Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago is changing the way it handles fans' access to panels at the event. During previous years, these panels were generally first come, first serve, meaning that fans who lined up early got into the panels they wanted to see.
This often meant the biggest panels of Star Wars Celebration had lines that began the night before, with fans camping out overnight to gain access to a particular room. However, lining up early still didn't necessarily guarantee entry into those panels, particularly for those at the back of the line. Many of those fans ended up in overflow rooms instead to watch the panels live on video. Some were just out of luck. With this year's attendees already discussing their plans for lining up overnight for the big Episode 9 panel, many assumed that would be the case this year. But it was also likely that fans would line up early and spend hours in line for other high-profile panels, including a panel for The Mandalorian TV series that will premiere on Disney+.
However, Star Wars Celebration 2019 will change how fans access panels. According to StarWars.com, fans who want access to specific panels must register their badges and then indicate which ones they might want to attend. It's called "Lightspeed Virtual Panel Reservations." Fans who win a lottery for admission to the first panels of each morning (usually the most in-demand panels) will automatically get assigned a seating section, preventing the need to line up early. For some other panels, Star Wars Celebration will also have "a partial allocation of seating capacity" available for fans to reserve in advance either online or through the Star Wars Celebration app. Attendees can also register for a chance to purchase exclusive exhibitor items.
This new system will apply to many panels at Star Wars Celebration, but it's mostly meant to give everyone a fair chance at getting access to the largest panels. However, there is still a lot of programming available at the event, including programming dedicated to the Star Wars animated series, as well as a panel that will discuss more details about Disney Parks' Galaxy's Edge expansion. Considering the size of the event, those who don't get into panels will still have plenty of other things to do.
Although this new Virtual Panel Reservations system will anger some attendees, particularly those who like the community nature of camping out for panels, this introduces a more fair way of handling panel access that allows people who are unable to line up early the chance to see some of the biggest panels at the event.