×

Comic Con gives a big boost to San Diego each year, data shows

An attendee at Comic Con in San Diego, California.
Harriet Taylor | CNBC
An attendee at Comic Con in San Diego, California.

The annual comic book confab that sees thousands of fan boys and girls descend on the city of San Diego—often in full costumed regalia—is big business for the city's nearly $10 billion tourist industry.

The San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC), otherwise known as Comic-Con, is widely considered to be the premier event of its kind, where tickets often sell out in minutes. According to Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University who recently crunched the numbers, this year's SDCC is expected to have a whopping $150 million in economic impact on the region, representing an injection of at least $80 million in direct spending.

"Comic Con is very important to San Diego," Copic told CNBC in an email, adding that it was also the largest convention of the year for the city. On average, its 130,000 attendees will spend over $600 per person, Copic's data shows.

San Diego plays host to 34 million visitors annually, according figures from to the city's tourism bureau, pulling in more than $700 million in state and local tax revenue. Last year, San Diego's Convention Center saw about 553,000 individuals total—meaning that SDCC makes up more than a quarter of the year's traffic by itself.


Credit: Lionsgate and Comic-Con International

"Comic-Con is the largest convention of the year for San Diego," Copic told CNBC, noting that the convention attendance is far above the average of 5,000. "Comic-Con brought in more economic benefit then the next 3 conventions combined.

Little wonder, then, why a large contingent of big companies set up shop for the event. This year, tech giants like Amazon and Nintendo are on site. Much to the delight of fan boys and girls, one of SDCC's largest draws are its previews of coming television and movie attractions from networks and studios.

Not a bad day's work for a gathering that began more than 40 years ago with just a few hundred attendees. The face value of ticket prices for SDCC range from $40 to 55, but enterprising comic geeks can often sell tickets on the secondary market for far higher: Copic said ticket offers ranged between $1,200 to as high as $8,000 on the day before the event.

Although physical comic book sales have been waning as its audience ages—data from Diamond Comic Distributors showed sales from the top 300 titles were off by about 10 percent year to date in June—the genre is considered a big moneymaker because of movies.

Marvel continues to be the 800-pound gorilla of the comic book movie business, but DC's projects are gathering momentum. Marvel is owned by Disney, while DC's parent company isTime Warner.

On Friday, Netflix debuted a trailer from its latest project, "The Defenders," a superhero squad that will feature Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The latter two are brand new shows slated for release in the coming months.