On March 23rd of this year, those planning on attending ReGeneration Who 5 were informed the convention had been cancelled. The notification came a mere week before the event was scheduled to begin. Fans, vendors and artists were upset and there were many concerns regarding the general announcements and vague communications from the event organizers at Onezumi Events.
The cancellation raised concerns regarding refunds of admission tickets, prepaid photo ops with celebrity guests, additional event fees, vendor table fees and more. Some were also concerned about a loss of funds from the purchase of airline tickets and lodging. Vendors were upset as some had purchased additional merchandise specifically for this convention and the late notice didn’t allow them to find an alternative venue at which to sell their wares. The lack of communication from event organizers exacerbated all of these concerns and anger. Many of those seeking refunds turned to their credit card companies in an attempt to recover funds, with various levels of success.
The Website Goes Dark
Around June 9th, or shortly before, the website for ReGeneration Who became unreachable and remains down as of the date of this article. No information regarding the status of refunds had been posted before the site disappeared. The website for Onezumi Events is also unreachable.
The Twitter account for the convention remains active, but no new tweets have appeared since the March 25th cancellation announcement. On June 29th, the Facebook group for the convention was archived, not allowing any new posts or comments.
This general shut down of communication channels does not indicate that Onezumi Events is planning on issuing refunds and may indicate the company is now defunct and will likely be pursuing bankruptcy proceedings, though this is speculation at this point.
What Went Wrong?
There were no official communications regarding the reasons for the sudden cancellation of the convention, other than “a number of last-minute cancellations.”
Oni Durant, one of the co-founders of the convention along with James Harknell, stated she had severed ties with the organization many months previously and could not provide answers. Some associates of the convention who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to comment, cast some doubt on Durant’s statement. They claimed she was much more involved with the convention than she stated. While this has not been verified, social media posts from Durant did not indicate her lack of involvement until the cancellation was announced. In the meantime, Durant is apparently attempting to promote new, non-fandom related endeavors, but whether her association with Onezumi Events will affect them remains to be seen. As of the date of this article, we have been unable to obtain official statements from any organizer or employee of the convention.
Another individual who worked with the con, who also asked for their name to be withheld, spoke of financial troubles for ReGeneration Who. They stated that the previous year’s guest, Peter Capaldi who played the 12th Doctor, had not made his guaranteed fee and was owed a substantial sum of money. (For those unfamiliar with guarantees for cons, an actor is promised a minimum amount for appearing at an event. Fees for autographs, photo ops and the like are applied to this guaranteed amount, but any shortfalls are the responsibility of the event organizers.) Organizers might have been hoping that revenue from Regeneration Who 5 could enable them to meet that commitment.
The cancellation of guest Paul McGann might have also triggered a number of refunds. ReGeneration Who policy allowed refunds up to two weeks prior to the convention. McGann’s cancellation might have convinced some fans to reconsider attending. There were also unconfirmed reports that other guests were considering pulling out or may have done so after learning that Capaldi’s contractually guaranteed fee was not paid.
Trust Is Broken
Many fans, extremely upset by the cancellation and lack of refunds, are leery of registering for other conventions. It is unlikely that Onezumi Events or those associated with that entity could put together a successful fandom-related event in the future. But for some, the abrupt cancellation of ReGeneration Who has soured them from wanting to attend, or at least pre-register, for any fandom convention.
While many conventions occur without such issues, cancellations do occur. In 2018, Universal Fancon was cancelled, prompting the Great Philadelphia Comic Con to provide discounted and free passes to those affected. Harrisburg Comic Con was a great event that was forced to shut down. The Long Island Doctor Who Convention also closed its doors for a time and only recently announced a new, scaled-back event. In some cases, these conventions were able to provide refunds or cancel with enough notice that attendees didn’t lose money, but that’s not always the case.
FanFest Events is another organization that is facing some difficulties and has had to cancel some of their planned events. However, they have been attempting to be transparent as to their status and are trying to make good on all of their commitments, whether to actors, vendors or attendees. They’ve also scaled back operations and events in an effort to rebuild their brand. Similar restructuring was performed by Wizard World, which has allowed that organization to continue to produce events throughout the United States. Whether FanFest’s efforts will allow them to recover remains to be seen, but the attempt is being made.
Are There Still Good Conventions?
So while potential attendees might be leery of attending other events, many of them are still good bets. Ways to protect yourself is to use credit cards for pre-registration, provided your card has a purchase protection plan. If you are uncertain of a con and booking accommodations, try to ensure the hotel you choose will allow cancellation up to the day before check-in (many do). And while this can help, nothing actually beats doing some research on the convention and speaking to those who’ve attended. Shore Leave 41 has been around, as you might guess by the name, for 41 years and continues to grow at a controlled rate each year. RetroCon is another event that is very fiscally responsible and continues to enjoy growth year after year. And both of these (and most conventions) allow you to purchase tickets at the door, so you can delay that expense if you still have some doubts.
Conventions are great places for fans to socialize, shop, and cosplay (if one is so inclined), plus meet actors, artists, authors and more. Many have fun activities, exciting presentations, and experiences you can’t get anywhere else. While some do run into trouble and disappear, a little research can help you confidently have these great times and celebrate your fandom.
We hope to see you sometime, on the con floor.
Edit: This article was updated to include the name of co-founder James Harknell and to explain that we have not been able to obtain official statements from any con personnel.