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FILE PHOTO: Attendees pose for a picture as they arrive in costumes to enjoy Comic Con International in San Diego, California, U.S., July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo Image Credit: REUTERS

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con has been cancelled due to coronavirus-related restrictions around large gatherings. Organisers say they are planning for the festival to return in July 2021.

The annual confab was scheduled to take place from July 23 through July 26 in and around the San Diego Convention Centre. California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that he was not optimistic about a return of “mass gatherings” for things such as sports events, concerts and fairs in 2020.

“Continuous monitoring of health advisories and recent statements by the Governor of California have made it clear that it would not be safe to move forward with plans for this year,” organisers said in a statement on Friday.

Comic-Con attracts over 135,000 people — often elaborately costumed — to the Gaslamp District every year for the comic book convention which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Social distancing would be difficult to manage at the convention which is infamous for its long lines and crowded rooms. It is not uncommon for thousands of people to gather in a single room for a panel discussion, and the exhibit hall is usually jam-packed with people perusing the merchandise.

Individuals who purchased badges for 2020 will have the option of either getting a refund or transferring their badge to the 2021 convention. Those who made hotel reservations will also be refunded.

The convention centre is also currently being used as a temporary homeless shelter as a measure to help curb the spread of the virus.

In March, Comic-Con organisers postponed its smaller Anaheim, California-based event WonderCon which had been set to take place in mid-April. A version of the event took place online instead.

But Comic-Con organisers were slow to make any official decisions regarding their largest event, which is a huge moneymaker for the restaurants and hotels of San Diego, and an important promotional stop for Hollywood television and films. The event is estimated to generate over $147 million (Dh539.8 million) for the local economy each year.