic there every day. I know we all miss that place. Of course, StarTrek.com always brings some awesome panels to our convention, so I'm looking forward to what they have in mind for 2014. They certainly created a lot of excitement and news out of last year's event!
What can you say about some of the other Trek conventions Creation Entertainment has lined up for 2014?
BERMAN: The Official Star Trek Convention is making its annual visit to New Jersey, this time April 25-27, 2014 at The Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, with Kate Mulgrew, Nichelle Nichols, Terry Farrell, James Darren (making a homecoming of sorts to the Philly area), Anthony Montgomery, Robert Beltran, John de Lancie, Robert Picard and special visitors from other worlds: Martok, Gowron, Rom and Nog. The talented Suzie Plakson will have her make-up as K'Ehleyr done on stage and, of course, we'll have events, panels, contests, parties and the like.
We're also stopping in Chicago on June 6-8, 2014, led by Bill Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Nichelle Nichols, Suzie Plakson, Anthony Montgomery, Robert Beltran and Nog, Rom, Martok and Gowron. Both Chicago and New Jersey are traditionally sell-out shows and we're trying to put together the very best guest lists possible for attendees.
Click HERE to check out Creation Entertainment’s convention calendar.