SDCC12: Behind the Scenes

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Amid all the hoopla and foofarah, the millionth article about “The Twilight Hunger of the Walking Press Agents”, and way too many cosplay photos, I like to discover articles about lesser-known aspects of Comic-Con.

Usually, the articles are from a specialty website, finding a unique angle of Comic-Con and a specific profession.

For example, sanitation services.

Environmental Expert.com featured a press release/article about Waste Management, the San Diego Convention Center, and their plans to increase the amount of recyclables claimed from the convention, which totaled 98 tons last year.  They want to increase that to 120 tons, by encouraging consumers to use marked containers, exhibitors to donate materials at the end of the show, and by sorting garbage by hand.

With a second cardboard baler, they hope to reduce the number of trips to the El Cajon recycling center from 34 to 7.  Of course, all trucks will use natural gas.

(That 98 tons is how much was recycled.  Lord knows how much trash was hauled to the local landfill, or how many trees were sacrificed for handouts and fliers around the convention center.)

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On the other end of the waste stream, San Diego Pretzel Company celebrates 15 years of selling their “twisted treats” at Comic-Con.  (I’m sure convention veterans will have some salty comments below!)

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The San Diego Convention Center’s Panorama newsletter describes what’s involved, in this article from Summer 2010.

“Last year we served more than 17,000 pizzas, 28,000 hot dogs, 41,000 sodas, and 11,000 orders of fries at Comic-Con,” said Executive Chef Jeff Leidy. “It’s a huge undertaking. We have 40 cooks and 117 concession workers staffing 12 concession areas throughout the building, including Tides Restaurant and three on-site Starbucks.”

Here’s this year’s press release:

• Economic Impact: $180 million
• Direct Attendee Spending: $75 million   [Wait... $600 per attendee?]
• Tax Revenues: $2.6 million
• Attendance: 126,000

Last year’s numbers:

Economic Impact: $162.8 million
Direct Attendee Spending: $67.8 million
Tax Revenues: $2.8 million
Room Nights: 126,000

KPBS reports on the economic impact.

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Variety discusses how various media companies are using the space outside the convention center.

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The La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch raN a rather shoddy poll about La Mesa-based “San Diego Comic Convention” (their filing name) and whether it should retain their non-profit status.

  • Should the annual San Diego Comic Convention pay federal and state taxes?

    (Voting has been closed for this question)

    • Yes, since it benefits for-profit companies.
      34 (73%)
    • No, since it would jeopardize annual show.
      8 (17%)
    • Unsure, since IRS status is complicated.
      4 (8%)
    Total votes: 46

(GuideStar data is here.)  Myself, I think The Patch is just trying to find something to write about.  CCI doesn’t profit from the show, the IRS monitors their filings, and if you started criticizing non-profits for the conventions they run, which are attended and financed by for-profit exhibitors and registration fees…well, the list would be very long.

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Comments

  1. jacob goddard says:

    It being non profit means either the con admin hope no one notices that they’re still non profit, or they have aspirations of a state funded convention like Angouleme.
    Hoping for the latter.

  2. Torsten, GREAT article. I like the behind-the-scenes angle. More of this, please! I knew the waste was high, but I had no idea on the specific numbers.

    Kudos to the SDCC staff for constant monitoring of the waste bins, too. I’m struggling to recall when I’ve seen an overflowing trash can on the exhibit floor during open hours. I’m sure they exist, but in my experience (during show hours) I’ve not seen one.

    However, *after* the show is over, when everyone is tearing down their exhibits and consolidating their boxes with the remains… then I see a lot of overflowing / stacked / crammed / strewn stuff all over the place. As an exhibitor I’ve seen the show from the earliest set up to the midnight tear down.

    Exhibit Packing / packages / shipping / involves a lot of waste, too.

  3. Sorry, Jimmie, but I’m in New York, so all I can do is filter the Internet through the baleen of my brain.

    Now if one of our Team Beat Elite staff want to do some first-person interviews on site, we’ll run them!

    As for state-funding… I suspect they could apply for grants and the such. I would like to see CCI replicate the amazing programming as seen in Angouleme and Erlangen!

  4. Wayne Beamer says:

    Torsten: No comics convention as big as SDCC would ever earn, nor ask for, nonprofit status nowadays. Because of the sea change to a pop culture tentpole for corporations like Disney, Sony and WB, SDCC isn’t truly a nonprofit, thus it really ought to be a tax-paying entity.

  5. Tom Galloway says:

    Wayne, you don’t understand the legal definition of a non-profit. It doesn’t mean the organization can’t turn a profit, even a substantial one. It does mean that individuals associated with the organization can’t take any money out of it for their own purposes (note: That does *not* mean the organization can’t hire people to work on it and pay a salary in line with their duties. But if, say, an admin who was the spouse of a member of the governing board got a $2,000,000 salary, the IRS would suddenly become very interested).

    Comic-Con is almost certainly (i.e. I’m not bothering to actually look it up : -)) a 501c3 literary non-profit, so as long as its functions relate to literature (very broadly defined) and education (ditto), they’re a legal non-profit and will stay such no matter how big it gets.

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    There are non-profit literary festivals in the U.S.which have larger attendance figures than CCI. There are non-profits with huge revenue streams (united way, red cross, girl scouts). One criteria: what does the organization do? Another: how much money is spent within the organization on administrative costs (salaries, transportation, coffee)?

    GuideStar and other sources review charitable organizations, digging deeper than the IRS.

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