OCEAN CITY — It was announced this week the movie “Ping Pong Summer,” filmed in Ocean City in 2012 and premiered at Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago, has been acquired by Gravitas Ventures, which will release the film to theaters and on Video On Demand (VOD) by early summer.
“I am very excited about ‘Ping Pong Summer’,” said Ocean City Tourism Director Donna Abbott this week at the Economic Development Committee meeting on Wednesday. “We took a gamble to invest in that with our Tourism Advisory Board contribution, but it looked like it is going to be a very good thing for Ocean City.”
In August 2012, both Worcester County and Ocean City agreed to contribute $100,000 each toward the production believing that the movie would be a boon for attracting visitors to the area.
“This is really a big deal, and we all really need to be excited about it,” said Mayor Rick Meehan this week. “It will take some time to develop but when the time is right we will have a showcase premiere here in Ocean City.”
According “Ping Pong Summer” producer George Rush, the film received a standing ovation at Sundance.
“There was a lot of buzz about the film, we premiered it, and the crowd’s reaction was pretty phenomenal,” he said. “It was a really, really great response with a standing ovation. We were very, very pleased.”
Sundance is the premiere market place for independent films and all the buyers are there to acquire new films for distribution, Rush explained.
“The buyer’s response was overwhelmingly positive, so we knew we were going to land a deal,” he said. “In talking to Gravitas they understood and appreciated the film the most, and we felt comfortable with the plan and the team they that had. There were a few offers but we felt they were the ones that would position the film in the best way.”
According to Rush, Gravitas Ventures is a well-known digital distributor, such as VOD but they are getting more involved in theatrical. The plan with “Ping Pong Summer” is to release the film in theaters around the nation in early summer and on the same day have it available on VOD.
“The film should be available throughout the country but the specifics are still to be worked out,” Rush said. “Our hope is, in addition to a national release, it will have emphasis in the Delmarva region.”
Rush furthered, between now and early summer Gravitas Ventures will be formulating a marketing plan for how to reach an audience, such as trailers, posters, etc.
“Our deal with Gravitas is only for North America, and we are also looking to sell the film overseas, so we have a sales agent that is working with us,” Rush said. “The European film market happens next week. It takes place during the Berlin Film Festival, and ‘Ping Pong Summer’ will be screened there. We are hoping to score a number of foreign deals there.”
According to Rush, it is a priority of the producers to have “Ping Pong Summer” premiere in Ocean City.
“The community was so helpful to us in so many ways that we definitely want to share the film there,” he said. “We are working with our distributor to work that out. One way or the other we will definitely have an Ocean City premiere. It certainly was a gamble for everyone that put money into it, but particularly the city and the county. We have a great deal of gratitude. We told people in the worst-case scenario we were making a really great commercial for Ocean City, and in the best-case scenario we would have a successful film, and I think we got the best-case scenario. We are hopeful the risk for the city will pay off for them, and it will bring more interest around the country and around the world in Ocean City.”
“Ping Pong Summer,” written and directed by Maryland native Michael Tully, is a coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1985, about a ping pong-obsessed teenage boy on a family vacation to Ocean City.
Tully first started writing the script his senior year in high school and has been working on it for over 20 years now. He is from Mt. Air, Md., and vacationed regularly with his family in Ocean City growing up.
“Ping Pong Summer” wrapped up production in Ocean City on Oct. 26, 2012, one day before Hurricane Sandy hit. The last shot was filmed on the iconic Ocean City Fishing Pier, which was severely damaged during the storm.
The film went into post-production in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. The help of hundreds of people from the Delmarva region made the movie possible, which is the first motion picture in more than 25 years to feature Ocean City so prominently. The last was 1980s’ movie “Violets Are Blue,” a box office flop but local sensation that starred Sissy Spacek and Kevin Kline, among others.
Like “Violets Are Blue,” “Ping Pong Summer” drew heavily from the local experience and features famous Ocean City spots like the Boardwalk, Trimper’s, Paul Revere Smorgasbord, Anthony’s, Phillips Seafood, King’s Arms Motel, Old Pro Golf, the Greene Turtle and Hooper’s Crabhouse, among many others.
Locals were also included in the film, many of whom played extras while native Ocean City resident and Worcester Preparatory School student Emmi Shockley featured into the story more prominently as the main character’s love interest.