Visitors and cosplayers at a poster at San Diego Comic-Con.
Ulstein Image | Ulstein Image | Getty Images
San Diego Comic-Con will return to its roots this weekend, as Hollywood A-listers pour out of Los Angeles for promotional panels and picketing demonstrations.
The actors went on strike last Friday, effectively shutting down the film and television industry.
As part of their strike, the actors are not allowed to promote any work involving theatrical contracts with TV or studios. That means no interviews, premieres, social media posts and no conferences.
“The timing of these strikes has a significant impact on an important promotional event like Comic-Con,” said Sean Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s a venue often used as a launching pad for the marketing machines behind some of the most anticipated fan-driven content to come out of theaters and across the media landscape.”
That means no Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya to promote “Dune: Part Two,” no Quinta Brunson to talk all about “Abbot Elementary,” and no long-awaited “Good Burger 2.” There’s no Kenan Thompson and Klay Mitchell to preview.
But, even without the top talent, SDCC will still start on Thursday.
Syracuse University professor and pop culture expert Robert Thompson said, “Comic-Con is not ending.” “The show can still go on in San Diego. Comic-Con is so big it’s bigger than even the biggest stars.”
Over the weekend, several Hollywood studios had already decided to stay away from the SDCC festivities.
Both Marvel and DC have shared their upcoming slates of comic book movies and TV shows, which both have led to marquee Hall H productions this year. This will be the first time since 2011 that none of the franchise studios will host a panel at the iconic, 6,500-seat venue.
Now, with actors unable to promote their projects, over two dozen panels have been cancelled. This includes presentations from Amazon’s “Wheel of Time,” FreeVee’s “Jury Duty,” ABC 25th anniversary panels for “Abbott Elementary” and “That ’70s Show”.
Typically, actor-focused panels make up between 25% and 30% of regional Comic Con’s programming. Industry experts told CNBC at San Diego Comic-Con that percentage could be as high as 40%.
Representatives for San Diego Comic-Con did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Of course, San Diego Comic-Con isn’t just about celebrity talent promoting their latest, wackiest material. There’s a giant floor filled with wares from top pop culture retailers Funko, Entertainment Earth, Hasbro, Gentle Giant and Loot Crate, an artist’s alley filled with artists selling original artwork, autograph stations and on-site activations themed to popular movies and TV shows. And then there’s cosplay.
“We’re big fans of the movie and it’s definitely part of it that we get to talk to the people involved in the production and hear about what’s going on,” said Justin Wilder, 36, assistant director of digital communications at Rhode Island. For that go to the opposition.” , “It’s been a little disappointing to see reports of cancellations of different things.”
Wilder, who is attending his first San Diego Comic-Con this year, is also a panelist on the event’s X-Men fandom panel. He told CNBC that while his badge was compensated by the convention, he paid out of pocket for his hotel and airfare, which totaled close to $3,200 for him and his wife.
He said that even if he had not been included in any panel, he would have traveled.
“There are a lot of activities that interest me beyond film and TV that are still happening”, he said, adding that the Hellfire Gala, a costume party based on the popular X-Men comic, was of particular interest.
Several attendees of the upcoming conference told CNBC they still plan to go, despite the canceled panels and smaller pool of celebrity attendees. After all, comic creators are still able to attend and promote their work.
San Diego Comic-Con, which launched in 1970, began with just 300 attendees and top comic book and science fiction names like Jack Kirby and Ray Bradbury. Over the decades, it has grown beyond comic books to include a wider range of pop culture genres such as horror, fantasy, anime, toys and video games, and is now attended by over 130,000 people annually.
“I could walk to Hall H in 45 minutes,” said Jason Chow, 46, a sales audit manager in Forest Hills, New York. “The popularity of Marvel, ‘Twilight,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ has driven insane demand for badges.”
Chou has participated in SDCC since 2008. He usually spends most of the convention taking pictures of cosplay, participating in comic panels, and signing an autograph or two. The cost for Chau to travel to San Diego and attend the conference is the same as Wilder’s, but with an additional $285 for a four-day badge.
He said that when the convention began to attract more attention from Hollywood, he avoided the Hall H productions, which often required attendees to wait in line overnight to get a seat. So far, only one Hall H panel has been canceled in the wake of the actor’s strike, with Legendary Entertainment pulling out of the slot.
Still, with more than two dozen panels missing from the books, the SDCC must contend with increased foot traffic. Part of the planning process for these types of conferences is the idea that a certain percentage of attendees will always be queuing up somewhere.
“I am concerned with the cancellation of all those large panels, how it will affect traffic flow in the exhibit hall,” Wilder said.
Wilder is no stranger to comic conventions, having attended New York Comic Con, Rhode Island Comic Con, Terrificon, and Wicked Comic Con.
“For SDCC, I am just trying to maintain a positive mindset,” he added.
Those selling goods on the show floor are somewhat more optimistic about the prospect of large crowds.
“I think it will be great for interaction with fans,” said Ashley Anderson, director of community and social at collectibles company Super7. “I mean, you’ll actually be able to put more emphasis on the fan than before.”
The lack of celebrities is more likely to affect the studio itself. After all, the promotion of stars boycotting promotional activities reflects directly on Hollywood producers, who have already done so. Criticized in the press for alleged covert tactics,
Robbins said, “Not having some of pop culture’s biggest names at Comic-Con or elsewhere supporting their latest projects is a loss for the convention and for fans in the short term.” “In the bigger picture, it highlights the industry’s fight for lower and middle class wage earners.”
Several SDCC attendees told CNBC they are disappointed that some panels have been canceled and some celebrities will not be attending the event, but understand why this is happening.
Regarding the strike, Wilder said, “It’s unfortunate timing, but what they’re asking for makes a lot of sense.” “AI technology has the potential to change a lot about the film and TV industry and people are worried about their job security. I don’t want people to blame actors or writers for different things, they just want to create Trying to make sure they get a fair deal for the work they do and aren’t taken advantage of.”
Along with the potentially bad publicity, studios are also missing out on some prime promotional opportunities at the convention. Sure, companies can still run trailers, put up billboards, and sponsor interactive fan activations, but a lot of viral social media moments happen in which actors are interviewed on scene and interact with fans and each other. Publicly promote shows and movies while interacting with them.
“comic Con [is] “A huge promotional infomercial for the big studios and streamers,” Thompson said.
And studios need this marketing, especially after a shorter than expected summer movie season.
“We’ve already seen several adult-focused blockbuster movies perform poorly this summer at a time when, perhaps not coincidentally, some outlets like talk shows are promoting films like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Indiana Jones,’ were not broadcasting or hosting guests to promote.’ and ‘The Flash,'” Robbins said.
upcoming potential blockbusters like Warner Bros. “Barbie” and of universal “Oppenheimer” ran a strong marketing campaign before the strike, and likely won’t feel the pain from the actors’ strike, but others may not be so lucky.
“Studios and theaters are counting on a huge amount of content to deliver strong box office results in the coming months and next year,” Robbins said. “If these labor conflicts are not resolved soon, both will suffer a drop in revenue amid a post-pandemic recovery, which could lead to a domino effect of delayed releases and rushed or incomplete production. These are the consequences Which theater owners really have no control over.. However, unlike with Covid, Hollywood executives do.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBC is a member of the Universal Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.