Comic-Con returns to full scale, in-person show this week
The pandemic forced Comic-Con International to go virtual with its Comic-Con@Home editions and to hold a scaled back Comic-Con Special Edition in Nov. 2021. But this week the pop culture convention returns in-person and in full force.
Before COVID-19, San Diegans could expect Comic-Con to take over not just the convention center but also the Gaslamp Quarter and downtown San Diego. It was an explosion of pop culture geekiness that drew attendees of all ages and from all over the globe. But the geek tribe has not be allowed to gather at a full scale Comic-Con since 2019.
In November, Comic-Con Special Edition offered a smaller convention without use of Hall H, without Hollywood panels, and without many of the biggest brands having booths on the exhibit floor.
For some longtime attendees, the reduced size and crowds hearkened back to earlier days when you could walk into panels and move quickly around the booths. But for others it lacked the buzz, energy, and excitement of the pre-pandemic shows.
But Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer guaranteed the show this week will be bigger than Special Edition.
"It'll be a big show. We have a lot of indoor and outdoor things that are going on with the activations and the show sold out in 2019. We sold the tickets originally in 2019, so we expect a pretty full and crowded house."
People attending this year will mostly be those who purchased badges in 2019 and have been rolling them over for two years. No new badges were put on sale but returned badges were sold on eBay as a fundraiser for the Comic-Con Museum.
With the show looking to attract upwards of 135,000 people, organizers do have special requirements for attendees similar to what was in place back in November.
"There is a mask mandate if you are attending Comic-Con," Glanzer said. "You'll need to have proof of vaccination or a negative test. You'll be required to wear a mask when you're inside the facility or at any outside Comic-Con event."
Comic-Con organizers are also encouraging attendees to download an app called CLEAR on which they can create a "health pass" that links to their vaccination status and proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
"Clear is used by a lot of airports and different concerts and other venues, so that should help the process a lot. But it's the same policy that we had during Comic-Con Special Edition. And also at our sister show, Anaheim WonderCon," Glanzer said.
But what Comic-Con learned at the events last year was that it needed more verification sites to speed up the process of getting people in. On the official website there is a COVID-19 FAQ page and a map of the different verification locations and the hours of operation. You can even receive access verification and your wristband as early as Monday at the Town and Country Hotel.
As with so many businesses, COVID-19 took a financial toll on the nonprofit organization. Running the in-person show is the main way Comic-Con generates funds so there was limited revenue to be found in the virtual Comic-Con@Home shows, though some sponsorship money was raised. And while the ticket sales from 2019 were specifically set aside for this show, the pandemic has been a strain on the organization since there were no new income generated from ticket sales this year. But holding an in-person show does afford some other ways to bring cash in.
"One of the things we are able to do is sell sponsorships," Glanzer said. "So you'll see building wraps, you'll see signage and all that. We get, in some instances, a percentage of those. So that helps to replenish our coffers a bit. And then in the fall we'll be selling tickets for the 2023 show and hopefully people will want to attend and those ticket sales will go well and then we'll be back on our road to a full recovery."
Attendees may not realize that Comic-Con not only pays a rental fee for the convention center and hotel meeting spaces it uses but also for the shuttle services and security it provides.
Preview night for Comic-Con is Wednesday starting at 6pm then the convention is in full swing Thursday through Sunday.