There’s an unwritten rule at Comic-Con that any line for free merchandise or food is a guaranteed three-hour wait.
Not so for the attendees who found Con-X this weekend.
The “free hangout” for Con-goers and the general public in Embarcadero Marina Park South was handing out free T-shirts, water bottles, souvenir photos and Krispy Kreme doughnuts to all takers on Saturday morning, with lines ranging from nonexistent to 30 minutes max.
Con-X, hosted by Entertainment Weekly magazine, is one of this year’s new off-site events. Besides giveaways, the event - which will continue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday - also features two stages of live entertainment with music and celebrity panels.
Entertainment Weekly’s staff said the event has been a success and will return, much bigger, next year.
“Entertainment Weekly has always had a huge presence at Comic-Con, but it was always industry-focused. This was a chance for us to do something fan-focused where we could give back,” said Tim Leong, the magazine’s creative director.
The event started quietly on Thursday and built as word spread of the “no pass required” admission and freebies to be had. Some visitors Saturday said they were pointed to Con-X by a Nerdist app that maps out freebies.
Con-X got an extra boost Friday, when Conan O’Brien mentioned it on his TV show, which is broadcasting all weekend from the Spreckels Theater downtown.
At the free T-shirt bar - where customers can hand-pick their iron-on transfers - a booth manager said crowds had grown steadily since Thursday. She expected her team to press 1,200 shirts on Saturday.
Krispy Kreme spokesman Darryl Carr said business never let up at his free doughnut stand. Each day, his team has given away from 3,600 to 4,200 “raised glazed.”
“Demand has been really strong. It’s a great venue and we’re really happy to be part of this,” he said.
Mira Mesa resident Thomas Asencio, who has attended Comic-Con annually since 2006, was one of the first through the Con-X gates on Saturday morning.
“I love it over here,” he said, while waiting in line for a free T-shirt. “It’s so much less crowded, it’s a lot cooler with the breeze off the water and everything’s free.”
Among the eclectic offerings at Con-X are a photo opp with a “life-size” model of Jabba the Hut (no metal bikini required), a free shave (beard or legs, depending on your gender) from Schick, a make-your-own candy lab from SweeTarts Mini Gummies and a mock hotel check-in desk for “American Horror Story” selfies.
There are also free phone charging and water bottle refill stations.
Schick showed up on Thursday with 60 boxes of free water bottles to give away, but demand was so great amid the scorching afternoon temperatures that a booth staffer said two-thirds of them were gone by the first day.
The biggest draw at Con-X was the entertainment, which included a “Teen Wolf” panel on Friday that drew several hundred fans.
Saturday’s programming highlight was an interview with “Con Man” web series co-stars Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.
There is no entertainment scheduled for Sunday.
Because downtown parking is scarce and access to Embarcadero Marina park takes a bit of sleuthing, some of the visitors at Con-X on Saturday arrived by happenstance.
La Mesa resident Patrice Foley was jogging along the waterfront when she saw the signs for Con-X and decided to swing by for some free swag.
“I’m scoring today,” she said, holding up a tube of Krispy Kreme lip balm and a Power Rangers pin, “and I’m not even a Comic-Con fan.”