(May 30, 2014) After a successful five-month festival run, the Ocean City-set feature film “Ping Pong Summer” will finally premier in town this Saturday at Sun & Surf Cinemas on 143rd Street.
The movie officially debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, also stopping at several independent festivals both nationally and internationally.
Saturday’s screening is a private event. The film will see a public release the following week.
“This is more of a thank you to the community who helped us, and then the real, real important situation is June 6 – the next Friday – when we open officially,” writer/director Michael Tully said. “That’s what all of this has been aiming towards, and that’s when we’re hoping that the community will come out and show some support.”
An introduction and a post-film discussion will be including in the screening, followed by an after party at Phillips Crab House.
Tully, producers, and several of the younger cast members will be on hand during the premier.
“I’m going to be there, the producers are going to be there, all of the kids are going to be there,” he said. “For me the most exciting thing is to try and see if we can launch careers for these really talented young kids who are from the Maryland area.”
The Ocean City Boardwalk, as well as several other iconic Ocean City locations including Sun & Surf Cinemas, plays a prominent role in the film.
“That’s where I used to go to movies when I was growing up and going on vacation,” Tully said. “It felt really spiritually appropriate to have it (at Sun & Surf) where I think I actually saw ‘The Karate Kid’ myself in 1985.”
Similarly set in 1985, “Ping Pong Summer” tells the story of an awkward teenager obsessed with hip hop and ping pong. The film has received positive reviews so far, earning an 83 percent rating on film aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Hollywood Reporter called the film, which stars Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah and 13-year-old newcomer Marcello Conte as “Rad” Miracle, “A thick slice of teenage wish-fulfillment dripping with nostalgia.”
Tully said he was encouraged – but realistic – by the tone of the early reviews.
“I write about movies for a living – I’m the editor of a Web site called ‘Hammer to Nails’ – and I think the most interesting movies are the ones where you go to Netflix they get five stars and the next person says one star and the next person says five stars,” he said. “The main thing is to be sort of optimistic and glass half full so that if you can get one person to express that they understood what you were trying to do and that it worked for them then you should be happy. And that has happened a lot; there have been a lot of people that I really respect and admire who seemed to understand.
“It’s a really tricky thing to make a movie about a functional family without there being really high-stakes movie drama,” Tully continued. “That was my intention – to make a movie inserting my own very normal, loving middle class family into an 80’s movie. I just wanted to see what that experiment would be like.”
Gravitas Ventures, partnering with Millennium Entertainment, picked up “Ping Pong Summer” during its festival run. The studio plans to release the film in at least 10 markets this summer. The movie will also be available on iTunes, Amazon and through video on demand on June 6. Millennium Entertainment will release a DVD version of the film.
Tully said the town was instrumental in the making of “Ping Pong Summer.”
“I think it was unprecedented for us to get support from the tourism boards of Ocean City and Worcester County,” he said. “The community embraced our production in a way that is not normal for an independent movie maker, so my hope with the release is that it just keeps the good will and the positive energy going out into the universe. There wasn’t a day that went by that somebody didn’t come up to me and tell me that they had been an extra in ‘Violets are Blue,’ which was the last movie shot in Ocean City proper in 1985, so I feel like if people were still talking about ‘Violets are Blue’ in 2012 then we should be good.”
Ocean City will be the last stop on the prelease tour of screenings.
“For me Ocean City is the end point and the starting point, so the fact that we’ve had this really good world tour and we’ve shown it all over from Holland to Denmark to San Francisco – the idea of timing the last screening before the release in Ocean City – I think that’s where the heart and soul of the movie exists. If the movie is going be successful it’s going to begin right there at the Sun & Surf.
“I hope people enjoy that we’ve made a summer movie that doesn’t star superheroes or CGI,” Tully continued. “I would be really humbled and honored by that concept. My hope is that people come away saying it was a pretty fun time, and they appreciate the earnestness and sincerity of the movie.”
Follow “Ping Pong Summer” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pingpongsummer or with the Twitter handle @pingpongsummer. For more information visit www.pingpongsummer.com.