San Diego Comic-Con, the largest fan convention in North America, will not be held in person in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced on Monday. Instead, the event will be held virtually over three days, from July 23-25.
In addition, Comic-Con International, the organization behind SDCC, is planning an in-person convention in San Diego to be held in November 2021.
“While we are buoyed by the rollout of the vaccine and the growing number of individuals being inoculated, it appears that July will still be too early to safely hold an in-person event of the magnitude of Comic-Con,” organizers said in a statement. “While we lament the postponement of the in-person Comic-Con, our commitment to this community of fans and our celebration of comics and the related popular arts endures as an important part of who we are.”
Both attendees and exhibitors planning to attend SDCC in July will have the option of rolling over to the November 2021 convention or the July 2022 convention. In their announcement, organizers said details on these plans “will be forthcoming.”
It’s the second year in a row that the in-person event, which historically has welcomed as many as 130,000 participants each year since the late 2000s, has had to be moved online due to health and safety precautions connected to the pandemic. As a non-profit organization, Comic-Con International — which is also holding a virtual version of WonderCon, its annual fan convention held in Anaheim, Calif., in March — is not nearly as deep pocketed as the major studios. In Monday’s announcement, organizers said the postponements and other challenges caused by the pandemic “have left us with limited financial resources,” which forced the virtual convention in July to be reduced from four days to three.
In advance of Comic-Con@Home in July 2020, David Glanzer, chief communications officer and strategy officer at Comic-Con Intl., told Variety that CCI did have a monetary “buffer” in case one of its fan conventions had to be canceled for a catastrophic reason. “I don’t think we ever thought we’d have to cancel two shows,” he said. “It was really, really frightening.”
With just a few months to put together a virtual convention, a suite of panels that were almost uniformly prerecorded, and a dearth of marquee panels from Marvel Studios and DC Films, Comic-Con@Home did not nearly have the same pop-culture impact of its in-person events. Tweets that mentioned Comic-Con@Home were down 95% from 2019’s live convention, according to data from social media analytics firm ListenFirst. After five days, the average YouTube views for each panel on the first full day of the convention was just 15,000 per panel.
By contrast, in August, WarnerMedia launched DC FanDome, its own branded fan event that ran for just 24 hours — and generated 22 million views across 220 countries and territories in that time, according to the studio. That event included exclusive first looks at several highly anticipated DC Films projects, including “Wonder Woman 1984,” “The Suicide Squad” and “The Batman.”
The question for SDCC this year is whether the major studios will bring their biggest titles back to the convention, or whether bespoke branded events like DC FanDome and Disney’s D23 Expo — which has already been pushed a year to 2022 — will be more of the norm.