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Can Beleaguered Wizard World Continue into 2018?

Wizard World
Financial woes have plagued pop culture convention host company Wizard World for the last few years and 2017 is no exception. Wizard World’s quarterly report (released 11/14/17) shows that the comic convention runner is still in financial trouble, down about $1 million for the same quarter last year and almost $4.5 million for the year. In response the company stated “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.” A 2.5 million dollar investment by Wizard World chairman Paul Kessler (through his financial firm, Bristol) was used up in the first three quarters of this year and they reported a loss of 1.5 million for the first quarter of 2017. Overall first quarter 2017 revenue was $74,199 compared to $348,182 in the first quarter of 2016.

In addition to financial losses, the number of Wizard World conventions dropped from twenty six in 2016 to sixteen in 2017. While rumors originally circulated that they would have as many as 40 in 2018, their late September announcement shows only seventeen. Of those, five are shows that had originally been scheduled for this fall but were postponed. The official statement indicated that these changes came about so that they would have more time to plan those shows. “In moving five of our more recently announced shows to 2018, we are better equipped to put on the kind of successful pop culture celebration that our fans have come to expect.” That being said, none of the rescheduled shows actually has calendar date.

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Wizard World’s efforts to relaunch Wizard magazine digitally this year tanked as well. After much fanfare in July regarding its new format, Wizard Digital has disappeared from the WW website and former Associate Editor Luke Y. Thompson posted to twitter “Okay, followers. Seems I’m looking for work again. I’d love any pointers. Thanks.”

Additionally the accompanying Facebook daily video series Wizpop has only managed to pick up 1.2K followers in the last 6 months. Wizard had a circulation of over 100,000 at its height in 90s.

And the company has been suffering through legal woes this year as well. Former COO Randall Malinoff left the company in July and is now “engaged in a dispute” with Wizard World over his departure. Wizard World told investors that they were “ in communication with a representative of Mr. Malinoff, which communications may, or may not, result in a conclusion of this matter.” A contract dispute was filed in the Los Angeles court system on 9/1/17. This comes seven months after Wizard World sued their former Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Shamus (brother of company founder Gareb Shamus) for allegedly using his position to obtain more than $1 million dollars worth of signed memorabilia and collectibles which he then sold for his own profit. Stephen Shamus counter-claimed that Wizard World manufactured the claim  and owed him over a million dollars. That matter has since been settled but not before some pretty outrageous stories emerged alleging Wizard executives were trying to loot the company.

How much longer can Wizard World carry on despite these legal, financial, and administration troubles? Well, I wouldn’t mark any of their dates in sharpie on your 2018 calendar.