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Manhattan's Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the "Metaverse") is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind.
This news should come as a cautious sight of relief for the entire convention industry, which — along with movie theaters, restaurants, and concerts — has felt the largest monetary impact from the global health crisis. Ever since the virus forced the globe into lockdown last spring, all physical gatherings have gone digital, putting a profound damper on the usual spending and tourism these kind of events attract to cities and towns (not to mention the money spent in Artists' Alley and on con exclusives).
Even with a smaller crowd, NYCC can help serve as a litmus test for how to host large, indoor congregations in a post-coronavirus world. If the pandemic has taught us anything, though, it's that variables can change at any time, and ReedPop is ready to pivot, should the world look considerably different as October gets closer.
"To give you a peek behind the curtain, events folks have to plan six to nine months down the road. We must put ourselves forward from where we are today into where we think we may be tomorrow, and continue making the next best decisions," Kristina Rogers, Reedpop's U.S. Comic Portfolio director, wrote in an email. “Right now, we see a path forward for safe, amazing events that are going to look a bit different than usual, so that’s where we’re heading. Keep in mind what we communicate is subject to change as state and local guidelines are adjusted."
In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia's Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle's Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago's C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What's more: we don't know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.
The folks behind NYCC plan to ramp up sanitization between each event, as well as adopt a "firm" policy that discourages physical contact (i.e., no hugs, handshakes, high-fives, etc.). "We’re all going to have to get very smooth and cool-looking at either the elbow bump or air high-fives," Rogers added. "Please start practicing now."
She concluded: "I know there are a lot more questions than what I’ve shared here. You’re probably wondering what the heck a photo op may look like and how panel seating will work,” Rogers added. “We’ll be sharing more information in the months leading up to our shows, and we are committed to being as transparent as possible. Our goal remains the same: bring together our fan communities to celebrate the best pop culture has to offer."
And for those who don't yet feel comfortable showing back up in person, that's totally ok — ReedPop has a simultaneous virtual slate of programming scheduled for the same weekend. A fully-virtual Metaverse event is set for June 7-13, with more details to come.
While the United States is doing rather well in the vaccination department (America just hit 200 million shots this week), the dust is far from settled. San Diego Comic-Con, for instance, decided to go virtual for the second summer in a row, but due to the financial impact of COVID, the event will only span three days in late July instead of the usual four. Nevertheless, SDCC does plan to host an in-person event over 2021's Thanksgiving weekend — a decision that drew backlash from people who haven't been able to spend holidays with their loved ones since the pandemic began.