Comic book convention to start in 2022, but New Orleans convention schedule remains slim amid pandemic | Economic news

Comic Con Wizard World, now renamed Fan Expo, will return to New Orleans in early January after being absent for the first time in ten years last year due to the pandemic, although it remains a big convention. rare expected in the city in the first half of next year.

The event will take place in two of the large venues at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from Jan. 7 to 9, and is expected to draw visitors in numbers close to pre-pandemic levels of around 15,000, according to Andrew Moyes. , vice president of Fan Expo HQ, which purchased Wizard World events in August.

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But the convention industry in New Orleans and elsewhere in the country is bracing for another round of cancellations amid concerns over a further rise in COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant spreads rapidly.

A worrying sign for the convention industry was the withdrawal last week of several big tech companies, including Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which is due to take place in Las Vegas the first week. in January. These companies and others have cited the latest viral wave to pull back from an event that is an indicator for the industry, drawing 170,000 visitors the last time it took place before the pandemic.

The convention sector in New Orleans was also devastated by the pandemic, and a hoped-for recovery this fall was wiped out by the Delta Variant Wave and Hurricane Ida.

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The cancellation of events, including the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Produce Marketing Association’s “Fresh Summit” and the Solar Power International convention, resulted in tens of thousands of exhibitors, speakers and expected visitors did not make the trip to the city. this autumn.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology November event and the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in December were held, but with drastically reduced numbers due to concerns about COVID-19 and the possibility of ” attend it virtually.

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The risks of attending big events were highlighted by the AGU rally – on Thursday, the organization reported that it had reported 78 cases of coronavirus infection by attendees. “All of these cases are groundbreaking cases of fully vaccinated individuals,” AGU said on its website. “These people in close contact are monitoring their health for potential symptoms.”

Moyes said the Fan Expo convention is different from a typical industry convention in that it is primarily hosted by fans of comics, sci-fi series like Star Trek and Star Wars, and attendees. to cosplay who appreciate the opportunity to dress as their favorite fantasy. characters.

“It’s difficult for us to predict attendance due to the missed shows last year, but the signs are encouraging,” Moyes said, highlighting the success of the Fan Expos in Orlando, Chicago, Boston and Toronto in August of this year. .

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The January event confirmed several celebrities hoping to bring out autograph hunters. They include New Orleans-born Anthony Mackie, who has starred in Marvel movies and TV shows as Sam Wilson, The Falcon’s alter ego, and Captain America. Also appearing is William Shatner, 90, the original Star Trek Captain Kirk on Starship Enterprise, as well as Ming-Na Wen, who appears in the latest installment of the Star Wars series.

Still, the convention center has no other major meetings booked afterwards until mid-May, when the 2022 American Urological Association annual meeting is scheduled.

The drought of major events continues to deplete the auditorium’s financial reserves. The center has had to cover more than $ 21 million in operating expenses this year, in addition to the $ 22 million shortfall last year.

The board has canceled its December meeting and will not report on the latest outlook for the agreements or its ongoing financial losses until the new year.

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