For the first time in 50 years, San Diego Comic-Con International has been canceled due to the impact and restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced Friday.
Comic-Con was supposed to take place from July 23 to July 26 at the San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego – the same venue currently being used as a temporary shelter for homeless locals during the coronavirus pandemic.
With only three months left until the big show in the heart of downtown San Diego, many were wondering if the large-scale pop culture expo would be canceled.
The answer finally came Friday, as organizers announced the Con was a no-go for this July.
In a statement titled, “The Current Situation Requires Exceptional Measures,” San Diego Comic-Con International organizers said this marks the first time in the event's 50-year history that it has been canceled. And, while the decision is necessary to protect public health and safety, organizers said their announcement comes with “deep regret.”
Organizers said the event would return to the San Diego Convention Center from July 22 to July 25, 2021.
“Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and while we are saddened to take this action, we know it is the right decision,” said David Glanzer, spokesperson for San Diego Comic-Con. “We eagerly look forward to the time when we can all meet again and share in the community we all love and enjoy.”
Organizers said they “had hoped to delay this decision in anticipation that COVID-19 concerns might lessen by summer,” since so many people attend Comic-Con each year, and so many exhibitors rely upon the convention and its surrounding events for their livelihood.
“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,” the cancellation statement read.
Costumes of San Diego Comic-Con 2019
What This Means for Comic-Con Badge-Holders
So, what if you already purchased one of those coveted Comic-Con badges?
SDCC said Friday that fans who purchased badges for Comic-Con 2020 will have the option to request a refund or transfer their badges to Comic-Con 2021.
“All 2020 badge holders will receive an email within the next week with instructions on how to request a refund,” organizers detailed. “Exhibitors for Comic-Con 2020 will also have the option to request a refund or transfer their payments to Comic-Con 2021 and will also receive an email within the next week with instructions on how to process their request.”
And, as for hotel reservations made via the event’s official hotel affiliate, refunds for those are coming too, organizers said.
“In the next few days onPeak, Comic-Con’s official hotel affiliate, will be canceling all hotel reservations and refunding all deposits made through them,” organizers explained. “There is no need for anyone who booked through onPeak to take any action, including trying to cancel their reservations online or contacting the company via phone as the process will be handled automatically. Those who booked rooms through onPeak will be notified when refunds have been completed.”
The cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con International comes on the heels of the cancellations of several other large-scale summertime events in San Diego County.
On Tuesday, organizers of the San Diego County Fair – which was scheduled to run from June 5 to July 5 – announced the fair was canceled. The San Diego County Fair is the largest annual event in San Diego County, typically drawing 1.5 million visitors.
On Thursday, San Diego Pride – which was scheduled to run from July 18 to July 19 in Hillcrest – announced it was cancelling all in-person, mass gatherings for this year’s event. Instead, San Diego Pride organizers said they're looking to move the celebration into the virtual world.
The decisions to cancel the tentpole San Diego events come after California Governor Gavin Newsom this week shared a six-step approach that he said will guide the state as it reopens its businesses, events, and daily life after the COVID-19 shutdown.
And that plan means mass gatherings are not likely to be allowed for a while as San Diego County, California, the U.S. and the world continue to work to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This means the summer in sunny California is going to look gloomier than Californians are used to.
“There is no light switch here,” Newsom said in a media briefing this week. “I would argue it is more like a dimmer.”
In addition to the San Diego County Fair, San Diego Pride, and Comic-Con, summertime in San Diego also brings the annual Del Mar Racing season.
As of Wednesday, a public relations spokesperson for Del Mar Racing said the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club still plans to hold its summer meet, which is scheduled to take place July 18 to Sept. 7.
The spokesperson said the horse racing season will he held “with a steadfast commitment to ensuring the safety and welfare of our workforce, the public and our equine and human athletes.”
“The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is following the public health guidelines recommended by state and local officials as well as monitoring the status of the other horse racing facilities in California and around the country,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to work with the relevant public health officials as we get closer to our scheduled opening and will make decisions on any potential modifications at the appropriate time.”
Meanwhile, WonderCon Anaheim, which is organized by San Diego Comic-Con International, was supposed to take place in Anaheim, California, last weekend, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the event morphed into an online affair dubbed WonderCon@Home.
SDCC organizers said Friday that WonderCon Anaheim would return to the Anaheim Convention Center next year, too, from March 26 to March 28, 2021.
In addition to San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, SDCC had also been planning a major renovation of Balboa Park’s Federal Building to be finished for the grand opening of the Comic-Con Museum in the summer of 2021.
Organizers said Friday that the COVID-19 crisis is impacting those efforts, too.
They said they would rephrase the museum’s initially planned renovations but would “not scale back the experience to be offered to visitors upon the museum’s grand opening.” Organizers expect to release plans to the public on the museum’s transformation in the coming months.
Meanwhile, NBC 7 reached out to the San Diego Tourism Authority for a comment on the cancellation of Comic-Con. A spokesperson released this statement on behalf of the Tourism Authority and the San Diego Convention Center:
“For decades, Comic-Con International: San Diego (Comic-Con) has been a highly anticipated annual gathering for San Diegans and travelers alike. Considering guidance from public health officials regarding mass gatherings, we support the decision Comic-Con has made to cancel the 2020 event," the statement read.
"We thank the Comic-Con team, their event partners and their fans for their longstanding commitment and enthusiasm for our city. This is an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone, including those of us in the meetings, events, and tourism industries, but we know we will meet and celebrate again," the Tourism Authority continued. "We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to San Diego and the San Diego Convention Center when the time is right. For more information, see the Comic-Con announcement."
The beloved, quirky San Diego Comic-Con International was born in 1970 in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel in the heart of San Diego. Over the decades, the “little event that could” has grown into a behemoth, taking over the San Diego Convention Center, neighboring hotels and spilling into the streets of downtown San Diego for a long summer weekend every year.
Comic-Con’s fervent fans typically attend the convention in elaborate costumes, transforming the city into a metropolis straight out of the pages of fantasy and science fiction.