Wizard World takes its convention celebrities online during pandemic

  • You can always cosplay at home, but you usually can't meet the kinds of celebs you see at pop culture conventions from home. Wizard World is changing that with a new lineup of virtual experiences.

      You can always cosplay at home, but you usually can't meet the kinds of celebs you see at pop culture conventions from home. Wizard World is changing that with a new lineup of virtual experiences. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A Florida drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) becomes a de facto dad to an isolated, bullied boy (Alex Hibbert) in Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," one of the 56 Films for 56 Years selected by programmers of the Chicago International Film Festival.

    A Florida drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) becomes a de facto dad to an isolated, bullied boy (Alex Hibbert) in Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," one of the 56 Films for 56 Years selected by programmers of the Chicago International Film Festival. Courtesy of A24

 
 
Posted4/10/2020 6:00 AM

An earlier-than-usual start date this year meant that C2E2, the long-running pop culture convention at Chicago's McCormick Place, just beat the wave of event cancellations that came as coronavirus spread across the globe.

Wizard World Chicago, the annual summer event at Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, might get lucky on the other end of this -- the event is still planned for the weekend of Aug. 20-23, with a lineup of celebrity guests that includes Kate Mulgrew of "Orange is the New Black" and Emily Swallow of "The Mandalorian."

 

In the meantime, how does a convention company like Wizard World adapt to current events? It asks the celebs to work from home, just as so many of us are doing.

On March 12, the day after the World Health Organization declared we were all living amid a global pandemic, the company announced the Wizard World Virtual Experience, which brings the trappings of a convention to your computer or device. Customers can purchase video chats or personalized recordings from celebrity participants and join free live video panels, among other offerings.

"Wizard World Virtual Experiences will bring the Wizard World experience to fans across the globe, wherever they live," said John D. Maatta, CEO of Wizard Entertainment, in a news release. "We will capture the excitement of interacting one-on-one with celebrities and creators in a format that will be unique and compelling."

One such event is planned for this Saturday, April 11, and features performers from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff "Angel." Stars including James Marsters (Spike) and Amber Benson (Tara) will be available beginning at 2 p.m. CST for video chats and more, with prices beginning at $50.

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Visit wizardworld.com for the full lineup and more information.

The best of the fest

The 56th annual Chicago International Film Festival will, organizers hope, take place as planned beginning Oct. 14. Until then, programmers are highlighting films from past festivals that you can stream at home as part of its 56 Films for 56 Years series, with new recommendations coming every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

See the first 10 offerings Friday, April 10, at chicagofilmfestival.com/category/56-films, starting with the 2016 selection, "Moonlight." If you haven't seen Barry Jenkins' moving snapshot of three formative time periods in a young man's life -- the movie that infamously won the Best Picture Oscar after Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced "La La Land" as the winner -- now's a great time to catch up on Netflix.

• Catch Sean (from a distance) on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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