LOS ANGELES: Fans of NBC's The Office will descend upon Scranton, PA, for a weekend of activities, thanks to a grassroots effort by the citizens of the former coal-mining town-turned Dunderhead hot spot.
“The Office Convention,” to be held Oct. 26-28, is “a good opportunity for the show itself to get attention,” said Tim Holmes, event co-organizer and director of the community newspaper group at Scranton-based Times Shamrock Communications. But it will also “show producers of the show, NBC, and the rest of the country that Scranton loves The Office – [and] that it's innately tied to the show,” he said.
Though shot in Los Angeles, the comedy's opening credits and plotlines often feature references to Scranton, the location of fictitious Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. So frequent are visits by Office enthusiasts – “Dunderheads” -- the Lackawanna County Convention & Visitors Bureau offers an Office tour of series-connected landmarks.
Since May, the convention steering committee – which includes area business leaders and representatives from the visitors' bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and University of Scranton -- coordinated local hotels, restaurants, and shopping spots to assist in the weekend's events, said Sara Hailstone, executive director at Scranton's Office of Economic and Community Development.
Hailstone said, the event also allows the city to “highlight the things we are so proud of, not just on The Office.”
Scranton was “once the butt of people's jokes,” Hailstone explained. In the past few years, however, a major revitalization effort “has pushed the city forward,” she said.
“It's huge for the city,” agreed Randy Williams, station manager at Scranton's NBC affiliate, WBRE.
To promote “The Office Convention,” the station ran on-air promos, and featured information on its Web site, theofficeconvention.com, Williams said.
WBRE also spearheaded a campaign to get weatherman Al Roker to broadcast segments of NBC's the Today show live from the University of Scranton, as a convention kick-off.
In addition, the steering committee worked closely with the network itself, to secure Office episodes for free public screenings, and official merchandise for sale. The network helped line up series cast members, writers, and producers, to participate in fan-focused activities including a cocktail reception, Q&A session, an Office Olympics, and city-wide street fair.
Other PR components include extensive outreach to TV blogs, national newspapers, and NBC affiliate stations. Thousands of “The Office Convention” tickets have been sold, at $25-$250 a pop. The Scranton Times-Tribune, reported more than $54,000 in ticket sales within the first hour.