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San Diego Comic-Con sets sights on Thanksgiving weekend, sparking backlash from fans and talent

A sign photographed from outside the annual San Diego Comic-Con International at the San Diego Convention Center on Sunday July 15th, 2012 in San Diego, California.
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The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the live event business, particularly the lucrative comic convention industry. In a bid to raise much needed funds, San Diego Comic-Con has postponed its July 2021 show until the fall.

However, its decision to place the in-person international convention over Thanksgiving weekend, an announcement it made late Saturday night, is facing harsh backlash from fans, talent and press.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” wrote Charles Soule, author of “Light of the Jedi” and Daredevil comics, on Twitter following the announcement.

Like Soule, the majority of dissenting voices question why the organization would host this event during a major U.S. holiday. Particularly, one that many people did not have the ability to celebrate last year with family due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

These voices range from fans, who travel extensively to attend the show, to talent, who appear on panels or at signings. Not to mention, journalists and other industry professionals, who are tasked with covering the event.

While conventions have coincided with holidays in the past — WonderCon has taken place on Easter weekend, and Anime Expo typically occurs over the Fourth of July — hosting San Diego Comic-Con during this particular Thanksgiving has raised eyebrows.

“My family missed Thanksgiving last year because of the pandemic,” wrote Dan Slott, an Eisner award-winning comic book writer, on Twitter. “This year, we’ll all be vaccinated. There’s no way I’d be attending any event instead of spending that time with them. Even if everything were magically back to normal. I can’t imagine others feeling differently.”

It seems that much of the organization’s decision to host an in-person convention in 2021, stems from having to cancel previous events, resulting in a significant financial hit.

“While we have been able to pivot from in-person gatherings to limited online events, the loss of revenue has had an acute impact on the organization as it has with many small businesses, necessitating reduced work schedules and reduction in pay for employees, among other issues,” said David Glanzer, spokesperson for the nonprofit organization in a statement Saturday. “Hopefully this event will shore up our financial reserves and mark a slow return to larger in-person gatherings in 2022.”

Representatives for San Diego Comic-Con did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

San Diego Comic-Con has become a massive event for the entertainment industry. It is a place where studios drum up excitement for upcoming blockbuster projects and it’s used as a platform for disseminating new details to the most ardent of fans.

It’s also a significant revenue driver, not just for the organization that runs it, but for the local economy. San Diego’s tourism group estimates that $88 million is directly spent by attendees during the convention and $149 million trickles into the region’s economy. 

Hundreds of thousands of people show up for this event annually from all over the world, and that’s not counting the on-site staff, security and custodial workers who walk the halls during the four-day weekend.

November’s convention will only last three days, taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday and likely limit the number of attendees based on local guidelines. The organization plans to offer up more information about ticket pricing, capacity restrictions and other details closer to the show’s date.

“So, sure, I can see the #SDCC telling thousands of fans to forego the first post-pandemic Thanksgiving in order to stand in line at Hall H, but they’re also telling major Hollywood actors and directors to do that, too,” wrote Rus McLaughlin, senior content strategist for Oculus, on Twitter. “I’m guessing there might be some pushback there.”

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