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The 36th Annual San Diego Comic-Con officially begins Thursday and officials are predicting a $32 million economic impact on the city – and that’s being conservative.

Stephen Johnson, the Vice President of Public Affairs for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, expects about 100,000 comic book nerds (my phrase, not his) to attend the four-day event (five, if you count last night’s preview), making it the city’s biggest convention in terms of attendance.

It’s huge from an international media standpoint as well. News media from all over the world are sending crews to take photos of average Joes dressed like “Star Wars” stormtroopers and to find out the latest news on upcoming films and other projects.

After all, Comic-Con is where George Lucas chose to tell the world that he had named the third and final Star Wars flick “Revenge of the Sith.”

Johnson predicts conventioneers will use up about 20,320 hotel nights from now until Sunday but he admits it’s hard to track the total hotel usage because not all of the attendees stay in hotels.

It’s true: I know for a fact that many of the folks attending will be crashing on the couches of friends who they met while playing DOOM online.

Still, $32 million buys a lot of rolled tacos and Johnson figures the city will get $692,000 in taxes from that influx of comic cash.

Although Comic-Con is San Diego’s highest profile convention, it’s not the most lucrative. Johnson says the Convention Center’s medical shows have the biggest financial impact and the highest tax revenues, in part because those groups “have an organized room block that’s traceable.”

Says Johnson: “We know for instance that [the people attending the medical shows] are out-of-town visitors who are definitely staying in convention hotels. We also know that these are business travelers with more disposable income, expense accounts, etc., who are more apt to extend their stay in the city and travel with their families.”

DAVID MOYE

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