Special guests include ELVIRA, TOBIN BELL (Saw), PHIL ANSELMO (Pantera), RIC FLAIR (wrestling legend), BILLY DEE WILLIAMS (Return of the Jedi), JEREMY BULLOCH (Return of the Jedi), TONY TODD (Candyman), TED RAIMI (Evil Dead 2), PJ SOLES (Halloween), CHYNA, and MORE!
MOVEMENT MAGAZINE attended Days of the Dead convention 5 years ago and we talked to show runner Adolfo Dorta about the history of his show and what we can expect for their 5th big year in Atlanta.
1. Give me a little brief back story on how DOTD was originally created and what lead up to the decision to create a con largely focusing on the horror genre.
Back in 2009, I started a website called From Dusk Till Con (along with DAYS OF THE DEAD co-founder, Rick Lara) which covers the horror convention scene and culture behind it and has been growing quite steadily since its inception. Bill Philputt, who has been working in the business for about 20 years as both a celebrity talent manager and promoter, approached Rick and I and asked us if we would be interested in partnering with him to do a brand new horror convention in Indianapolis. Being huge horror fans ourselves who have loved all things monster related from a very young age, it was an offer we simply couldn’t refuse and the three of us joined forces to create what would go on to become DAYS OF THE DEAD, launching our first show in July of 2011 in Indianapolis.
2. How many shows are there now around the country?
Since our first show in Indianapolis in July of 2011, we’ve spread to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and even have a Louisville show scheduled for later this year. We’ve put on a total of sixteen successful events in the various cities we occupy in a very short time. This upcoming Atlanta show will be our first one of 2016, kicking off a five city tour which sees us in Los Angeles in April, Indianapolis in June, Louisville in September, and finally in Chicago in November.
3. How big of a team does it take to run so many different conventions and what are the logistics like to make it happen (do you have permanent teams in all cities, or do you travel)?
Aside from the myself, and partners Bill Philputt and Rick Lara, DAYS OF THE DEAD has a core team of roughly a dozen folks, comprised mostly of friends and family, that handle the majority of our operations – these include volunteer coordination, fleet and transportation, vendor set up, technical set up, and manning the box office.
4. What has been your biggest/show to date (and what were any contributing factors to make it so)?
Our recent Chicago show this past November was our biggest show to date, despite some pretty bad weather hitting us at the last minute. Pre-sale numbers for the show were absolutely insane, setting all kinds of records for us. Aside from a very strong guest list (which included wrestling superstar BRET HART, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer ACE FREHLEY, and horror icon ELVIRA), Chicago has always been a very good market for us and we have gotten strong support from many of the local businesses, media outlets, and other organizations in the city and surrounding suburbs. I myself live about an hour outside of Chicago which has helped in establishing many helpful relationships in the community.
5. Who has been your favorite/most successful guest booking?
I don’t know that I could point to just one, but I would say some of my favorite people to have worked with would include Angus Scrimm, Clive Barker, John Waters, PJ Soles, Sid Hair, Bill Moseley, Rose McGowan and Roddy Piper. Others like Ric Flair, Malcolm McDowell, Tobin Bell, Ace Frehely, and Peter Criss have also done very, very well for us.
6. If you granted an unlimited budget, who would be your dream guest to book at DOTD event, and why?
I’d love to one day be able to host Robert Rodriguez at one of our events. I’m a big fan of his work and his approach to film making in general. He’s not a guy that’s really moved by money, but to be able to have him in any capacity would be incredible. Hosting Mark Hamill would be a close second.
7. With the dramatic rise in con-culture and more and more events popping up (we’re tracking nearly 80 pop culture events just in Florida in 2016) has this had any effect on DOTD with the growing competition for fan dollars? And what strategies, if any, have you used with DOTD to stay fresh?
Since we began in the summer of 2011, every DAYS OF THE DEAD show we have done has surpassed the one before it in the same city and overall the show has grown year over year by a significant margin so I don’t really feel that the over saturation in the convention scene has had any kind of negative effect on us (at least as far as we can tell). I think it largely comes down to putting together an event that feels different from everything else that’s out there, which I think DAYS OF THE DEAD does to a great degree. All of us connected to the show go to conventions and similar events as fans all the time and use our experiences when putting together things for DOTD. What kinds of things do we like as fans? What kinds of things do we dislike? What kinds of things do we wish shows did more of and what kinds of things would we like to see happen more often? Most often the things that WE enjoy most as con goers also tend to be the things our patrons appreciate as fellow con goers. We don’t approach the show as I imagine someone would looking at it strictly from a business perspective, and I think it clearly comes out in the final product, and fans appreciate it.
8. What is your favorite horror film, and why?
It’s hard to choose just one, but I definitely know what my top three would be: Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (with Kevin McCarthy). Growing up in South Florida, Jaws had me looking into the waters for the giant fin each time my parents would take us to the beach (which is typically a weekend thing when you’re from there). Night of the Living Dead is such an effective film and one of that hold just as much impact with me today as it did when I first watched it as a sneaky young man on a night I should have been in bed. And finally Invasion of the Body Snatchers is so dreadful because the pod people get you when you sleep – something that you can avoid doing for a short while, but inevitably, your body will betray you despite your best efforts.
9. Give us some top highlights of what will be happening at the show in Feb in Atlanta. What are you bringing new and what are you bringing back that’s a fan favorite?
I think our celebrity guest list this year is arguably the strongest one we’ve ever put out and does a good job featuring something for everyone – from Elvira and Tobin Bell (Saw) for the horror fans, to Chyna and Ric Flair from the world of wrestling, to Billy Dee Williams and Jeremy Bulloch which should appeal to Star Wars fans, and even Phil Anselmo (of Pantera/Down) to appeal to the heavy metal music crowd. It wouldn’t be a DAYS OF THE DEAD show without some of our fan favorites, and to that end we’ve also invited some of our most loved regulars like Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, PJ Soles, and Kane Hodder. Aside from celebrity guests, we have the JABB Pictures 48 Hour Film Festival, showcasing some of the most exciting up and coming horror films from the most talented independent directors in the underground, running around the clock from time the convention opens on Friday to the time it closes on Sunday. And I can’t forget to mention our tattoo contest and FX/Makeup competition, as well as our costume contest and Saturday night costume party. If you’re ever without something to do at DAYS OF THE DEAD, you’re doing it wrong! : )