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Comic-Con International's Cancellation for First Time Deals Economic Blow to San Diego

Global Pop Culture Fest Marks the Metropolitan Area's Biggest Convention Called Off

Article By: Lou Hirsch, CoStar News

April 20, 2020

The cancellation of this year's Comic-Con International, which fills San Diego Convention Center with 135,000 people over four summer days, is dealing an unprecedented blow to the region's economy through the loss of its biggest event for hotels and other businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Continuous monitoring of health advisories and recent statements by the Governor of California have made it clear that it would not be safe to move forward with plans for this year,” because social distancing couldn't be carried out if the event went on, Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said in a statement. “Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and while we are saddened to take this action, we know it is the right decision.”

It is the first time the globally watched pop-culture fest that's called San Diego home since its debut in 1970 has ever been canceled.

Comic-Con International, which had been scheduled this year for July 23 through 26, is the single largest convention held annually at the city's downtown center, with an annual regional economic impact of $147 million, including direct and indirect spending geared to the event. It's deemed a staple of Hollywood producers, comic book publishers and other media companies looking to reach an avid audience for their wares.

San Diego Convention Center has now seen more than 20 big cancellations tied to the coronavirus outbreak, with a revenue loss tallied at more than $200 million, including lost hotel revenue and room taxes.

Comic-Con remains booked at the convention center through 2024, but other cities have sought to snag the pop fest in recent years. San Diego voters in March narrowly defeated a ballot measure that would have financed a $685 million expansion of the convention center to keep and attract large conventions like Comic-Con. The measure fell just short of the two-thirds approval needed for passage, with 65.2% voting in favor of a proposed hotel tax hike that would have also funded homeless services and street repairs.

The cancellation is expected to have ripple effects on the local real estate market, too.

Closing means streets in downtown neighborhoods, including the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village, won't be bustling with the usual air akin to Mardi Gras or St. Patrick's Day, with revelers dressed up as comic book superheroes and spending money at local bars and restaurants. Big media companies normally festoon local commercial buildings and event spaces with high-profile advertising and promotional installations during the festivities.

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