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August 25, 2014

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A Brief History.

The year was 1998. After setting up as a dealer and vender at movie, collectible, and comic book conventions for the better part of a dozen years, I couldn’t help but notice just how little fans were actually getting for their admission money. As the new millennium drew closer, most conventions were nothing more than a poorly run vender’s area and the same celebrity guests show after show, year after year.

By late 1998, things were a lot like they still are today. Guest autographs weren't free any longer, and you really didn’t get much for your admission money except the chance to buy something from a dealer, buy something from a guest, or buy something from the bar. At most cons, you might get twenty minutes worth of trailers or a guest pimping his or hers latest movie for half an hour on Saturday afternoon before rushing off, but the convention usually ended every day with the dealer’s room closing down by 5:00 or 6:00pm so you were left with nothing to do except hang out and drink with friends - something you were probably doing all day anyway.

Sure, there were still a few shows that screened movies, scheduled panels, and generally gave the attending fans something to do all weekend, but there were only a couple of them running every year compared to the majority of what I’ll call dealer room only conventions. After bitching about it to most of the friends I saw on the road for a couple of years, they all pretty much told me to “put up or shut up”... They were tired of hearing me bitch, so I took the plunge and decided to run my own horror movie show, and do it my way.

I took what I loved about fan shows like the Baltimore Fanex show and the old Famous Monster Cons, and mixed it in with what I loved about party shows like the early Chiller Theater shows. Then I added some stuff I wanted to add to make it my show. First, I focused. Most movie conventions - then and now - have zero focus. They bounce around and celebrate whatever is popular at the time, or whatever some guest-manager-person suckers them into. I wanted to run a drive-in and grindhouse movie show. I wanted to celebrate the era between the demented, late 50s monster movies and the death of drive-in and grindhouse horror in the late 80s. I added in my own little independent film festival within a convention setting where I could screen as many little indy films as time permits while still screening guest and wasteland related films for attending fans. I wanted to screen midnight movie double features on 16mm film, and pack more stuff than any one attending fan can do in any given day without charging any more than admission for everything I offered. I decided to always schedule at least two things to do at the same time in two different places so fans would always have to choose between two events. Then I needed something to pull everything together... Something like a reunion since most conventions to this point never bothered with them... Maybe I’ll call the couple friends I’ve made over the years that were in Dawn of the Dead? It’s one of my favorite films, I don’t see them at other conventions, and I can see if they know anybody else from the film I could invite?... Maybe run the first Dawn of the Dead reunion and do up something that, up to that point, has never really been done with a movie show of this type before?... So I did. All of it. I figured I was only going to run one show and lose my ass, so why not cram everything into it and go for broke?

Ken