There’s no way to win by making New Year’s predictions, so I gave them up a long time ago.
Get it right, and whatever expertise, knowledge and intuitive foresight you put into the prognostication will be immediately discounted as a lucky guess. Get it wrong, and you just plain look foolish.
So for years, whenever I’ve been asked to predict Atlantic City’s entertainment fortunes for a new year, I fall back on a safe response. I simply say that I think there’ll be a lot of good shows coming to Atlantic City.
Oh, I may go out on a limb and make an educated guess that we’ll see a few big touring acts stop by Boardwalk Hall, but that’s pretty much a gimme. Or I might be bold and say one casino will book a big act once considered untouchable, but we seem to be running out of those names. Or that we can expect to see some non-traditional entertainment, like the Atlantic City Hilton did last summer with former President Bill Clinton and conservative TV talkers Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly in a speakers series.
But the whole business of booking casino entertainment has changed radically and dramatically over the years.
Twenty years ago, when Atlantic City still had the East Coast monopoly on casino gaming, there really wasn’t much of a strategy involved in scheduling acts for the showrooms.
Marketing departments would pinpoint the demographics the casino wanted to target on a particular weekend or during a period of the year. A loose budget would be set and the entertainment director would begin working the various booking agencies to see which artists or shows were available, and then negotiate prices and dates.
Often, if an act had a proven track record as a casino attraction — meaning the performer would not only sell tickets, but sell them to gamers — the casino would work to lock the artist in for an exclusive multiple-play deal, often for more than one year.
One of the standards in the business used to be two weekends and a week on a three-year deal. That meant for three years, an act could always count on a full week of work in Atlantic City — usually during the summer — with two weekend gigs during the off-season months. And since many acts signing long-term deals in Atlantic City also did the same in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, it made it much easier for the artist to route a tour well in advance.
Those days are but a distant memory. Exclusive, long-term deals are pretty much a relic today. Although there are a handful of artists whose value to a casino is worth a multiple-play contract, the vast majority of showroom bookings are one-and-done one-night-stands.
And where casinos once booked a year or more in advance, many bookings today are done with as little as four to six weeks of lead time.
Sure, there are still contractual safeguards that prevent most acts from appearing at a competing casino within a certain time frame and distance, so that no artist performs in a near-by Pennsylvania casino too soon after working here (not that it’s likely to happen; Pennsylvania casinos are so heavily taxed they really can’t afford to book major shows).
As Atlantic City heads into the only real slow period of the year on the entertainment calendar — January is traditionally the weakest month for shows — here’s a look at how the showrooms are stocked so far during the first quarter of 2011:
Atlantic City Hilton — Joan Rivers, Feb. 5
Bally’s Atlantic City — “Murder at Big Al’s,” Jan. 15-17; Air Supply, Feb. 19 (ballroom); Dickie Betts & Great Southern, Feb. 19-20 (Palace Theater).
Borgata — Anti-Social Network with Jim Norton, featuring Dave Attell, Jim Breuer, Bill Burr, Jan. 15-16;
Jay Mohr, Feb. 5; Enrique Iglesias, Feb. 12; Aaron Lewis, Feb. 18-19; Lisa Lampanelli, Feb. 20; Aziz Ansari, March 5; Jerry Seinfeld, March 19.
Caesars Atlantic City — Sylvia Browne, Jan. 22; Gipsy Kings, Feb 18; Kenny G., Feb. 26; Michael Bolton, March 5; Diana Ross, March 19
Harrah’s Resort — Levon Helm Band, Feb. 5; Le Ombre (shadow artists), Feb. 11-13, Feb. 17-20.
House of Blues at Showboat — Legends of Hip-Hop III, Jan. 15; The B-52s, Jan. 22; Lauryn Hill, Jan. 29; Disturbed, Korn, Jan. 30; Jimmy Eat World, Feb. 11; Pat Benatar, Feb. 12; Dru Hill, Feb. 14; Flogging Molly, Feb. 19; Slightly Stoopid, Feb. 20; Waka Flocka Flame, Feb. 25; Gary Allan, March 5.
"Yeah, we all get along super well and whatever, but there are no stories like ‘Oh, and then Nick Offerman slashed everyone’s tires.’ Ya know? Like, this is not a thing. It’s just not like everyone’s pulling pranks and doing goofy stuff all the time."
'I was at a [New York] Knicks game recently and saw a guy use a new T-shirt gun at that game. He was shooting about 20 shirts in the crowd in five seconds. It was crazy. Some celebrities are for stricter gun control laws. I’m for looser T-shirt gun control laws. I would love to drive around the city and just shoot T-shirts into the streets and see what people would do.'
The Atlantic City area had a year that had people looking so far forward, it was almost easy to forget what was actually happening right now. Mired in recession and reeling from new competition, Atlantic City and southern New Jersey seemed to just want to hunker down and wait for better times....
In a few words, those with the power and ability need to work extremely hard and very quickly on these 11 items for the good of the entire region.
Atlantic City showrooms have traditionally turned to revue shows in the first few months of the new year, and 2011 is no exception.
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