San Diego Comic-Con in-person canceled again, online-only in 2021

Fans walking at Comic-Con.
Opening day at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2019.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Comic-Con International said it is working to create a smaller, different event in November


San Diego’s biggest annual summer event, Comic-Con International, has been canceled as an in-person event for the second year.

Instead, Comic-Con will be online-only, just as it was in 2020. However, organizers said they are planning a different, smaller event sometime in November — although firm details about the plan were not available.

In a statement posted online, the nonprofit that operates the event said safety concerns over COVID-19 continue to make holding an in-person event too risky. It also canceled its WonderCon event in Anaheim in late March.

“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,” it said in a statement.

The loss of Comic-Con for a second year is not good news for the city’s coffers or the struggling tourism industry. The possibility of a smaller three-day event in November might be a sign of hope, but it is hard to say if it will have the same draw if held in the winter — and two fewer days.

The San Diego Convention Center Corp. estimated last year’s July convention, if it had been in-person, would have brought in $166.2 million to the region. Just the hotel rooms alone were estimated to bring in $3.2 million in taxes. It isn’t just hotels though, as many businesses benefit from additional spending for restaurants, transportation and other services for the 135,000 attendees.

It is also a loss for Comic-Con. Its San Diego event and WonderCon brought in $24.8 million in program service revenue in 2018, according to tax returns.

Comic-Con would only say its in-person November event was in the planning stages and would be in San Diego. It is unknown if it will actually be called “Comic-Con” or if it will be held at the Convention Center.

“At this time, we are still working on specific details as to attendance capacity, badge cost, and related information, and those details will be forthcoming,” it said in a statement.

Not all is lost. Comic-Con said the event will be a totally online experience from July 23 to 25 — the weekend typically reserved for the event. Last year, it was held for free on YouTube and some videos topped 200,000 views.

Comic-Con said people who bought tickets for the 2020 convention and had them transferred to 2021, will now have those tickets transferred to 2022. Ticket holders can also request a refund.