Why Comic-Con is an economic monster

The pop culture event draws in around 130,000 people, as well as the cream of the entertainment and tech industries. It also generates around $180 million annually.

By Bruce Kennedy Jul 18, 2013 4:31PM

People walk through Comic-Con International 2013 at San Diego Convention Center on July 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. (© Jerod Harris/Getty Images)Geeks of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your mint-condition, plastic-wrapped first editions of "Fantastic Four" comics from the 1970s, or maybe that set of lobby cards from the "Terminator 2" movie.

The nerd universe converges on San Diego this week for the four-day Comic-Con (pictured), which opened on Thursday. About 130,000 fans of pop culture -- many sporting costumes from their favorite movies, television shows, video games, graphic novels, manga and anime -- are expected to attend the sold-out event.

Comic-Con evolved from a relatively low-key gathering of sci-fi and comic book aficionados in the 1970s into a full-blown marketing event and the world's third-largest comic convention.. It's also become a destination for Hollywood actors and studios plugging a movie -- and for entertainment and technology companies with something new to sell adoring fans.

"Comic-Con has long served as a key summer platform through which companies can promote movies, TV shows, video games, comic books and toys -- mostly through positive word-of-mouth," notes Variety. "And brands also hope for a similar kind of buzz to help boost the appeal of their products, as well."

An example of that buzz: Electronic retailer Best Buy (BBY) is teaming up with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, owned by News Corp (NWS), and Qualcomm (QCOM) to host the Power-Up Cafe and media lounge across the street from the San Diego Convention Center.

Michael Robinson, executive vice-president of Levick Communications, says the cafe will not only elevate those companies' hipness factor with the Comic-Con attendees, but will also bring new products to a group of consumers who are often first adapters.

"Anything Best Buy does to convince all their stakeholders that it's reinventing itself is a smart move," Robinson told The Street's Laurie Kulikowski.

"You've got to go where the money is,” he added. "In this case if indeed the people going to Comic-Con are buying computers, keyboards, consoles and surface tablets then you should go there too. It makes sense.''

And lest we forget, Comic-Con is a superhero when it comes its financial muscle as well. The website Film School Rejects says the estimated annual economic impact of Comic-Con is $180 million. Compare that to a single Super Bowl, which reportedly generates around $300 million. Up, up and away....

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