What should have been the fan experience of a lifetime for die hard Sons of Anarchy fans was just a big con and not the good kind of Con it should have been that Space City Comic Con promised. It was a con in every sense of the word as the fans were bamboozled, the celebrities swindled, and the staff straight up stiffed by the comic con. George Comits, owner and promoter of Space City Comic Con and Mythic Events LLC, is under fire from the catastrophe that was SCCC this past weekend as his con blows in the stratosphere and sounds like it was never meant for outer space in the first place.
Space City Comic Con is not in it’s first year of throwing this event and the organizers run other similar events. So why did this year not take off? Running a comic con is no simple task and takes a lot of organization, I know from first hand experience, with a lot more money. You have to rent a facility, pay a staff, hire volunteers, have security, have medical responders on site, book hotels, book flights, sale vendor space, sale artist alley tables, invite legendary creators, and don’t forget about the Celebrities. Comic Cons are not just about comic books, games, and lesser known nerd culture anymore and if you are going to pull off a successful pop culture event then the fans want to meet their favorite celebrities, get their autographs, hear them talk at a panel, and if they have enough money get a personal photo op with the celebrities of their budgeted choice. (These are not cheap) With a rumored $1.5 Million in guarantees from Space City Comic Con it is no wonder nobody got paid despite fans spending $150,000 to $300,000 (depends on who your source is) on tickets and photo ops for the weekend. Now I am no math wizard but those ticket sales do not even come up to half of what is need to pay the guarantees.
Guarantees: This is the total fees owed in the contract by the event promoter to the talent.
These guarantees vary according to celebrity, the size of the event, and what duties are required in their contracts; because everything is negotiable. Now I do not know what Charlie Hunnam and casts guarantees are off hand and don’t feel like making the call to find out. So instead I will use the great captain as an example.
William Shatner, Captain James Tiberius Kirk from Star Trek and so much more, is always a popular nerd draw for any pop con event. Let’s say his guarantee is $75,000. That is what the event booking him owes him at for his few days at their convention. That price does not include the price of his airfare (plus booking agent’s), hotel room (plus booking agent’s), and per diem (spending money to eat and drink on). In his contract it will say that he has to be at his booth for fan signing at designated time periods through out the day and weekend. He gets a break for lunch and is fed in the green room where lots of magical awesome conversations happen. He will also have scheduled news interviews with the media outlets of the conventions choosing (Which is never Down the Road Show) and maybe some promo videos and photos for the con to promote with. He will also be apart of a panel or more for the weekend in room filled with attentive fans. The contract will have outs for Mr Shatner in case he can not make the show or if he has to cancel do to other types of work like acting. Since most of these celebrities are actors it is important for them to be acting and they can’t do that from a comic con (all the time). Most contracts these days have a morality or conduct code in them to protect the promoters and their shows from gross misconduct that could hold them liable. (I have been apart of having to uphold that and have the cops escort a celeb from the premises before….not fun.) Those can also be loopholes for Event Promoters to get out of paying their guarantees. This is becoming more standard practice. So the Con owes William Shatner $75,000. If he has 500 fans buy the VIP package for $275 that is $137,500, but that $275 includes the autograph, photo op, some free con merchandise, weekend pass, and vip seating for his panel. A worthy deal but only a portion of that goes to his guarantee. Now he will sell an autograph for $50 to thousands of other fans at his table in Celebrity Row. Plus (minus his booking agent’s cut) leaving $50,000 of his guarantee. Now add in the photo ops of individuals playing $100 for just the photo op to another couple hundred fans. The money starts to add up and getting that guarantee of $75,000 is not just based upon tickets sales alone. So at the end of the weekend, depending on contract specifics, the event would make up whatever difference was left over from all those sales of photo ops and autographs that was short of reaching the $75,ooo. It is entirely possible for the celebrities to make much more than their guarantees over the weekend and the con to owe them nothing at all. That does happen, but what happened in Houston Texas at SCCC?
According to Charlie Hunnam, lead role as Jax from Sons of Anarchy on FX, he had a bad feeling about the convention to begin with and going against doctors orders he attended anyway for his fans. Adding insult to injury his check from George Comits bounced along with many of the other promised celebrities and not just from the Sons of Anarchy reunion. The Harp Twins, Camille and Kennerly, had a very specific message for George Comits after the weekends disaster. You’ve probably seen these talented girls viral videos and thought they would be cool to see. Well so did their adoring fans that came to Houston and the twins did not disappoint them by playing all weekend after their check bounced on them and come to find out they did not have technical difficulty at their concert but the sound guys were on strike; because you guessed it….they also were not paid. So this is a problem going far beyond the reach of just the celebrities guarantees now. Check out some video of celebrity row and the comic con floor from Megan Booth as she shares her experience from her day at Space City Comic Con. This jus further shows that Charlie Hunnam’s instincts were right about the weekend and why shouldn’t they be. He is a seasoned pro at comic cons now. Attending dozens a year as a paid guest it then becomes easy to see when something is a wry at a comic con. Even a member of Mythics Events LLC, Johnny Steverson, has resigned because of this incident saying, “would describe that some issues arose which I considered as very unethical and unfortunate set of events”, “one of the issues that arose was when the cast of the Sons Of Anarchy realized they were not getting paid and stopped honoring the VIP packages.”, “Fans spent thousands and were turned down after traveling hundreds of miles and even some from the other side of the globe.”, “Volunteers were sleeping on floors. Volunteers were packed in rooms. Mr. George Comits enjoyed a penthouse suite”, and “And I want to say thank you to the Sons of Anarchy cast who were more than polite given the situation they had been placed in I found them to be great guests and a fan favorite. I apologize to the guests and fans.” was what he had to say in his press release. Even going as far to apologize to the SOA cast and thank them for a reasonable response. Luckily for fans that all these people mentioned may get paid to be there and may be under contract to do so; but they showed their true worth this weekend when they stayed, unpaid, for as long as they did and they did it for their fans. Here is some footage of the SOA panel from actress Kristen Renton’s Facebook page and it makes you wonder why there are so many empty seats if so many tickets were sold on the SOA name? Kristen Renton and Rusty Coones talked to TMZ about the incident and like Rusty says, “He knew all the ins and outs.”
With the upcoming spinoff, Mayans, announced recently the SOA cast will be in even higher demand for conventions, but something tells me they are going to be asking for that down payment a little farther in advance. And hopefully the fans will get some reimbursement out of this and some closure, but from what I am hearing I wouldn’t hold my breath.
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