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L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state

Spider-Man sits at the top of some stairs overlooking a crowd at the L.A. Convention Center.
L.A. Comic Con may be back at the L.A. Convention Center.
(Jenna Schoenefeld / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

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Liu explained that none of the different tiers established in Gov. Gavin Newson’s latest reopening plans includes resuming events such as conventions. L.A. County is still in the state’s most restricted tier, meaning indoor dining, movie theaters and shopping malls are among the businesses that are still closed. Both the state and county would have to allow conventions to take place before an event like L.A. Comic Con can happen.

In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

“While we are planning to move forward and have a show and we’re starting to sell tickets to that show ... all of our plans, as true for any event, get reviewed by the city, they get reviewed by the county department of public health,” said DeMoulin. “At the end of the day, they have to approve our final plans.”

He also reiterated that “safety is our number one priority” so if the event is deemed unsafe, it will be canceled.

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While other massive pop culture conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con had shifted to a virtual format, L.A. Comic Con announced in July that it would push its September event back to Dec. 11-13. . On Tuesday, 4,500 tickets for the potential event went on sale. If L.A. Comic Con 2020 is canceled, tickets will be refunded or rolled over to a 2021 event, the organization said.

An annual three-day celebration of comic books, sci-fi, pop culture and more, L.A. Comic Con drew more than 123,000 attendees in 2019. This year, organizers have planned adjustments to control the density of the crowd so attendees can stay physically distant from others.

These adjustments include booking the entire L.A. Convention Center for this year’s convention for a more spacious layout to enforce physical distancing among guests. If the event proceeds as planned, each day will be split into two ticketed sessions capped at 12,000 each. There will be “industrial cleaning” between them.

Masks will be mandatory for everyone on-site — including guests, exhibitors and staff — and will be provided free to anybody who needs one. Organizers say this rule will be enforced by event and security staff at all times.

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For fans who choose to remain in the safety of their own homes rather than braving the in-person experience, L.A. Comic Con will live stream its main panels, which have not yet been announced.


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