(May 15, 2015) After expecting its serve to bounce off the table and never be returned, the city was a bit surprised this week when the film “Ping Pong Summer” shot back 30 percent of the resort government’s investment.
The city Tourism Commission discussed this week how to handle the $30,000 of revenue-sharing that the film has kicked back so far, as part of the $100,000 investment the city made into the project three years ago.
“Ping-Pong Summer,” directed by Michael Tully, finished shooting in the resort in the fall of 2012. The film, which Tully billed as a “Karate Kid-style” underdog tale of young love and competitive table tennis, starred mostly unknown child actors, including local student Emmi Shockley.
A number of big-name stars also played roles in the film, including Susan Sarandon and Lea Thompson.
The film, with a total budget of a little over $1 million, was bolstered by $100,000 public contributions from both the Town of Ocean City and Worcester County, with the city’s share coming out of the Tourism Advisory Board budget.
Since securities law prevents government entities from investing in films, both the city and county put their funds into an account with the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, which then bought in to Tully’s project.
“We now have control over this money as part of the agreement with TAB, who had put out the $100,000 that was funneled through the chamber,” said city Tourism Director Donna Abbott.
“The way I understand it, we just need to make sure whatever we spend it on is approved by the city and used for marketing or tourism promotion,” said Chamber Executive Director Melanie Pursel.
The TAB is a committee that recommends expenditures out of the city’s tourism budget to provide seed money for public events.
“My recommendation would be to put the money back into the TAB budget for reinvestment,” Abbott said.
The funds could be used to seed an additional new event, or expand an existing one. The TAB’s largest outlay is with Bob Rothermel of TEAM Productions for summer beach fireworks and laser shows, which could be expanded to other locations such as Northside Park, Tourism Commission Chair Mary Knight noted.
“Ping Pong Summer” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2014. It was subsequently picked up for a limited theatrical release, and continues to receive royalties from online and on-demand viewership.
The film, which takes place in Ocean City in 1985, was anticipated to boost nostalgia tourism in the resort.
“There were a lot of naysayers, including me, who thought we wouldn’t see anything back other than the publicity,” Knight said. “I’m pleasantly surprised.”