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Have you ever held a garbage bag full of $20 bills? Probably not, but I hear it feels great. According to a deep-dive from the Hollywood Reporter on the wildly profitable industry surrounding fan conventions, some of your favorite The Walking Dead and Marvel stars definitely know a thing or three about wallowing in money after a quick weekend's work. In fact, some of them are easily netting as much as $100,000 on top of their guarantee.
"I know someone who literally takes garbage bags full of $20s with him back home," an anonymous "convention regular" told THR of the potential for huge paydays with regards to smaller events that deal in cash. However, as audits are now starting to hit the convention circuit at large, many are joining their bigger competitors in cleaning up their books.
But just how massive are these paydays? In some instances, insiders say, stars can bring home more over a single weekend than they would make for an episode of the show that got them to the convention in the first place. "If somebody wanted to do a convention every weekend, they could make more on the convention circuit than their episodic fee," Stephen Amell, star of Arrow, revealed. With guarantees for big names (i.e. Walking Dead, Marvel) estimated to be between $5,000 and $10,000, bagging an additional $50,000 to $100,000 is the kind of come-up dreams are made of.
Much of the money stems from charging a fee for autographs and photos, a fee that is reasonably plucked from by convention organizers and the photographer before the rest is pocketed by the star. For example, The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus (who could "easily" bag $500,000 per weekend) charges fans $100 for a photo at Walker Stalker Con. Considering The Walking Dead is still pretty much the biggest show on TV, well, you do the math.
Star Wars legend Mark Hamill hits fans with the combo deal of $195 for an autograph and photo at Fan Expo Canada, while newcomer Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) keeps it budget-friendly with a $50 photo fee at Salt Lake City Comic-Con. "The way people used to think about conventions—and some still do—was that it was some place actors who had fame early on went as almost a last resort," Amell told THR of convention culture in 2016. "And that's just not true anymore."