Anime Expo, the largest annual Japanese popular culture event in the United States, will get underway on Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is expected to pump $68 million into the local economy.
“We pretty much take over the town,” said Sandra Wilcox, director of finance at the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, a nonprofit trade group that expects to draw 100,000 people to the July 1-4 event.
The convention, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year, has been held in Anaheim, Oakland, Long Beach, and San Jose, but has called Los Angeles home since 2008. It has seen rapid attendance growth in recent years as interest in Japanese art forms anime (filmed animation) and manga (comic books) has surged.
The event drew 61,000 attendees in 2013, a figure that has risen consistently and is expected to crack 100,000 this year for the first time, putting it hard on the heels of San Diego’s giant general pop culture convention Comic-Con International, which averages 130,000 attendees annually. The age of guests at Anime Expo skews younger, with the majority between 18 and 24.
Convention organizers attribute the rise in profile to online streaming, which has made anime easier for American fans to consume.
“I used to watch it on Cartoon Network. That was the only place you could see it. Now I can get anything on the internet,” said regular attendee Michelle Jensen, 26, creator of the Nerd Out app.
Jensen turned her interest in anime and pop culture into a business by creating Nerd Out, which lists information about conventions, and has built its following among fans of events such as Anime Expo.
“When I was a kid, nobody went to conventions,” she said. “They were around, but they were not the thing to do. That’s changed. The beauty of something like Anime Expo is that people get to meet others who are interested in the same things that they might not get to meet otherwise.”
Although she has gone in the past, Jensen will not be attending Anime Expo this year because she will be getting ready for Comic-Con, which will take place July 21 to 24.
Anime Expo attendees generated an overall economic impact of $64 million at last year’s event, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
That number should climb to $68 million this year, event organizers said. Ticket prices are $55 for a one-day pass and $90 for all four days. The $375 Premier Fan ticket, which includes all four days plus extra perks, has sold out.
Events will include industry panels, concerts, exhibitions, and various “cosplay” functions featuring attendees dressed up as anime and manga characters.
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