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Meet the stars at these special movie events

Buffalo native and screenwriter Christopher Markus had spent two hours answering audience questions after a showing of his newest film, "Avengers: Endgame" at the North Park Theatre – and it still wasn’t enough.

“There were still hands in the air after two hours,” said Ray Barker of the North Park Theatre.

The Markus event is an example of the excitement surrounding a growing trend in the entertainment industry where celebrities attend screenings of their work and then talk with the audience in an informal and friendly setting.

Take note of these recent local events. Last September, actor John Cusack was at a packed University at Buffalo Center for the Arts with his 1989 film “Say Anything.” Director Barry Levinson was at the North Park with Turner Classic Movies and his Buffalo-made film “The Natural” in 2017. As part of Nickel City Con in 2018, Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss was at the North Park with “Jaws” and John Kassir, who voices the Cryptkeeper, was at the Dipson Amherst Theatre in 2018.

John Cusack, right, answered questions during a special screening at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, hosted by local radio personality Nicholas Picholas. (News file photo)

There's more to come. This week, Nickel City Con hosts five screenings over three days the North Park (1428 Hertel Ave.) and Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.). A "Tribute to Troma" at the Screening Room Cinema Cafe starts at 7:30 p.m. May 29 with a showing of "Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD" with actor Bill Weeden, "Toxic Tuto" and "Tromasterpiece Theatre," with Addison Binek. (Proceeds support the espocinema film “Special Needs Revolt!”). On Oct. 16, Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez will be at the Riviera Theatre for "Napoleon Dynamite."

“It adds an extra layer to the experience for fans,” said Peter Vullo, founder of the “Thursday Night Terrors” film series, which is co-hosting three of the Nickel City Con screenings. “You can talk to the actors, interact with them. It adds magic to the experience.”

Sometimes, Vullo added, you might even meet your hero as he will when he moderates a discussion with actor David Naughton at “An American Werewolf in London” on May 18 at the Dipson Amherst.

The events can be equally special for the celebrity as well, said Barker at the North Park.

“Chris [Markus] spent five years on the script, most of it in an office, and so the chance to interact with fans is something that the stars enjoy as well. It was also special because Christopher grew up in North Buffalo and said that his love of the movies was born at the North Park Theatre. That made it a very special homecoming,” Barker said.

These screenings are set up in similar ways: the audience watches the film and then a host and guest take the stage to chat for a while, usually opening questions to the audience.

Still, you never what will happen. At last year's screening of "Tales from the Crypt," Kassir unexpectedly entertained fans during the film's end credits, complete with that trademark Cryptkeeper laugh.

“He just grabbed the microphone and went into full Cryptkeeper mode,” Vullo recalled. “He surprised everyone. It was a euphoric moment – I can’t believe it happened.”

Here's a look at this week's screenings. Q&A's with the actors follow all films. Visit nickelcitycon.com for info.

“Valley Girl” with actress Deborah Foreman. 7 p.m. May 16 at North Park Theatre. Foreman plays the title role of the Valley Girl who wins over Nicolas Cage in Martha Coolidge’s quirky romance. Free.

“Child’s Play” with Alex Vincent, 7 p.m. May 16 at Dipson Amherst. Vincent played the little boy traumatized by Chuckie in the original film. $15.

“The Boondock Saints” with Sean Patrick Flanery, 8:30 p.m. May 17 at North Park. Flanery is one of two Irish brothers (the other is Norman Reedus of the “The Walking Dead") seeking revenge against the Russian mob. $15.

“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” with C.J. Graham, 8:30 p.m. May 17 at Dipson Amherst. Meet Graham, the man behind Jason and his mask. $15.

“An American Werewolf in London” with David Naughton, 7:30 p.m. May 18 at Dipson Amherst. Two American students are attacked by a werewolf on the Yorkshire moors in this John Landis film with groundbreaking special effects. $15.

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