The words Geek Culture used to carry with them significant negative connotations, but over the past decade there are few words that command more attention and more profitable business opportunities than those.
Part of that equation is the fan convention circuit, where genre stars from all walks of media assemble to greet fans, sign autographs, and sell prints or autographed merchandise. The circuit used to be home to stars of past TV shows or films that had since gone off the air, or celebrities who were looking to grab a decent payday. Now it's not uncommon to find the most popular actors at multiple shows throughout the year, and while some of that is because of their relationship to the fans, the big payday doesn't hurt either (via THR).
"If somebody wanted to do a convention every weekend, they could make more on the convention circuit than their episodic fee," says Arrow star Stephen Amell. Amell started his own Talent Agency as a result, as he "wanted to control the whole front- and backend of my operation. I didn't see a need for representation." Some have said he can take home over $250,000 from one appearance, but Amell disputes that. Even if its close to that, the fact that he can make as much if not more at a convention than he can from his per episode fee is impressive.
With the sheer amount of conventions that are currently up and running, the practice of carving out time to appear at a few throughout the year has become more common, and the amount of money you leave on the table by not going can be substantive.
"The fact is, a guest star on a TV show can [get] around $10,000, whereas you can work two days at a convention and pull in the same amount — and sometimes double and triple that" says Firefly star Jewel Staite. In Staite's case, she used the convention circuit as a way to supplement her income while she was pregnant, and she makes no bones that she would likely do it again. "Have I turned down smaller jobs that won't pay as much? Absolutely. It would be silly of me to say yes to the job that pays $10,000 for a week of work and bow out of a big convention where I could potentially walk away with $40,000 in two days."
"In a world where residuals don't mean as much, conventions are like residuals," says Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim. Adds Staite, "My actor friends are always saying how much they're dying for a genre show just to break into the convention world."
The convention circuit can be a goldmine for genre actors, like in the case of an unidentified convention regular, who said: "I know someone who literally takes garbage bags full of $20s with him back home."
The questions raised from this are twofold. First, with the conventions themselves making far less than the actors they house, can this type of process sustain itself in the long run? Secondly, is this something that the fans, who are giving over all those $20 dollar bills, are okay with. You want the stars you love and support to make a good living, but it can be safely said that making $500,000 off of a weekend's worth of work is more than surpassing merely a good living.
These things tend to be subjective, but let us know what you think of all this in the comments!