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Sandusky to get the 1st peek at alien attack

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Kerstin Khalfani, lead actress in Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Infestation from Mars, plays an alien who accepts a ride from one of her soon-to-be victims. The independently produced science fiction film opens Friday in the Sandusky State Theatre. It was filmed in Sandusky in June.

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Bringing a bit of Hollywood to the shores of Lake Erie, the Sandusky State Theatre this weekend will screen a new science-fiction film that features the city as a backdrop for an alien attack from outer space.

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Infestation from Mars was shot in June at Sandusky landmarks, including Cedar Point and the historic downtown theater.

The 98-minute film, which used more than 2,000 local residents as extras, will be shown for the first time at 7 p.m. Friday at the Columbus Avenue theater.

A matinee showing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the "world premiere" showing that night at 7:30, when Columbus Avenue will be turned into a local version of Hollywood Boulevard, including a red carpet leading into the theater and plenty of beautiful people in tuxedos and evening gowns climbing out of long, black luxury cars.

"There will everything from the huge searching spotlights we brought in, limos up the wazoo, the red carpet, you name it," said Terri Bergman, executive director of the 1,500-seat theater. "I'm glad it's going to be Halloween. It's the perfect weekend for this."

Elliott Haimoff, the film's executive producer, said the $200,000 project was made possible by the assistance and generosity of city officials and local businesses, including Cedar Point, which allowed a movie crew to shoot footage inside the amusement park for the first time.

Dick Kinzel, the chief executive officer of Cedar Point's parent company, has a brief speaking role in the film, and his daughter, Stacy Boals, plays a scientist from NASA's Plum Brook Station who helps stop a body-snatching, brain-sucking Martian from destroying Sandusky.

"I never dreamed there could be so much work involved," said Ms. Boals, a model who never acted in a film before. "Now, when you watch it, you see you worked like five hours and it's a 10-second scene. But it was a great experience. I'd do it all again."

The city allowed Mr. Haimoff and his crew to use a SWAT van and a dozen uniformed police officers for one scene, and let him film a training fire at a building on Cleveland Road for another scene.

"The production value of this movie was in the several millions," Mr. Haimoff said. "In L.A., to burn down a building would be at least a $1 million shot, considering you have to buy a building, get at least 20 EPA licenses and fire permits, just to burn down a building. Here, the city of Sandusky did it for almost nothing."

To acknowledge local support of the film, Mr. Haimoff and producer Barbara Sharp, a Sandusky native, are donating this weekend's box-office receipts to the city police force, the fire department, the American Red Cross, and the theater.

"It's our way of giving back to the community," Mr. Haimoff said. "We appreciate the efforts by all these different organizations in helping make the movie."

Tickets for all shows this weekend are $10. The next step for the movie will be showings the next two months at science-fiction film festivals in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Mr. Haimoff said. After that, he hopes to find a theatrical distributor. Other possible outlets include showings on cable TV networks such as the Sci-Fi Channel or FX, or a video release, he said.

"I'm just happy that the whole thing is finished and completed and ready to show to the world," Mr. Haimoff said.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.

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