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Overseas press, film industry find appeal in gallery

(April 5, 2013) During the heyday of punk rock, being “big in Japan” was not necessarily a compliment, indicating that one didn’t have the appeal to make it in the Anglophone world. But for Boardwalk businessman Joe Kroart, being “big in Eastern Europe” is only an indication of his continually growing appeal in America and abroad.

“It’s been happening for years, more subtly, but now it’s being blown wide open,” Kroart said of the increasing recognition Ocean City – and particularly his own Ocean Gallery on the Boardwalk and Second Street – has been getting worldwide.

Last month, Kroart received a copy of a magazine in the mail from Germany, where he had recently been told via telephone that he was going to be featured in a periodical. Due to his unfamiliarity with the Teutonic press, Kroart had no idea what it would amount to.

But what he received was a thick copy of “View,” the monthly pictorial companion to the weekly magazine “Stern,” a publication that holds roughly the status of “Time” or “Newsweek” in the German-speaking world. And in it was a two-page spread of Ocean Gallery, with a brief text explaining what exactly the eccentric building was all about.

“They pulled an image from ‘Weird Maryland,’” Kroart said of the travel guide he had been featured in some time back. “[View magazine] said that they look for really unique attractions all over the world. Literally hundreds of thousands of people had taken pictures of Ocean Gallery.”

“Now it’s a part of their vacation and they’re putting them on Facebook and going all over the world in minutes.”

Kroart said he continues to be amazed how his contact with producers and promoters has spread –in a completely unplanned way – the mystique of Ocean Gallery and the Boardwalk all over the world. He is still working on the possibility that a reality TV show or documentary series could be shot at Ocean Gallery.

This summer, Mikey Teutul of “American Chopper” fame will be doing another in-person art show at Ocean Gallery, an event that has attracted huge crowds in past years.

“As soon as people in the promo industry hear about someone else doing something, they realize the potential is there,” Kroart said.

This desire, apparently, extends out of American reality TV and into Slavic domestic cinema. The Russian-language film “Turbo” will also be returning to Ocean Gallery for wrap-up this summer after shooting there in the fall.

“They’re shooting in Thailand, Russia, and then coming back to the U.S.,” Kroart said.

At the end of the movie, the heroine of the film will be seen driving off in Kroart’s “Batmobile,” a car which cost him $28 in spray paint and scrap electronics to create.

“I think it’s perfectly natural for people from Europe to come in and feel comfortable with this place as a destination,” Kroart said. “Our distribution has increased dramatically with technology.”

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