Atlantic City’s single biggest entertainment weekend during the casino era — the recent Memorial Day holiday blowout — was one for the history and record books.
Now, the industry and the millions of visitors expected over the next 12 weeks are each gearing up for a summer entertainment program that seems to be picking up where the season-launching weekend left off.
Not even during the Boardwalk Empire era of 90 years ago — when Atlantic City was a hedonistic East Coast entertainment epicenter — has one summer been stocked with such a broad and diverse array of shows and events. And that’s just June and July, which are loaded with everything from cutting-edge musical acts and comedians to artists who have earned classic and legendary status.
While August, at first glance, looks to be on the light side, it isn’t likely to stay that way too much longer. And September, once considered a light month for shows when Miss America ruled the Boardwalk, is shaping up to be a rather strong month.
The difference is the Internet. During the early, pre-Web years of the gaming era, entertainment schedules had to be set months and sometimes more than a year in advance to coordinate an effective marketing and advertising campaign.
But today’s social networking Web sites, and their ability to target a particularly desirable demographic, has dramatically changed the marketing landscape and altered the way casinos book, promote and sell their entertainment programs.
An appearance by a reality series star at the Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Resort, or a trendy DJ spinning in Borgata’s mur.mur nightclub, can be scheduled just a few weeks ahead of time, not a few months. Some well-placed videos, status updates and ads on sites like Facebook and YouTube can often reach more of the “right” demographic than a conventional print, radio and television campaign.
This could prove to be the most pivotal period Atlantic City has faced in the past 34 years as its aggressively tries to reinvent itself as a destination market rather than just another gaming town. Here’s a look at just some of the key events between now and September:
UFC on FX 4, June 22 @ Revel - The UFC, also known by its more formal mixed-martial arts name Ultimate Fighting Championships, returns to Atlantic City for the first time in seven years. UFC on FX 4 will be nationally television on the FX cable channel, and it’ll be the first show broadcast from Revel’s Ovation Hall.
Mary J. Blige, June 29-30, July 3-4 @ Caesars - Years ago, summer casino showroom bookings usually lasted for a week and were just called gigs. Today, a time of mostly one-night-stands, a four-show, split-week gig is called a “residency.” That’s how soulful Mary J. Blige’s upcoming appearances in the C-Max Theater are being billed. Blige has a little relationship thing going with Caesars Entertainment. She did a launch party for her new album at the Pool After Dark at Harrah’s last November, headlined at Caesars a few days before New Year’s and is now back at Caesars for four more shows.
Weekends of June 29-July 1 and July 6-8 @ Borgata - With July 4 falling on a Wednesday, Borgata apparently couldn’t decide when to celebrate the holiday, so it’s doing it both weekends. Good thing Borgata has two performance venues — the Event Center and the Music Box — because they’ll need the rooms for all of these shows. On June 29, the surviving original members of the Jacksons 5 — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy — will bring their Unity Tour to the Event Center. That same night, the John Oates Band (he of Hall and Oates) will be in the Music Box. On June 30, Crosby, Stills and Nash will be in the Event Center, while comedian Tracy Morgan will be in the Music Box. And on July 1, the triple header of Styx, Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent will be in the Event Center. Then on July 6-7, James Taylor will play two sold-out shows in the Event Center, Bob Saget will work the Music Box on July 6, comedian Billy Gardell will cut up in the Music Box on July 7 and singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan will be in the Event Center on July 8.
Donny and Marie July 31, Aug. 1-5 @ Caesars - It took Caesars Entertainment’s eastern division president Don Marrandino three summers to make this happen, but he finally did. It was Marrandino who convinced the brother and sister act to do a residency gig at one of the company’s Las Vegas properties, and it became one of the best-selling shows on the Strip. Now, the Osmond kids have cleared their respective schedules to finally play a six-night stand at Caesars. OK, so they’re not Maroon 5 or the Black Keys or other popular acts of today. But Donny & Marie are considered casino royalty based on the business (read: gamblers) they bring to the table. Besides, it’s been years since the two most famous Osmonds worked together on the Boardwalk.
When Don Marrandino, president of Caesars Entertainment’s four Atlantic City properties, asked the Osmonds to bring some of the elements of that show to Atlantic City, Donny was initially hesitant.
'The place was packed with people; some people who had gone to the concert, some people who had just been in the bar, and it was just one of those kinds of special, fun party, and music rock and roll nights.'
“There’s a lot of sports fans and fight fans in Atlantic City, which is awesome for me,” Gray Maynard tells Atlantic City Weekly. “We’re pumped to be here.”
'I hope we always wage war against evil with everything we got. '
An entertainment classic never goes out of style — especially with casinos and the people they attract. That seems to be the booking strategy at several Atlantic City casinos as they scramble to complete their spring and summer lineups. What had already been shaping up to be a strong season for shows is now on the verge of becoming the biggest and most diverse collection of attractions the city has seen since the dice began rolling down the Boardwalk 34 years ago.
A comprehensive listing of entertainment coming to the Atlantic City casinos, Boardwalk Hall and Bader Field.
Along with a new Orion Festival news ticker added to the band's site, Metallica has added a Damage Inc. stage that will feature "lots of cool, heavy, thrash and punk bands."
"[Atlantic City's] location was really central. You’ve got good facilities, it’s not, you know, like 39 miles on some two-lane country road — that kind of vibe, you know, so it’s just the fact that it’s practical, there’s a lot of facilities and since we’re not doing like a camping thing we thought it would be good to be close to infrastructure so the fans do have like the backbone of a place like Atlantic City at their disposal."
In A.C. alone, acts and personalities such as Kim Kardashian, Garbage, ZZ Top, Gretchen Wilson, Steve Winwood, Pitbull, Afrojack and others appeared. Stats from the weekend tell of a busy weekend throughout the resort.
Music fans will have more options than ever to catch a concert in Atlantic City this Memorial Day weekend, but that's not when the music stops. The entire southern Jersey shore region will popping with music of all kinds this summer — including rockabilly, jazz, classcial, rock, blues, R&B and reggae.
Between Friday and Monday, Atlantic City will experience the single biggest weekend of entertainment the town has ever seen, and with the most demographically diverse collection of artists, too. Few cities anywhere can match the quality, quantity and calibre of shows this weekend, if ever.
Steve Martin in Atlantic City
Whitney Cummings Talks
Golden Nugget Starts to Shine
Liza Minnelli, Broken Leg and All
Revel Gets Closer to Opening