Halle Berry Photograph by Seth Joel
Scott Brown
August 01, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

There are laws against yelling ”fire” in a crowded theater. So far, there are no laws against releasing Halle Berry into a 4,500-seat ballroom packed with comic-book and science-fiction/fantasy fans. But San Diego might consider implementing some for next year’s annual international comics convention, known as Comic-Con. Held July 17-20, 2003’s Con was bigger — 70,000-plus attendees — and more Hollywood than ever. Berry was on hand to promote ”Gothika,” her upcoming thriller set in a women’s prison, but, this being Comic-Con, she fielded questions like ”Have you ever kissed a girl?” and endured shouts of ”You’re hot!”

Much like Hugh Jackman, who showed up to plug ”Van Helsing,” Berry was peppered with ”X-Men” inquiries. (Sorry fans, neither star has signed on for ”X3.”) Other celebrity guests stayed on topic: Alfred Molina brought along a buzz-inducing clip of his nefarious Dr. Octopus from ”Spider-Man 2,” Quentin Tarantino showed a bizarre, partly animated new trailer for his two-part assassin flick ”Kill Bill,” and ”Lord of the Rings” stars Andy Serkis and Dominic Monaghan appeared with 3 minutes of a 14-minute ”Return of the King” trailer from the upcoming ”Two Towers” DVD. Warner Bros. had the biggest single studio presentation, with behind-the-scenes videos from ”Troy” and ”Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” but the studio stretched the definition of ”comic-book convention” by pushing Tom Cruise’s Asia-set epic ”The Last Samurai” and the Ice Cube motorcycle flick ”Torque.”

Historically, the star pandering and advance trailering have paid off: Interest in movies like ”X2” and ”T3” was ignited by snippets shown at last year’s Con. But what does this mean for the 34-year-old extravaganza’s inky roots? ”I feel like comic books are being farmed, broken down for parts,” says Michael Chabon, 40, a repeat attendee and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic-biz opus ”The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” He notes that the movie and toy trades seem to have supplanted comics, sales of which remain unspectacular despite the media’s interest in comic-book characters. ”The guys going through the comic bins are getting older and balder. Like me.”

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