Christopher Eccleston has been accused of cashing in on his Doctor Who fame after fans were quoted £95 to obtain his autograph. Science fiction enthusiasts are also being charged £85 to have their photo taken with the actor or £235 for a “diamond pass” with guaranteed autograph, photo and commemorative mug.
The backlash is intense. The fees are set, in part, due to what the various stars want to be paid for their public appearances, but also in part by the conventions themselves who have overheads to pay that go beyond the convention expenses themselves. When conventions are run for profit, the prices for autographs and photos of celebrities tend to go skyward.
I'm so grossed out by convention culture these days. Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who #9) is charging his fans £95 ($133.21) for a singular autograph and an additional £85 ($119.20) for a photo with him… £235 ($329.45) for fans who want both… it's nauseatingly exploitative.
— Babette Bombshell ™ (@BabetteBombshel) April 5, 2018
To be honest, these prices for single photographs are about par. These prices translate to about $100 to $120 dollars for a photograph, which frankly is about the going rate for high-popularity celebrities. David Tennant, for example, commanded $100 each for photo ops at Salt Lake’s FanX convention just last week. David Tennant does not do U.S. conventions very often, so it was something of a coup to get him, and was probably a welcome distraction given the accusations of mishandling of sexual abuse by FanX and its administrators.
It’s very common for the highest paid guests at conventions to command prices like these. What’s unusual is the price of the package deal. We’ve seldom seen higher, and seeing numbers this high is opening people’s eyes.
One has to keep in mind that conventions cost money, all the way from what it takes to get the top stars to be in attendance to all the multi-media and electronics that goes with what is essentially a theatrical production by the time you get to this level, down to how much it costs guests to eat lunch and park their cars.
However, this £235 represents a new high in the fees charged to fans for the benefit of having that photo set and certified autograph. The reason people are up in arms over the price isn’t so much that the basics of how it all works is news to the fans, because it isn’t. This is business as usual — but adding all those special items together into a bundle gives the fans a really spooky amount of money that they can all look at and start to question exactly what’s going on. It’s not a good look.
We have to allow for a certain amount of miscommunication between Eccleston and the people running London Comic-Con. This is Eccleston’s first convention. He’s never done one before this, so he has no idea what the atmosphere and politics of conventions are like. He’s never walked among the fans, and doesn’t know that he’s been adopted into a grand family of Doctor Who fans that spans the globe, and that the role he played is part of his legacy now. He may not have understood that conventions don’t work like movie deals, and that all these fees are carried much more directly on the backs of the fans.
Fans are reacting to the opportunism of the convention runners, the Movie Comic Media Expo Group. The London Comic-Con is not known for having very much for fans to do once you get in the door, apart from celebrity panels and autograph signings, so this draws all that much more attention to the what is now being perceived as price gouging at the photo ops. Other conventions, such as the Creation Entertainment and Salt Lake comic expos, really downplay the costs of these autographs so that there’s no big picture for fans on exactly how much all this stuff costs, so when the spotlight hits something like the London Comic-Con pricing in this way, that spotlight tends to burn very very bright.
The backlash from this will be on everyone’s lips for some time to come.