Strike Hits Comic-Con as Luxury Car Service Loses Studio Rides | Exclusive

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“We are looking at a considerable loss of revenue but more importantly loss of of work for our drivers,” says James-Michael Corbin, co-owner of San Diego Black Car

The reduced studio presence at San Diego Comic-Con in 2023 due to the strikes is hurting a local business.
The reduced studio presence at San Diego Comic-Con in 2023 due to the strikes is hurting a local business. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

As the SAG-AFTRA strike concludes its first full week, its economic impact has been felt beyond the industry hubs of Los Angeles and New York City. With talent unable to promote projects or make personal appearances, studios including Marvel, Universal, Sony and Netflix have pulled out of this week’s San Diego Comic-Con, representing millions of dollars in lost revenue to local businesses that have thrived on convention traffic.

In years past, car services have been in high demand during the annual convention, shuttling talent between hotels and the convention center for panels and photo shoots as well as other press opportunities and public appearances around town. Studios and networks that brought large ensemble casts for big productions like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “The Walking Dead” required a large fleet of cars and drivers.

A major studio canceled its entire contract with San Diego Black Car on July 7, less than two weeks before the start of this year’s Comic-Con, said James-Michael Corbin, co-owner of the luxury car service. While he would not name the studio or state how much revenue was lost, he said the amount was “considerable.”

“We are looking at a considerable loss of revenue but more importantly loss of work for our drivers, ” Corbin told TheWrap. “That being said, everyone on our team understands this is temporary and business will bounce back after the strike is resolved.”

The studio reserved all of his cars for the week, Corbin said. He even pulled extra vehicles from an Arizona operation in anticipation of the convention.

“We worked with them for a premiere for one their shows in Los Angeles,” Corbin recalled. “And then we worked with them for another branded event. So it was going to be the third time working with them. It was a very, very big studio and we did not anticipate them canceling on us. So it was it was unfortunate.”

Studios that backed out of attending Comic-Con this year include Warner Bros. Pictures, Disney’s Marvel Studios and Legendary Entertainment. Amazon’s Prime Video also scrapped panels for “Wheel of Time,” “Jury Duty” and the upcoming “The Boys” spinoff “Generation V.”

In addition to the canceled contract, Corbin said he was unable to recoup the fees for the Airbnbs he had reserved for his drivers during the convention.

“We teamed up with other entertainment producers who have a country festival happening in Montana,” Corbin said. “We were able to pivot a lot of those resources to Montana when we realize we were going to be canceled. It helped at least keep our drivers working.”

Despite the setbacks, Corbin said he still supports the striking WGA and SAG members.

“As a veteran, my commitment is to serving my community and supporting causes we feel strongly about,” he explained. “We have a longstanding relationship with SAG and WGA. We stand with them. Our support for the unions and fair working conditions is unwavering.”

San Diego Comic-Con kicks off Thursday. In a report released last February, the San Diego Convention Center said conventions, of which Comic-Con was the biggest, generated $1.2 billion for San Diego’s regional economy in 2022, including $693 million in direct attendee spending.