What: “Phenomenon” movie showing and reunion party Where: Outdoors, Old Town Auburn When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday

“Phenomenon” actor set to help celebrate at Auburn reunion party

Wednesday’s event includes outdoor screening in Old Town of Auburn-made movie
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Tony Genaro, a key actor in “Phenomenon,” is returning to Auburn for Wednesday’s reunion party and outdoor screening of the 1996 film. Genaro, who recently completed work on “The Soloist” with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, said he’s looking forward to returning to Auburn for the celebration in Old Town Auburn. The veteran actor played “Tito” in the Disney-Touchstone Pictures film – a movie starring John Travolta that took over Old Town for filming in the fall of 1995. Genaro’s warmth and accessibility during the shooting made him a favorite with locals and he eventually lived in the city for a couple of years before returning to Southern California. Genaro said that “Phenomenon” was a highlight of a career that also has seen him appear in “La Bamba,” “The Milagro Beanfield War,” and “Tremors.” In fact, he was nominated for a Bravo Award, which honors members of the Hispanic community who have achieved success in their chose fields, for his work in the film. “It’s hard to forget “Phenomenon” because it plays so often on TV,” Genaro said. “The Auburn scenes are at the beginning and I always stop and watch the first few minutes. It makes me feel good to see it.” The film itself grossed nearly $150 million over the summer of 1996 as a sleeper hit, receiving several awards and nominations – including an MTV Movie Awards nomination for Best Kiss, between Travolta and co-star Kyra Sedgwick. “Considering my entire career, it was probably the best film I was involved with,” Genaro said. “And it’s stayed popular because John Travolta did such an excellent job with his character – people just fall in love with the guy.” “And of course, the little town of Auburn didn’t hurt with its special charm,” he added. Genaro said he’s anticipating reconnecting with many of the people he worked with on the movie and got to know afterward. The “Phenomenon” shoot in Auburn was far from movie-making as usual, he said. “Of all the experiences I’ve had, I’ll have to say the best extras were in Auburn,” he said. “They really worked to make this film good. And they weren’t professional extras. They were lawyers, dentists and even the mayor. You never knew who was walking by when they said ‘action.’” Linda Robinson, an Old Town business owner, said the movie screening will follow dedication of a bronze plaque to commemorate the making of the movie. A table will be set up for Genaro to sign autographs, along with some of the more prominent “extras” in the film, she said. Hot dogs, sodas and kettle corn will be available for purchase. Robinson said people should bring low-back chairs to watch the film, which runs about two hours in length. Restaurants and many shops will be open during the event. The Auburn Ale House is set to release a new pub-style English mild ale it will dub “Phenomen-ALE” in honor of the occasion. The Ale House is the site of much of the interior filming, when the production company took over the old Shanghai Bar for location shooting. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at