Atlantic City will feel a little like Hollywood tonight. But events celebrating Sunday's 9 p.m. premiere of "Boardwalk Empire" continue throughout the weekend.
The HBO series, based on Hammonton resident Nelson Johnson's "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City," debuts with a screening tonight as cast members will stroll the red carpet into Caesars Atlantic City's Circus Maximus Theater, where high rollers and invited guests will get a first glimpse of the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot.
Preceding the premiere, the actors, including Paz de la Huerta, Michael Pitt, Michael K. Williams, Kelly MacDonald and Vincent Piazza, as well as writer/producer Terence Winter, will make a public appearance on the Boardwalk in front of Caesars. The cast members will pose for photographs with cars provided by the Vintage Auto Museum of New Jersey and possibly sign autographs. A classic Rolls-Royce used by the main character, Nucky Thompson, will be on hand. Steve Buscemi, who stars as Thompson in the series, was unavailable for the event.
After the screening, invited guests will be treated to a posh soiree at One Atlantic inside The Pier Shops at Caesars. The "Prohibition's Eve" bash offers invited guests retro cocktails and dinner served by a staff wearing Roaring Twenties-era costumes. Big band music will be provided by Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks Orchestra, which appears regularly in "Boardwalk Empire's" first season.
"Our customers and everyone we invited are really excited," said Jennifer Weissman, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah's Entertainment. "It's such a unique opportunity to be able to host a premiere like this. I believe it's the first time Atlantic City has ever had a premiere of a national TV show."
The festivities, however, are not limited to invited guests.
- Dusk, the dance club inside Caesars, will host a "Boardwalk Empire"-themed afterparty at midnight, where the cast is expected to show up.
- At 2 p.m. Saturday, "Boss of the Boardwalk," a Press of Atlantic City documentary created by staff writers Dan Good and Michael Clark, will be screened at the Atlantic City Free Public Library, 1 N. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City. Good will be on hand to discuss the documentary and answer questions.
- On Sunday at the Circus Maximus Theater, a free "Conversations and Storytelling" session at 7 p.m. will feature Atlantic City historians Vicki Gold Levi, who served as a consultant for the series, Israel Posner, Jim Waltzer, Ralph Hunter, Allen "Boo" Pergament and At The Shore columnist and TV and radio personality Pinky Kravitz. The sessions will be followed by a 9 p.m. screening of the "Boardwalk Empire" pilot, which is also free. Attendance is limited to approximately 600 people. You must be 21 years or older to attend.
"It was absolutely critical for us to be able to involve the local community," Weissman said. "Sure, there have been some liberties taken with the original story, but ‘Boardwalk Empire' is a great opportunity to remind people about the roots of Atlantic City. It's a reason for everyone to celebrate."
The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority recruited 50 restaurants and bars to offer Prohibition dinner and cocktail menus. Approximately 30 restaurants throughout Atlantic County are offering two- and three-course meals for $19.20. Originally intended as a one-week program, many of the restaurants are now offering the themed menus through the end of the month. The bars involved in the promotion are offering "Boardwalk Empire"-themed cocktails, many that feature Canadian Club Whisky, which is featured prominently in the show.
The ACCVA visitor website will be "re-skinned" for a Friday debut. The new look will feature authentic images from the 1920s and an overall retro feel, according to Maureen Siman, vice president of marketing for the ACCVA. The site will also feature a "Boardwalk Empire" section that will offer information about Atlantic City events related to the show and related links.
Caesars' marketing partnership with HBO is more than evident. The outside entrance of the property on Pacific Avenue is adorned with huge banners advertising the show, and its lobby features an 800-square-foot marquee and the 1920s-era cars that will be used on the Boardwalk for the premiere. In the hotel's valet area, another of Thompson's cars, nicknamed Missy in the show, is also displayed. Posters also fill the lightboxes on Caesars' Boardwalk front, and other billboards have been placed on The Pier.
Harrah's Entertainment, which owns Caesars, sold 1,920 rooms for $19.20 each. The rooms, which were available from Sept. 16 to 30, are sold out. The ACES Train, a joint venture between Harrah's and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa that links New York to Atlantic City, displays a "Boardwalk Empire" wrap. Harrah's is also offering a national promotion in which the winner can be the "King of the Boardwalk" by being awarded a suite for a year at Caesars.
Weissman and Siman said Caesars and the ACCVA hope to continue its relationship with "Boardwalk Empire" and HBO as the series continues. That may mean more special events for its high-rollers and the public. One possibility is that the casino company may work with local historians to provide Atlantic City walking tours, capitalizing on the interest "Boardwalk Empire" may generate.
The ACCVA is already working with a company to offer "Prohibition Tours" of Atlantic City that will include stops to showcase areas mentioned in the series.
"As the show develops and the audience grows, we're going to continue to evolve with it," Siman said. "We really think there will be interest in the history of Atlantic City. People will want to come here and see places like the Knife & Fork and stand in front of The Ritz and say, ‘Ahhh ... that's where Nucky Johnson lived.'"
‘Boardwalk Empire' promotions
- ‘Conversations and Storytelling' with Atlantic City historians, 7 p.m., Circus Maximus Theater, Caesars, free, open to public, first-come, first-served basis.
- ‘Boardwalk Empire' screening, 9 p.m., Circus Maximus Theater, Caesars, free, open to public, first-come, first-served basis.
Thirty restaurants in Atlantic County will offer two- and three-course themed meals for $19.20. Other establishments will offer "Boardwalk Empire"-themed cocktails. Click here for a full list of participating restaurants.