Fan Expo will take over operations of six Wizard World comic cons, it was announced today. Wizard World’s events in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Portland, St. Louis, and Cleveland will be rebranded as Fan Expo events in 2022. Fan Expo promises “a new, reinvigorated brand and revitalized attendee experience” for the shows, some of which have been running for nearly 25 years.
Wizard World will run its 2021 show in Chicago (currently slated for Oct. 15-17) and afterwards will continue to operate its Wizard World Vault collectibles business. They will also participate in the Fan Expo events in an unannounced capacity.
The six shows will be rebranded as Fan Expo Chicago, Fan Expo Philadelphia and so on. According to Andrew Moyes, FAN EXPO HQ vp “FAN EXPO will own the shows as well as operate them, but beyond that we can’t share details of the agreement.”
The move makes Fan Expo possibly the largest producer of fan conventions in the world, with 17 shows in North America, more than 1 million attendees and more than 10 million square feet of exhibition space. Fan Expo is owned by Informa, a global information services company that puts on mostly B2B events around the world.
Wizard World launched in the late ’90s as an offshoot of Wizard magazine. Owned and operated by the Shamus family, the earliest events set the tone for the “exclusives/collectibles/autograph” shows that exploded in popularity over the last 15 years or so before the pandemic put a halt to them. After the Shamus brothers, Gareb and Stephen, left the company, a series of investors and shell companies operated the shows. With live events sidelined by the pandemic, over the last year Wizard had turned to virtual events, and more recently, NFTS. But even before COVID-19, profits had been spotty for the publicly traded company, as they gradually scaled back from a high of 17 announced shows to only four, and became increasingly less focused on comics and more on nerdlebrities and photo ops.
Fan Expo President Aman Gupta was extremely bullish on the acquisition in a statement. “FAN EXPO HQ is devoted to creating unmissable, exceptional fan experiences. We’re beyond thrilled to be able to offer that to fans in six new locations, and pleased that Wizard World recognized our ability to elevate guest experience to the next level. We’re looking forward to getting to know each of these individual communities, learn what they’re looking for, and raise the bar!”
Moyes answered a few questions for The Beat, saying that these six shows “are the largest in Wizard World’s portfolio and made the most sense at this time” to acquire, due to their size, location, dates, and venues.
As for reopening in 2022, hopefully with COVID-19 in the past, he said “We’re encouraged by the pent-up demand by fans, talent, vendors and partners. The FAN EXPO HQ team stayed together and didn’t rest during this pause. Our time was spent working behind the scenes to come back not only safely, but better, stronger, and with a renewed and exciting offering. What became even more clear for us during this time is how important events like ours are for building community and a sense of belonging. We know fans especially will appreciate this long-awaited opportunity to come back together.”
Gupta is especially excited about taking over the Chicago event (actually held in Rosemont), whose roots go back to the original Chicago Comic Con, one of the foundational comics events. “I’m eager to contribute to the incredible legacy of the Chicago event, the second oldest comic event in North America (1972), and restore it to its former glory and beyond,” he said.
According to Moyes, they are still looking at dates for the Chicago show, which has been traditionally held in August, with dates for all the shows being announced later in the year. In terms of upping the show’s profile he said, “Each of our 17 events across North America will benefit from this news — more exclusive access to superstar talents, international brands, and innovative experiences. For Chicago specifically, we’re honored to contribute to the legacy of this show on all fronts, but especially by bringing comics back to the forefront.”
Fan Expo’s other shows include FAN EXPO Canada in Toronto, MEGACON in Orlando, FAN EXPO Dallas, FAN EXPO Boston, Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo, FAN EXPO Vancouver, Toronto Comicon, Dallas FAN FESTIVAL, Edmonton Comics & Entertainment Expo and various other special events.
In 2022 they plan to launch FAN EXPO San Francisco in the fall, and run their first edition of FAN EXPO Denver, previously Denver Pop Culture Con, which will return with an introductory SPECIAL EDITION show this fall as comics event attempt to come back from the pandemic.
“2022 will be the most exciting year in our company’s history,” said Gupta, “and I know the fans will feel that pride and excitement.”