The folks who run the San Diego Comic-Con don’t talk much about their behind the scenes for various reasons. However, as a non-profit organization, Comic-Con International’s tax returns are public knowledge and offer some eye-opening statistics about how much it costs to put on the show.
TL;DR: Millions of dollars! $16 million.
Peter Rowe of the SD Union-Tribune and his crack team have parsed the returns to put together a snapshot of con costs. And yes, I am quoted in this article because this week it was my time to be quoted everywhere. If Seinfeld were set today, maybe “H Hall Worthy” would be a new phrase.
Anyway, I will limit myself to ganking just ONE table put together by U-T’s Daniel Wheaton.
Doing a little envelope math, the show brings in about $22 million and has costs of about $14-16 million. I’m not sure what “occupancy’ means but probably renting the convention center and other areas? Also, yes, CCI has a sizable warchest.
You see why throwing a massive show like SDCC is not for those without funding.
Rowe’s article is full of eye-opening numbers but for me the most startling was the claim that 200,000 people come to the Gaslamp without badges to hang out, get free crap and stalk the cast of Supernatural. That’s an insane number of people and would make SDCC the biggest comics-esque event in the world next to Comiket.
Another fascinating fact: 1991 was the first year with shuttle buses run by SEAT Planners, and they ferried a mere 16,000 passenger. This year it will be 150,000.
And this listing of the companies behind the show:
Planning for this show occupies five SEAT employees for seven weeks, and this is just one of numerous outside constrators hired by Comic-Con. Meeting Services, Inc., provides audio-visual services; Freeman Decorating sets up the exhibition hall; Staff Pro supplies security; and the firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman handles legal matters.
It takes more than a village, it takes a whole city to create Brigadoon for Nerds.
As noted in the story SDCC does remain ultra tight-lipped about their activities, something anathema in today’s world but very much in character for folks who like the show to speak for itself.
That said, sometimes, they do get dinged when they should get ahead of the story. As the OC Register notes, CCI is still getting dragged for not having a more proactive response to the much needed “Cosplay is not consent” movement. They were first called out in 2014, but said their existing policies would suffice.
Keyhan, like many others, still hopes San Diego Comic-Con will strengthen its policies in time, but convention officials have consistently said they believe their guidelines cover any problems that might emerge.
David Glanzer, Comic-Con International’s longtime spokesman, responded to a request for comment with a written statement similar to what he told Comic Book Resources in 2014 in an interview after the Geeks For CONsent petition, saying then – to the dissatisfaction of many advocates for stronger, specific measures – that the organization keeps its policy general and broad to encompass any kind of inappropriate behavior or harassment.
“Our Code of Conduct was intentionally created to serve as a comprehensive measure that makes attendee safety a priority,” the statement read in part. “We want all participants to feel if they are treated in a manner that makes them uncomfortable, that there is a system in place that will respond to misconduct and sexual harassment. We do not provide specifics of our implementation of security measures to ensure the safety of our attendees.”
A well-meaning sentiment, but not the bold support that many other cons have adopted in the wake of increased sensitivity to the many forms of harassment. Still, safety first is definitely one ot the messages the con puts out there.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.