Why Hasn't Anime Expo 2020 Been Canceled Yet?

by Christopher Macdonald,

Editor's Note: Hours after this piece was originally published, the SPJA formally announced the official cancellation of Anime Expo 2020, with a handful of notes about what to expect when it comes to refunds and rollovers. Please check the official Anime Expo Twitter feed for further updates.

Strange as it is to say, Anime Expo hasn't announced whether or not it will be holding the event in 2020 yet. So a lot of people have been asking if the event will be cancelled, and the SPJA (the organization that's been putting AX on since its inception) hasn't made an announcement yet.

The safe thing to do would be to tell you that it's too early to tell, and that AX 2020 might actually happen. I'm not going to do that.

There's no way in hell that AX 2020 will happen.

At least, not in its usual format.

We spoke with Peter Tatara of Leftfield Media, which handles AnimeNYC, about their events and their recent unfortunate cancellation of the first Anime Frontier in Texas. Tatara told me most conventions incur a very significant portion of their expenses during the 8 weeks leading up to the event. These expenses include printing, decorating and guest travel.

Therefore events usually have to decide whether or not they are going forward by that time. Tatara says, if he had an event in July, he might be able to push the decision back a little, but his decision would ideally be made no later than late May.

Currently, large events are banned in LA until late June. California governor Gavin Newsom has recently said that mass gatherings are not likely to return until sometime in 2021. According to the LA Times, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti recently stated in a high-level meeting that large events may not be allowed in the city for at least a year. It gets worse; while some people are still talking about holding events in October of 2020, bioethicist Zeke Emanuel recently told the New York Times, “I have no idea how they think that's a plausible possibility.” He added “I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we're talking fall 2021 at the earliest.”

Whatsmore, the Los Angeles Convention Center was recently prepared for use as a Federal field hospital in preparation for an expected surge of covid-19 cases. Notably, San Diego Comic-Con just announced the cancellation of their 2020 event, which was set to take place just a few weeks after AX and attracts a similarly huge amount of congoers.

In order for Anime Expo 2020 to happen, not only would the US need routine virus testing, but the curve would need to be flattened - which isn't a possibility right now based on what experts are saying. The SPJA would be scrambling to announce guests and events days before the show took place. Another thing to consider - the entire travel, hotel and hospitality industry would need to magically be functioning at full capacity as soon as a few days after Los Angeles' ban on public events lifts - something that isn't at all likely to happen. The air travel industry took 2.5 years to recover completely after the events of 9-11, and this is a situation where people would need to feel safe getting on a plane or staying in a hotel. Probably not going to happen inside a couple months.

Finally… how many people would actually go to AX in early July even if it did go forward? Most of the guests, if they're even allowed into the country, would probably prefer not to travel to an event bringing together so many people. And what percentage of the fans would go?

Honestly, holding an event that usually brings over 100,000 people from around the country and around the world to the city, and crams them all into a single convention center, would be incredibly irresponsible. Hopefully, even if the state and city governments were to somehow allow this, the SPJA wouldn't play with the lives of attendees, staff, guests and industry so carelessly.

The SPJA already knows all this and have certainly come to the conclusion that AX 2020 isn't happening. So why haven't they announced the cancellation? One word: money. As long as the city or state doesn't order them to cancel the event, they may not be able to get refunds on certain deposits they've made for venues, and they may not be able to collect on any insurance policy they have that might cover the event. Most organizations would also want to delay any massive ticket refunds as long as possible… assuming they even have enough money in the bank to refund everyone. And finally, as long as anxious anime fans are checking the AX website and app regularly for news, AX is able to continue earning money from the ads on those platforms. Not only that - the convention is currently still selling full-priced badges, both standard and premium, on their website.

Of course, AX doesn't have to completely cancel. Maybe they'll run an online convention or something. Personally, I would love to see them at least try to make something happen in a responsible way.

I reached out to the SJPA to ask for their comments and submitted a detailed list of questions about plans to cancel, insurance, contingency plans, cash on hand, refunds and the possibility of an alternative form of event. They declined to answer any specific questions, providing only the following statement:

The health and safety of our staff, attendees, vendors, and the countless city and county partners that help to make Anime Expo an amazing experience each year is of utmost importance to us. We continue to work with city leaders and county health officials to determine the best course of action as we are truly in uncharted territory. We remain hopeful that we will see you all in July. Please continue to look for our updates via our social media platforms. - The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation

Do you need to cancel your travel plans to Anime Expo, or anywhere else? Here's a good resource (we aren't affiliated with that website, nor are we being compensated for linking to it).

As a hypothetical, let's say the SPJA decides to try and go ahead with the show. Given our global circumstances, would you go to Anime Expo? Answer our Survey.


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