Atlantic City’s skyline was a little brighter than usual this July Fourth as thousands of spectators watched a newly consolidated fireworks display off the coast followed by the debut of a $3 million dollar light show at Boardwalk Hall.
Both are part of a $150 million five-year tourism campaign launched earlier this year by the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing coalition. The free events were designed to bolster the city’s faltering tourism industry and encourage repeat visitors.
The 3-D light show, in particular, will be a permanent year-round attraction at Boardwalk Hall, with the possibility of the show changing on a seasonal basis.
“You can’t always have people reaching into their pockets,” said Liza Cartmell, the ACA’s chief executive officer.
Boardwalk Hall’s façade was transformed into a kaleidoscope of light and sound Wednesday, with projected images creating the illusion of the familiar landmark’s destruction and resurrection set to a booming score and sound effects.
The 8-minute show was created by the Montreal-based multimedia studio Moment Factor, which created similar displays for the 2012 Super Bowl and concert tours by Celine Dion and Nine Inch Nails. Boardwalk Hall’s awe-inspiring transformation was achieved by a series of 12 projectors and 45 sound devices mounted around Kennedy Plaza.
“This has been on an incredibly fast track,” Cartmell said, noting that the entire show has come together since March.
In the week leading up to its debut, she said, the company had been working each night to tweak the light and sound elements.
Cartmell said individual casinos had sponsored two separate fireworks displays in previous years split between the marina and the ocean. While this year’s consolidated show costs about the same amount to produce — $150,000 — it now serves as a better showcase for the beach and boardwalk.
The 23-minute show, which was based on a barge near The Pier Shops at Caesars, earned Atlantic City a spot on ABC News’ Top 10 Cities for Fireworks.
“We’ve aggregated those two into one mega-show,” she said. “Starting north of Revel all the way to the Atlantic Club, it’s accessible to as many people as possible.”
The beach and Boardwalk were packed with spectators Wednesday jockeying for a position with a clear view of the firework display, some stretching their arms skyward with camcorders and camera phones in hand. A flotilla of lights from pleasure boats bobbed in the sea, also full of people watching the display.
From the barge, bursts of red and green and blue and white erupted into the night. Each new firework illuminated the ghostly smoke silhouette of the one that proceeded it. Some of the louder or longer-lasting fireworks elicited cries of awe and gasps of surprise from the crowd.
“Have you seen enough; do you want to go?” Joseph Rosenthal, 76, of Cherry Hill, asked his wife Jessica, 69, after about 15 minutes.
“Are you crazy?” she replied.
Nathaniel Bennett, of Toms River, watched the fireworks with his 5-year-old daughter, Eliyah, on his shoulders. This year was the first time he’d seen Atlantic City’s July Fourth celebrations.
“I think it was awesome,” Bennett said, although he conceded that Philadelphia’s fireworks went higher. Another selling point was the light show, though, he said.
“It’s goo-o-od,” Eliyah said, simply.
The crowds then migrated up the dunes to Boardwalk Hall for the light show. As the masonry of the building began to crack and undulate and then cascade down its facade to reveal neon lights and techno music, a wave of cheers and claps rose up from the crowd.
Nancy McKen, 33, and Kathy Astles, also 33, came to Atlantic City on vacation from the Toronto area. Both were impressed by the display.
“It was great, fantastic,” McKen said after it was over. “I’ve only ever seen things like this on YouTube.”
“My neighbors know how to throw a party,” Astles added.
Contact Wallace McKelvey:
Follow Wallace McKelvey on Twitter @wjmckelvey