This weekend, Ocean City, New Jersey, is ready for its close-up. The Jersey Shore beach town is the setting of a major motion picture, "Girl Most Likely," starring Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening.
Whereas Atlantic City has the excitement of the casinos, and Seaside Heights has the scandalous drama of a reality show, Ocean City is perhaps best known for prohibiting alcohol and hosting a hermit crab beauty contest. The unassuming town was used as a set for the movie two summers ago.
Aside from Atlantic City -- which has been featured in films so prominently that it even has two movies named after it -- the beach towns of the Jersey Shore are rarely seen in major motion pictures.
"You go back to 'Jaws,' that's where you get great shots of Jersey Shore beaches," said Seth Barakas, manager of the Strand Theater and artistic director of the Moorlyn Theater, two Ocean City boardwalk cinemas among the last of their kind in New Jersey.
"Lately, there have not been movies taking place on the Shore, and in particular Ocean City. This one is so blatantly Ocean City," he said. "Even on the poster, Kristen Wiig is wearing an Ocean City High School T-shirt."
Pizza shop has encore
Ocean City has been in at least one movie before: a little-seen film from 2005 called "Duane Hopwood," starring David Schwimmer (of the sitcom "Friends"). Schwimmer appeared in a brief scene inside the iconic Ocean City pizza shop, Manco and Manco, formerly Mack and Manco.
For 57 years, the Ocean City landmark has served generations of boardwalk tourists.
Graham Ginn has been making pizzas there for seven years.
"When people say they drove down from Michigan just for our pizza, I say, 'Really? I drove from 30th Street to make it for ya,'" said Ginn, a pizza maker at Manco and Manco for seven years. He, and the shop, appear briefly onscreen in "Girl Most Likely."
"It's neat. Everyone can relate to it," said Ginn. "Not just neat for the locals and people who live here. So many people can relate to Ocean City, New Jersey. It's a comfortable feeling, a homey feeling."
Ginn has not yet seen his big-screen debut. In fact, nobody in Ocean City will have seen "Girl Most Likely" until it opens Friday.
'A retreat for so many'
The film is about a struggling playwright (Wiig) approaching 40 who has failed to make it in New York City. Due to minor mental breakdown and a big misunderstanding, she is forced to move back home with her crazy mother (Benning) and a motley crew of characters populating Ocean City."
Even though the film establishes Ocean City as a place people wind up when they have failed, Barakas says that's not altogether bad.
"This is a wanted retreat for so many people. It's a small-town atmosphere. It's family-friendly," said Barakas. "The complete opposite of what a hustle and bustle of city life can be."
Barakas will be giving the film as big an opening as he can muster, with a red carpet, ribbon cutting, and city officials present for the afternoon matinee. He hopes the setting, the star power, and the fully air-conditioned theater will lure people away from the beach, at least for 90 minutes.