In today's society, the stars of movies and TV shows are much more accessible than ever before, mainly thanks to social media platforms that can make us all feel like we really know a celebrity from their Instagram photos and tweets. One of the oldest ways of getting close to celebrities, however, is through fan conventions. Each year, across the world, literally hundreds of events are organised, and fans flock to them for the chance to be among like-minded people, listen to interesting panels, indulge in a bit of cosplay and, of course, get photos with and autograph from their favorite stars.
Many of these stars are only too willing to appear at the conventions, and it's little wonder, when it becomes clear exactly how much they're paid. Recently, the convention business has seen a rise in big name actors willing to appear at even the smaller conventions, because there's serious money to be made.
Arrow's Stephen Amell recently set up his own talent agency, WFA Entertainment, specifically to help other actors negotiate their convention appearances. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in a detailed report on the current structure of convention appearance fees, it's well worth an actor taking the time to attend. "If somebody wanted to do a convention every weekend," Amell explained. "They could make more on the convention circuit than their episodic fee."
As THR's report explains, stars will usually receive an upfront fee to show up and make appearances at conventions (anything from $5000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars), plus whatever is left over from the price of photos and autographs after the convention owner and (in the case of photos) the photographer have taken their cut. Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith can still collect $250,000 in a weekend, and recently did so, while Marvel movie stars pulled in over $500,000 each in a weekend in Atlanta.
It isn't all about big movie stars getting a bit of extra spending money, however. Firefly actress Jewel Staite did 12 conventions last year while pregnant, explaining that she was unlikely to be hired for any TV or film work during that time.
"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. 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."
This money-making potential means that the chance to get on a genre show has become more sought after than ever. Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Mark Guggenheim told THR that he feels stars should be allowed to take on convention work as an additional source of income, saying, "In a world where residuals don't mean as much, conventions are like residuals." And while not everyone approves of stars charging their fans for photos and autographs, it's certainly proven to be an effective incentive for celebrities to put in time on the convention circuit.