Millennials ride the social media surfboard and NEPA venues ride their waves
Gerard Durling of Wilkes-Barre will never say there is nothing to do in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
He arrived at that conclusion after recently discovering Eclectic Circus, a local arts collective that consists of stilt walkers, aerial artists, sword swallowers and more. As a former professional wrestler, Durling says he was “absolutely fascinated” to discover that a circus group existed in the area.
“It seems that every day there’s more local entertainment popping up, and I’m thrilled that The Woodlands Inn has provided me with the opportunity to be a small part of it,” said Durling, founder of Coal Creative, a digital-marketing company.
Durling was tasked with rebranding Club Evolution at The Woodlands in Plains Township — transforming the club’s Thursday nights into a rotating-themed club called Zu. The new nightclub gives 18-and-older partygoers what they want, how they want it.
That transformation is indicative of how NEPA’s entertainment scene is evolving.
The new wave
Mitch Kornfeld, food and beverage director and partner at The Woodlands Inn, says Durling is the perfect person to rebrand Club Evolution.
“The 18-to-21-year-old market shifts,” Kornfield said. “It’s very fast. It’s a three-year market. You have to stay fresh. Millennials move quick. You have to catch their wave and you have to ride their wave. Then, when the wave crashes to the shore, you have to paddle out and look for another wave.”
Zu, he said, is the “next wave of Club Evolution.”
“Gerard Durling is able to ride that wave with a new surfboard with social media,” he said. “He knows exactly how to position the feet and he knows exactly where the Millennials like to stand, and he can ride that wave.”
Durling admits that he was initially intimidated by the idea of rebranding Club Evolution. The 29-year-old “felt old” when he scoped out the place to observe what changes could be made and noticed everyone was taking a selfie.
“I’m not so old that I have never taken a selfie before, but with younger people I observed taking a selfie is a ritual. It’s not about looks or vanity, it’s about them living in the moment. Young people are all about living in the moment. My intern, who is 21, told me he could be at a basketball game and LeBron James could be playing on the court, and he wouldn’t take a picture of Lebron James. He’d take a picture of himself in the audience living in the moment,” Durling said.
Millennials’ tendency of living in the moment proved to be the most challenging aspect of his endeavor, because it conflicted with committing to attending an event. Durling decided that if he wanted to cater to the Millennial demographic, he would have to get on their level.
“I decided that, in order to find out what college students really want, I would have to reach out to them directly. So I sat in on college club meetings to ask questions and hired interns to promote the project,” he said.
Durling not only learned what today’s generation wanted from a night out; he learned about the different platforms of social media that Millennials have embraced including Instagram, Snapchat, Fade and Twitter.
“Zu is focused on reaching an audience where they are online,” Durling said. “I think creating this personal connection has helped point Zu in the right direction. It makes college students feel involved in what we’re doing, because we are encouraging them to be involved in what we’re doing.”
All about networking
Lisa Petz of Carbondale is living out her dream by working as a still photographer on the upcoming movie “Back in the Day,” with an all-star cast that includes William DeMeo, Michael Madsen, Danny Glover, Shannen Doherty and Alec Baldwin.
Petz said the opportunity presented itself with the help of networking.
“I’m always networking, whether it’s in person or with social media, where you can get your work out there no matter where you are. Going on two years ago, I was taking pictures (for Weekender) of a local comedian named James Holeva and he liked my photos, so he connected me with a friend of his named William DeMeo, who wrote — and was about to star — in his own movie,” Petz said.
DeMeo hired Petz as the still photographer for “Back in the Day” in December 2013.
Filming for the movie started in New York, but gained attention locally when DeMeo and Paul Borghese, the film’s director, brought production to Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono in March.
John Celetsu, executive vice president and general manager of Mount Airy Casino, said having a movie film in Northeastern Pennsylvania is great for future tourism, among other things.
“The filming of the movie provides for local movie, theatre and entertainment enthusiasts the opportunity to participate in the process as a participant or simply a viewer,” Celetsu said. He also added that the filming was an extension of Mount Airy’s overall marketing efforts in bringing increased exposure to its brand while highlighting such new venues as Get Wet Ultra Pool & Lounge.
DeMeo said he enjoys the entertainment at Mount Airy, but that it’s just one element that inspired him to film in the area.
“I’ve had a house in the area for over 10 years. I enjoy filming here because it’s really film-friendly. If you’re going from one location to another, you’re not going to be stuck in so much New York traffic. People are very happy to have us film here. They consider it to be a novelty and not an inconvenience,” DeMeo said.
For Petz, who grew up in the region, having the chance to be part of a movie is something she never imagined could be possible.
“I never imagined in my entire career that I would be shooting on a movie set, meeting celebrities and shaking hands with them. I lived in California for a while. I lived in Philadelphia. Chicago. I’ve done photo shoots in big cities like New York. Last November, I got to go to Ireland and do a photo shoot for my friend’s jewelry company. I traveled the world, but I’m here in my home of Northeastern Pennsylvania doing photography on the set of a movie. It’s fantastic to know that I don’t have to travel away from my family and friends to make my dreams come true,” Petz said.
Shuffling the deck
Mount Airy had a movie film on location at its establishment, while Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Township was preparing for its annual tribute band concert series.
“The casino shuffled the deck,” said Mitch Kornfeld from The Woodlands.
Though Mohegan Sun Pocono opened in 2006, it took a few years for its entertainment value to flourish, according to President Mike Bean.
“Our entertainment really started to pick up speed in 2008, when we opened our brand new, full-scale casino that now has 14 bars and restaurants, including Breakers and Bar Louie, where we have live bands on weekends. The new facility was designed to provide a great entertainment experience. Both Breakers and Bar Louie have raised stages that are viewable from any part of the venue,” Bean said.
In 2013, Mohegan Sun Pocono completed and opened a hotel and events center where concerts are held, hosting celebrities such as Jay Leno, Darrell Hammond, Kevin Bacon and Josh Turner.
“We have had over 40 concerts in our events center since it opened. At Ruth’s Chris, our gourmet steakhouse, we have live entertainment Tuesday through Saturday. The Terrace, off of the hotel lobby, has summer entertainment on the weekends starting on May 22. The Terrace has a great fire pit and is a really nice place to go for a drink and relax with friends,” Bean said.
Now through September 3, the casino is hosting its annual Party on the Patio, a 15-week tribute band concert series; including tributes to AC/DC, Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney and Aerosmith.
“There really isn’t any other place you can go where you can valet park for free, then go enjoy your favorite music performed by great tribute bands in an awesome outdoor setting with great people all around,” Bean said.
Northeastern Pennsylvania is quickly becoming a more vibrant entertainment destination, Bean said, and Mohegan Sun Pocono is “glad to be one of many great venues” riding the wave into the future.