The Circus Maximus Theater at Caesars Atlantic City oozed old-school Hollywood glamour Sunday night with showgirls, flappers, a steady flow of Prohibition-era booze and hundreds of red carnations.
For Kristen Ruhnke and Paul Gats, of Barnegat Township, Ocean County, there never was a question whether they would attend the community screening of the second-season premiere of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” The question was what would they wear.
“I told her about the event,” Gats, who works at Showboat Casino Hotel, said of Ruhnke. “She said, ‘Let’s go all out’.”
Gats was decked out in a khaki-color ensemble and a hat that could make Steve Buscemi’s Enoch “Nucky” Thompson character jealous. Ruhnke wore a black sequined dress, a single strand of pearls and a flower in her curly hair.
Although they were attending the critically acclaimed show’s premiere for fun, they became a photo-op in their own right. Gats and Ruhnke barely had time to sip their drinks between people requesting to take a photo with them.
“This is absolutely wonderful for the city,” Gats said. “I think it’s wonderful for the city to bring back the old image.”
Ruhnke agreed and said the two are huge fans of the show and could not wait for its return Sunday.
Anyone driving through to Atlantic City in the past several weeks has seen the aggressive marketing campaign behind HBO’s hit series.
The “Compliments of Nucky” campaign has plastered billboards along the Atlantic City Expressway.
This weekend, network officials increased their efforts and motorists along the roadway saved some money compliments of Nucky, of course. The savings were in the way of eastbound tolls into the city at the Pleasantville plaza being “paid for” by Thompson.
Don Marrandino, president of the Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Showboat casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., said hosting the second-season premiere party at Caesars and celebrating Atlantic City’s history was necessary.
“I think it’s a great way to celebrate Atlantic City,” Marrandino said before the show began at 9 p.m. “We’re a fun place, we’re a safe place and we’re a little naughty.”
Marrandino said HBO’s marketing campaign has almost taken over the city, but tourism officials have embraced the fictional Thompson as one of their own.
“I think they whole town embraced what Nucky did,” he said.
As opening credits for the show began a little after 9 p.m., the 1,000 people in attendance began hooting and hollering at the screen. When Buscemi’s name and Anthony Laciura — who plays Thompson’s assistant Eddie Kessler and was in attendance Sunday — appeared, the applause only got louder.
It was only after the first five minutes of the show — in which people were shot, rum was illegally purchased and Buscemi managed to gamble and flirt with various half-naked women — that the audience settled in and reflected on what Atlantic City used to be.
Contact Caitlin Dineen: