Life Slowly Returning to Normal — But Are Con Goers Ready for a November Event?

March comes in like a lion, or in the case of San Diego Comic-Con, with a giant collective sigh of sadness for some and relief for others. While many, including the Ublog team, had speculated that a physical SDCC 2021 was off the table, that didn’t make the news that this year’s physical event was once again cancelled fall any more gently. But it wasn’t all disappointing news — CCI also announced that they were planning a shorter, in-person event for November. The details are scarce, or actually non-existent; no date, no location and no name.

But with the hope that by fall things may be looking more like “normal” (whatever that means these days), November’s event may just have a chance. With over a year now with no major conventions, many fans are already booking hotel rooms for every weekend in November and earmarking time off work “just in case”, while others believe we should all temper expectations and hope and look to 2022.

We were curious what our readers were feeling about a November event and when we asked, you answered. 1,716 people responded to our short, simple survey asking about their current intentions to attend.

The majority of respondents, more than 79%, are current badge holders with plans to roll over their badge. We didn’t ask if attendees planned to roll their badges over to SDCC 2022 (which happens automatically) or to November’s event (which is not even a certainty that it will be an option), in part because currently, with so little being known about November, it’s hard to imagine many wanting to say a firm yes to giving up their “golden ticket”.

When asked about their intentions to attend the November event (regardless of any possible rollover), 677, or nearly 40%, responded Yes. Those firmly in the No column were 8.5%, or 146 people, with roughly a third of those citing a lack of confidence in Covid-19 levels and vaccine rollouts and another quarter simply not ready to be among crowds. And 893, or roughly 52% of respondents, said that their answer was “maybe”, and that it would depend. More on that in a bit.

For those in the firmly No column, just what is keeping those individuals from believing they will attend a November CCI event? Most of the answers were things you would expect — with not enough confidence in COVID-19 and vaccine rates being the top reason why many chose that answer.

“Covid isn’t going anywhere any time soon even with vaccines. Maybe by next year some sort of herd immunity will be reached. But not this year.”

“I don’t believe Covid vaccinations will be at an adequate level for any form of large gatherings, also with November being in the height of flu season I’m not willing to jeopardize my health. And with it being in November and being in the off season for slot of SDCC usual guest there won’t be as much of must see panels.”

This sentiment echoes the feeling of about 10% of those who completed the survey, wondering if a smaller, shorter event would not be worth the time or the cost to attend. 

The largest group of respondents, the “Maybe” folks who made up 52% of the overall answers, was much of the same — the top reason is for hesitation, as one reader succinctly put it, is “Covid- DUH!”. 722 people (or 81% of the total Maybe’s) listed COVID-19 concerns as one of their reasons,. Mask and safety precautions are of concern to 62%, while 53% indicated personal vaccine status was giving them pause to go all in.

“The two most important factors would be my vaccine status and community levels of disease–not just the local community, but probably worldwide, or at least everywhere that attendees may be coming from. And this would be determined by scientific consensus, not state government. As a California resident, and a microbiologist, I have been severely disappointed in the state government’s absolute refusal to follow even their own scientific guidelines at times.”

“Depends on where we are with the virus and the density of the crowds and events. Not so concerning for an outdoors venue, but indoors, with people mixing from all over along with any mutated strains that may escape vaccine coverage…too risky.”

“I would love to attend another SDCC event but I want to ensure it would not be potentially dangerous for myself or others in regards to the pandemic. I would want to be vaccinated, and would prefer to only be around others who are also vaccinated. It’s difficult to ensure safety in this way, but it’s very important I don’t get sick or potentially infect others when I return home.”

The top Non-COVID-19 concern for those who answered “Maybe” is cost, with more than 55% selecting it as an issue for them. With many San Diego Comic-Con attendees coming from outside the state of California, many regulars who wished to attend would have the added expense of travel and hotel rooms.

“Because I was unemployed for 3 months due to my work being permanently shut down due to COVID, my money right now is precious. I’ve even been contemplating getting a refund on my SDCC tickets when the window opens. I’m hoping by the time November rolls around things would be better financially, but for me right now deciding on going will be determined by the cost and what is being offered. I want bang for my buck like I know I can get from SDCC.”

Folks in the “Maybe” camp also have mask concerns, and, like in the real world, they swing like a pendulum, both for and against. California’s current mask mandate, which requires masks to be worn when outside of the home excepting a small number of cases, has been in effect in some form or another since June of 2020. With California’s popularity as an international tourism and business destination, and with the recent announcement that theme parks will soon be open, it’s hard to imagine the mask mandate going away any time soon. Even if Governor Newsom relaxed the mandate, businesses and any events could still have their own rules, regulations and mandates.

“Masks should be worn at all times, but it’s hard to regulate that when some people don’t wear masks properly or at all. It would be ideal if this event was held outdoors with proper social distancing. Not sure if I would attend if this was held indoors unless COVID numbers are very low. Crossing my fingers!”

“I’m worried that they may have a hard time enforcing safety protocols (such as some people removing their masks or not maintaining social distancing and CCI not being present enough on the ground to ensure safety).”

“It would have to be safe for me and my family to attend. Even though we are eager to attend the next event, safety will always come first. so, we would have to be vaccinated, attendance would have to be limited and masks/distancing would have to be required for us to attend.”

“If I have to wear a mask everywhere at all times I would not attend.”

“If the mask nonsense is a factor of admission, I’d be out. If the cost is a money grab to make up for two missed shows, I’d be out.”

“If you have to wear a mask, I will not go. It’s too hot in November in California.”

Other causes for hesitation of note were the potential dates of the event, November is already a busy month with Thanksgiving and the impending holiday-season. Having an event so close to the holidays could put the strain on vendors, creators, studios and guests, as well as attendees. Just a bit over 53% of the people who filled out our survey selected this as a concern, followed very closely at 52% who wonder what sort of programming or guests the show could schedule. Exclusives, always a favorite, were reported by 22% as also being a concern. Maximizing ones cost and time vs what the show offers and the effort it takes to attend is always a concern, even during a non-pandemic year.

“I mean, who celebrity-wise would go? Could they really make any panels worth it? Movie studios already were bowing out before COVID, they aren’t coming back, certainly not for a November mini SDCC. Also, July is perfect because it’s easy to take a vacation for most people in July. Not so easy in November, unless you put it around Thanksgiving, but then I definitely won’t go.”

“It costs me a fair amount of money to get out to San Diego, plus I need to request time off work. I would want to make sure it’s worth both of those things (in terms of programming especially) before I would commit to going.”

“It all depends what will be at this November event. Is it worth it for me to try to get airline and hotel reservation for just something like Artists Alley kind of convention? Do not get me wrong. Love to support the independent artists but if that’s all that will be there, I think I will stay home and support these artists from home.”

Ranking lower, less than 1% each, on the list of concerns for potential attendees are travel and border restrictions and school schedules for children.

So, while many, MANY questions remain regarding CCI’s plans for a November event, there is absolutely no doubt that while attendees are eager to get back to conventions, COVID-19 concerns continues to weigh heavily on the minds of all potential con-goers. As more and more vaccines roll out across the country and the world, it will incrementally become safer and safer for us to gather together. With any hope, we’ll be back together soon — shoulder to shoulder, backpacks heavy and celebrating pop culture as only San Diego Comic-Con attendees can.

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