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The Official Star Trek Convention goes boldly where few cons dare to go by offering its attendees assigned seating

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The Official Star Trek Convention goes boldly where few cons dare to go by offering its attendees assigned seating

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Through his various "Star Trek" productions, Gene Roddenberry shared his dream for a far more hopeful future. One where humanity eventually rose above all of its petty squabbling and began to travel to the stars.

Gary Berman & Adam Malin had a dream too. An admittedly far more earth-bound one. One where they'd take your typical trip to a comic book convention (which was - and still is, in certain corners of fandom - infamous for its long lines and rough treatment of attendees) and then transform that into something more along the lines of a vacation. Turning your trip to a con into a far more pleasant, stress-free experience.

"And we'd try and get other people on board with this idea. We'd meet with executives at the various movie & TV studios and tell them that it was now time to treat their fans better, with a bit more respect," Berman recalled during a recent phone interview. "After all, these are the people who are first in line to buy tickets to their movies. Not to mention acting as walking billboards for their film franchises because they're constantly wearing t-shirts which had their characters on them. These same fans used to be the first ones to go out and buy the DVDs for all these movies & TV shows. Now they're the first to buy the streaming stuff."

Copyright Creation Entertainment. All rights reserved

"More to the point, these are the people who'll support a property long after it's gone off the air. I mean, look at what happened with 'Firefly,' "Gary continued. "So when you have a loyal customer like that - especially one who's demonstrated that they have a high disposable income that they're then willing to spend on products related to the films & TV shows that you produce - wouldn't you want to reward a loyal customer like that? Make them feel special? Appreciated even? The executives that my business partner & I would meet with and then tell this to would just roll their eyes."

So since no one in the industry shared their vision for the future of fandom, Berman & Malin were forced to take the slow path. They set up their own company - Creation Entertainment - back in 1971 and then began transforming the comic book convention experience from within by staging one fan-friendly event after another.

"If I'm remembering correctly, our first show was in Chicago in the 1970s. And our first guest was Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in the original 'Star Trek' television series," Gary said.

Copyright CBS Studios, Inc. All rights reserved

We now jump four decades ahead. And Creation Entertainment has become the world's leading producer of conventions for fans of genre television & film. Which include well-attended celebrations of popular TV shows like "Once Upon a Time," "Supernatural," and "The Vampire Diaries" that are staged all over the country.

"And what's especially great is that - because the fans have clearly embraced the idea of turning a trip to a con into a vacation kind of experience - now the studios are coming to us. Asking us to run fan events for them. Which - after all those years of executives rolling their eyes at us - is pretty sweet," Berman laughed.

But given that it was all those early Trek-related cons that Gary & Adam put so much care & thought into staging that effectively set the stage for today's success ... Well, is it any wonder that - out ahead of 2017's Official Star Trek Convention (which Creation Entertainment will be presenting at the Rio Suites Hotel in Las Vegas August 2 - 6), -- Berman is feeling somewhat nostalgic?

Copyright Creation Entertainment. All rights reserved

"I mean, looking back on things, we really didn't plan on being in the Star Trek business. We were running comic book conventions. And when other people began presenting Star Trek-related stuff at their comic book conventions ... Well, we started doing it too," Gary recalled. "But the key difference was that Adam & I noticed earlier on that the people who came out for the Star Trek stuff weren't really interested in comic books. So we decided to take a chance. We opted to focus in on a single property. Which - in this case - was Star Trek. And it just kind of took off from there."

Which isn't entirely true. Berman & Malin worked hard to differentiate their Star Trek-related events from what all of the other cons were doing. So if all you got when you went to your typical Star Trek convention was a few talking heads in some bland function room, Gary & Adam seriously upped the ante by doing things like having celebrity emcees host their panels. Not to mention having a house band. Which also gave the proceeding more of a professional show business sheen.

"We also pride ourselves on bringing to the stage people who never ever do Star Trek conventions. I mean, we'd been trying forever to land Whoopi Goldberg. And just last year, she finally agreed to do our show. Likewise Kirstie Alley. She'd never appeared at an Official Star Trek Convention before. But last year, Kirstie came to Las Vegas and appeared before the fans," Berman enthused. "This year, we have Ron Perlman. We've been trying to get him to come to our convention for years now. We're always chasing after the next big thing."

Copyright CBS Studios, Inc. All rights reserved

And speaking of the next big thing ... That brings us to "Star Trek: Discovery," the brand-new series which debuts on CBS on September 24th before then moving over to CBS. Just the day before Gary and I spoke, he had learned that this television program would be making a big splash at the 2017 Official Star Trek Convention.

"I can't get into specifics at this time. All I'm allowed to say is that Wednesday, July 26th is now Discovery Day at our convention. And that CBS has come through for us in a really big way for us," Berman stated. "We'll be doing a huge presentation of 'Star Trek: Discovery.' And there'll be some scoops coming out of that presentation about this new CBS show. But I'm not allowed to go any further than that now."

Of course, if this "Star Trek: Discovery" panel were being presented at San Diego Comic-Con, event attendees would have to line up hours ahead of time with the hope of snagging a wristband that would then guarantee them access to that single presentation. Whereas everyone who's bought tickets to the 2017 Official Star Trek Convention already has a guaranteed seat for this "Star Trek: Discovery" presentation. One they themselves selected and will then occupy for the rest of this 5 & a ½ day-long con.

Copyright Creation Entertainment. All rights reserved

"Look, people do have to pay a little bit more for tickets for the Official Star Trek Convention. But that's because we deliberately limit the size of our theater. We want all of our attendees to be comfortable and to have a great view," Gary continued. "But what you also have to recognize is that the price of the actual tickets to this convention is only a small portion of what people will wind up paying to take part in this event. There's the money that they've spent on gas or airplane tickets. Likewise the cost of their hotel rooms."

"This is why - once these people actually get to the Official Star Trek Convention - we want to make their experience as stress-free as possible. They paid their money. Now they get to close the door on the outside world and mix & mingle with people who share their belief that the future will be a better place," Berman stated. "We just want it to be pleasant. It's supposed to be fun, right?"

Which is a philosophy that I wish the folks who run a certain event down in San Diego would embrace. Or at least consider. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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