OCEAN CITY — The red carpet premiere of the long-awaited “Ping Pong Summer is set for tomorrow night at the Sun and Surf Theater for invitees and local dignitaries, but it appears unlikely the event will match the scale and scope of the premiere of the last major movie filmed in the resort nearly three decades ago.
Written and directed by noted independent film producer and Maryland native Michael Tully, “Ping Pong Summer” is a coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1985 about a ping-pong and hip-hop obsessed teenage boy on a family vacation to Ocean City. Tully wrote the story and directed the film based on his own experiences on summer family vacations in the resort while growing up in Mt. Air, Md.
The movie was shot entirely in Ocean City in 2013 and wrapped up shooting on the day before Hurricane Sandy arrived in the resort in late October 2012. The film features many prominent and historic locations in Ocean City including, of course, the Boardwalk, Trimper’s, Old Pro Golf, Paul Revere’s Smorgasbord, Phillips, the King’s Arms Motel, the Greene Turtle, Hooper’s and many others. Also featured prominently in the film are many locals who served as extras, while Worcester Prep student Emmi Shockley has a prominent role as the main character’s love interest.
The film opened to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival this year and has been shown on a very limited basis and other venues and festivals. It is scheduled to open nationally on June 6 in 15 cities including New York, Los Angeles and Boston, for example. Closer to home, the film will open for the public’s viewing in Ocean City, Bethany Beach and Rehoboth. In addition, the film will be released on-demand by cable providers.
Before the June 6 national opening, however, a special invite-only red carpet premiere is set for tomorrow night at the Sun and Surf Theater hosted by Gravitas Ventures, which is handling the marketing and distribution of the film. Tully along with many of the child actors in the movie are expected to attend, but the film’s headliners including Susan Sarandon are not expected to show for the Ocean City premiere.
While tomorrow night’s premiere will likely include some of the glamour of similar red carpet events, it won’t likely match the fanfare of the official opening of “Violets are Blue” in the resort nearly three decades ago.
“Violets are Blue” was a major Columbia Pictures film starring among others Kevin Kline, Sissy Spacek and Bonnie Bedelia shot in and around Ocean City in the summer of 1984. The film featured a rekindled love affair between high school sweethearts played by Kline and Spacek years later. Kline’s character, stayed in the area and ironically became the editor of the Maryland Coast Dispatch, while Spacek went on to become a nationally recognized photo journalist. When Spacek’s character returned to Ocean City on an assignment, she reconnected with Kline’s character, who was married with a teenaged son.
The film premiered in April 1986 at the Sun and Surf, which got a complete makeover before the big Hollywood event. The premiere included several of the film’s major stars, the director and producer and state and local dignitaries. The red carpet was rolled out and spotlights lit up the resort sky during Ocean City’s brush with Hollywood fame.
According to earlier reports in The Dispatch from the era, roughly 1,300 guests including Gov. Harry Hughes and his wife, along with the film’s heavyweights attended the opening and a lavish reception hosted by the Carousel, which had been the successful bidder for the post-premiere party. According to reports, the Carousel party included champagne, 700 hundred pounds of beef, 100 pounds of smoked salmon, 100 pounds of Maryland crab claws, 300 pounds of snow crab claws, 350 pounds of shrimp, 150 pounds of crabmeat, 4,000 strawberries and 30 pounds of chocolate dipping sauce.