It’s been more than a year since the last major fan convention, but things are moving behind the scenes in the industry as the big players ramp up for a comeback. Today Fan Expo HQ announced it has acquired Denver Pop Culture Con, one of the largest remaining independent comics and fandom events in North America, from Pop Culture Classroom (PCC), the nonprofit that runs the show. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Fan Expo says that it will launch the debut edition of the show, which has traditionally been held in April, in 2022, but is “looking at every opportunity to host fans in late 2021 if possible.” The future of the con had been precarious given the situation with the pandemic and the uncertainty hanging over all large in-person events.
The deal adds to Fan Expo HQ’s portfolio of comic, entertainment and pop culture events, which also includes Canada’s largest fan con, Fan Expo Canada (reported attendance in 2019: 125K), MegaCon Orlando (100K+), Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (95K), Fan Expo Boston (60K) and Fan Expo Dallas (55K). Though none of these shows individually is as large as San Diego Comic-Con or New York Comic Con, the combined attendance with Denver added to the mix allows Fan Expo to claim it is the “largest comic con producer in North America.”
Denver Pop Culture Con, which began life as Denver Comic Con in 2012, had one of the steepest growth curves of any convention in the country, going from a modest regional convention to one of the largest events on the circuit in a matter of two or three years. In 2019, the show “welcomed over 100,000 fans,” although it is not clear exactly what that means considering the different methods that events use to calculate attendance. Both the 2020 and 2021 spring editions of Denver Pop Culture Con were cancelled due to Covid-19.
The show was founded by PCC, a nonprofit that provides hundreds of hours of free or subsidize educational programs around literacy, diversity and community-building. Along with San Diego Comic-Con, Denver was one of the only events of this kind and size to be run as an independent non-profit, and was not aligned with any of the other corporate events management companies that have capitalized on the explosion of interest in comic and pop culture events over the past decades.
That ended today when Fan Expo HQ, a division of global exhibition organizer Informa, announced it was “joining forces” with PCC to build out the event.
“This is truly a joining of forces, coming together to keep the spirit of fandom alive and well in Denver, and across North America,” said Fan Expo HQ President Aman Gupta. “We’ve long been impressed with the Denver team’s ability to champion creativity and build community, and we have lots to learn from them. Letting the pandemic wash away this powerful force for good was simply not an option. I speak for the whole Fan Expo HQ team when I say we’re thrilled to welcome these new fans to the family and get to know them better in the coming months. I know, together, we’ll be able to bring the event back, as Fan Expo Denver, stronger than ever.”
Pop Culture Classroom will continue in collaboration with Fan Expo Denver as the event’s featured charity and will continue to provide engaging, educational content for fans of all ages. This transition will allow PCC to focus its resources on doing more in classrooms and communities to spark literacy, learning, imagination, and inclusive communities through pop culture, according to the announcement.
“As fans and advocates for the power of pop culture in education and our community, we’re excited to make Fan Expo Denver a reality,” said Interim Executive Director for Pop Culture Classroom, Adam Kullberg. “Fan Expo brings a whole new scale to the fan experience — and new opportunities for artists, creators, vendors, and the thousands of people who make up Denver’s pop culture community.”
The deal between the for-profit Fan Expo HQ and the nonprofit PCC likely required some unique considerations as non-profits cannot distribute the proceeds from such deals to shareholders. However, it almost certainly fills the coffers of the organization, giving it ample resources to expand its mission and staff.
“All of us at PCC are thrilled for the opportunity and support to provide more workshops, free and low-cost curriculum and comics, and more — plus charitable funding and an incredible space at FAN EXPO Denver for PCC’s educational and family-friendly activities,” said Kullberg.
The disposition of the Denver show was the subject of a lot of industry speculation pre-Covid, as nearly all the big corporate players in the booming fan con space including ReedPOP, Wizard World, Left Field Media, GalaxyCon, and even Comic-Con International, would have benefited from adding a large, established regional show to their portfolio. Now that chip has fallen into Fan Expo HQ’s stack.
With pent up fan demand for large events at fever pitch after a year of quarantine and restrictions on track to lift once the US achieves safe levels of vaccination and immunity, having a well-liked show in a centrally-located city blessed with one of the better convention center facilities for these kinds of events, is a huge win for Fan Expo HQ and a potential boon for fans, exhibitors, creators and the rest of the industry counting on conventions coming back strong.