OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City will receive a $30,000 return from its $100,000 investment in the “Ping Pong Summer” movie.
Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott presented an update on the film “Ping Pong Summer” during Monday’s Tourism Commission meeting.
In June of 2012, Ocean City was first introduced to the story of “Ping Pong Summer” when Writer/Director Michael Tully and producers pitched the movie concept and sought the public’s help in financing it.
“Ping Pong Summer” is set in the summer of 1985 and centers on 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. Airy, Md.
The movie was shot entirely in the Ocean City area and wrapped up shooting in late October 2012. The film features many prominent and historic locations in Ocean City including 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 Preparatory School student Emmi Shockley has a prominent role as the main character’s love interest.
Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, who has starred in Dead Man Walking and Thelma and Louise, Lea Thompson, known for her lead role in Back to the Future and television series Caroline in the City, and John Hannah, who starred in The Mummy and television series Spartacus, also star in the film among many others.
The film opened to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and was shown at other venues and festivals.
It opened in theatres nationally in June 2014 in 15 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Closer to home, the film was shown at FOX Sun and Surf in Ocean City, as well as theatres in Bethany Beach and Rehoboth. “Ping Pong Summer” was also released on-demand by cable providers.
The producer’s budget for “Ping Pong Summer” was $1.1 million. At first, the producers were relying on a Maryland state film rebate program to help fund some of the expenses, but that fell through, creating a $300,000 hole in their budget. That is when producers appeared in Ocean City in to seek public and private investors to raise the remaining funds. In turn, Worcester County and the Town of Ocean City committed $100,000 each toward the production in the belief that the movie would be a boon for attracting visitors to the area.
The Tourism Advisory Board offered using $100,000 of their annual allocation of $300,000 from the Town of Ocean City to go toward the film. At that time, TAB Chair Greg Shockley admitted funding the film is a risk but the group decided that it is a gamble worth taking.
The City Council approved TAB’s request to spend the $100,000 on the movie contingent upon City Solicitor Guy Ayres’ recommendation of finding an entity to carry out the investment, which resulted in the investment being funneled through the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel announced this week the Town of Ocean and Worcester County will each be receiving about $30,000.
“It is a total of $60,000 out of the $200,000 investment. We made the investment not expecting anything back hoping the town would have great exposure,” Pursel said. “Now that we do have a return I think working between our Board of Directors, TAB, and the town we should start thinking about what we should do with it.”
The agreement states, “If there are any distributions, payment of income or return on invested capital received by grantee [TAB] as a result of or by virtue of its membership’s interest in Ping Pong Summer said distributions income or return of investment should be the sole property of the grantee but may be used by it only for advertisement, promotional economic development to the benefit of the grantor [Town of Ocean City] and only if it is expressly approved in advance of such expenditures by the grantor.”
Abbott recommended returning the funds to TAB, whose responsibility is to seek new events and promotions for Ocean City.
Michael James of the Carousel Group suggested investing in additional TV spots marketing Ocean City as a destination.
“Events get an allotment every year anyways. With TV, its fair, it benefits the entire resort,” James said.
Commission Chair/Council Secretary Mary Knight pointed out TAB has already invested $270,000 in TEAM Productions that puts on weekly firework shows downtown and at Northside Park uptown during the summer.
“For $30,000 you could have an additional firework show at Northside Park. People are always looking for free events regardless of where they are, and there are a lot of properties up north. It’s just an idea,” she said. “There were some naysayers, including myself, that thought we would never see any money back, and we could still get more money.”
The commission was in consensus to seek the Town’s advertising agency, MGH, advice prior to making a decision.