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‘Serenity’ fans support creator’s favored cause - Cult film’s local showing aids charity

Sunday 6 July 2008, by Webmaster

The devotion of some sci-fi fans borders on obsession, but one group took their passion and used it to fight for a good cause at the third annual “Can’t Stop the Serenity” event last month at Coolidge Corner Theatre.

“The first time we did it, my expectations were kind of low,” said George Bragdon, program manager for the theater. “I didn’t think it would do quite as well as some of our other cult movie events. But it totally sold out our biggest theater downstairs.”

The crowd of fans stretched around the block at Coolidge Corner for a midnight showing of the feature-length film “Serenity,” based on Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” television series.

Organizers set up stands with merchandise, gave away chopsticks and other memorabilia, and held trivia contests. A few dressed up, and a fiddler played for the crowd as they waited. People who brought food to donate to the Greater Boston Food Bank were entered into a raffle to win prizes and movie props.

“We spread the word through the message board and our Web site, and also at comic book stores,” said David Adams, president of the New England Browncoats, the fan organization behind the charity screenings.

The TV series, which blends spaceships and Western outlaw action with comedy, only lasted one season. But it developed a huge following in the online community, which drove studios to make the movie.

That same online community has since set up yearly showings of the film around Whedon’s birthday.

Fans also put their collective weight behind his favorite charity, Equality Now, a humanitarian aid organization that fights to protect women across the world.

“When the show was being canceled I heard the underground rumbling from friends that they were going to try to get the movie made,” said Ed Quinn, who was attending his third screening. “So I signed up with the New England Browncoats newsletter and continued to get that. That’s basically the most common way the word is spread, from fan to fan.”

Over the past three years, the film has screened at cinemas from Albuquerque, N.M., to Sydney, Australia, and raised more than $160,000 for Equality Now.

The goal this year is to raise $150,000 from 55 participating cities. In the past two years, the New England Browncoats have raised about $6,000 at the Coolidge Corner.

“It’s gotten bigger each year,” said Amanda Sullivan, director of the Women’s Action Network of Equality Now. “They’re just an amazing group of people to work with. They’re enthusiastic, they’re organized. It’s just very inspiring.”