Hanging By A Thread – Sin City’s Huge Entertainment Dilemma


Fuerza Bruta’s shocking failure suggests a troubling future for large-scale productions….

Several years ago I penned a two-parter for Vegas Chatter entitled “Four Walls and a Dream”. In it I explored the difficulties involved in launching a new show in today’s corporation-run Vegas. Gone are the days when casinos supported their own entertainment. It’s up to productions themselves to “pay the rent” via an arrangement known as four-walling. And that quite simply is why most new shows are gone before you’ve ever even heard of them.

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That article was inspired by Jeff Civillico, a dynamic young entertainer whose star was already on the rise. His “Comedy In Action” afternoon show at Linq Hotel (then known somewhat absurdly as The Quad) was working hard to make a name for itself. Yet the resort where he rented showroom space had little interest in helping “Comedy In Action” to succeed.

Civillico was on the hook not only for the room and production costs, but also for supplying the advertising materials to display around the property. Yet Jeff had little control over where they’d be displayed….if at all. I’m not sure if he ever worked out his issues with parent company Caesars Entertainment, but Comedy in Action still performs once a week at Paris Hotel Casino.

I learned a lot about the current state of Vegas entertainment while researching that piece. There was plenty of response from performers, producers, directors and public relations people when it ran, too. But after the shocking announcement that Fuerza Bruta would be shuttering only four weeks into a six-month stint, I realized two valuable facts:

  1.  There is no magic formula to ensure that a show will be a hit.
  2.  The current state of Vegas entertainment is more volatile than ever before.

If you haven’t heard of Fuerza Bruta, then congratulations. I’ll pretend to make a check-mark in the air and we can continue on down the list. But first, allow me to say that less than one week ago in my rave review for Fuerza Bruta for BestOfVegas.com, I called it a “Sin City game changer”. I also inaccurately claimed that it was “poised to redefine entertainment on the Strip”. Oh, my… (click HERE to read the original review)

 

 

Just after I’d sent the piece off to the editor, I received an email from Fuerza Bruta’s public relations firm regarding the Vegas run.

FUERZA BRUTA will perform its final show at Excalibur Hotel & Casino on Sunday, April 7, 2019. The acclaimed production, which has been seen by more than six million spectators in more than 34 countries and 58 cities since its launch in 2003, will continue to impress audiences from around the world as it prepares to make the move from Las Vegas to MGM Cotai in Macau in June 2019.
Tickets for the remaining Las Vegas performances of FUERZA BRUTA are now on sale and available at any MGM Resorts International box office, online at Excalibur.com or by calling (702) 597-7600. Refunds for tickets purchased for shows at Excalibur after April 7 will be available at the point of purchase.

It took awhile for the shock of this announcement to subside. I could have been embarrassed that I’d been so far off in my predictions. Instead I was angry that the so-called “City of Entertainment” had chewed up and spit out yet another piece of great entertainment.

 

 

All but one of my friends who had seen the show were absolutely dazzled by the balls-to-the-walls audacity of it. During three separate viewings, I’d stood alongside (and chatted afterwards with) cast members from shows like Chippendales, Le Reve, Zumanity and Donny & Marie. They’d come as I had to see if the enthusiastic pre-opening buzz was deserved. And every one of them was delirious, if not downright envious, of the incredible visuals and creative sequences that Fuerza Bruta was able to pull off inside a tent erected on a parking lot.

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That positive word-of-mouth alone should have been enough to bolster tickets sales. If performers from some of the top shows in Vegas loved it, then it was a must-see, right? Not so fast. Depending on who you ask, it turns out that paid tickets for the show were averaging 50-80 sales per performance with the rest comped (freebies). But if all of those people love it, then they’ll recommend it to friends and attendance will build, right? Well, that would take time….which the powers that be weren’t about to grant.

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Fuerza Bruta was located just outside of Excalibur, which is owned by MGM Resorts. MGM runs nearly half of the major resorts on the Strip. So why weren’t they supplying the capital to help fund operations and allow for attendance of this remarkable show to grow? Four-walling, of course! If Fuerza Bruta failed, all Excalibur would have to do is pull down the advertisements and sweep away any remaining evidence of where the tent had been.

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Realizing that readers and friends who’d planned on seeing the show would never get that opportunity to do so made me angry. I took to social media to vent my frustrations. “What the Hell is wrong with Vegas? Nothing worthwhile stands a chance anymore!”

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Well, thank goodness for the reach of Facebook and Twitter, because my steam-valve post brought out lots of sensible responses from performers in and around the Strip. Mike Hammer of Mike Hammer Comedy Magic at Four Queens was the first to chime in:

You can blame it on this city all you want but they didn’t understand the fundamentals of running a show in this town. It comes down to poor marketing strategy. First of all the show has a name that is not memorable. I live here and can’t even pronounce the name. No way most people from the Midwest are even going to know what the show is. Also, it’s pretty hard to sell a show when you can’t even describe it. Everyone I know that has seen it, including has never described it in one sentence. They didn’t even leave enough time to build up a buzz.

Bad timing of when they opened too. Slower time of the year with March madness and spring break. Again, this a producers decision. They weren’t even selling 50 tickets so how can you blame it on this city?

Again, people that don’t get the VEGAS market. If they didn’t plan enough money to survive six months of marketing, they just were not ready. I wish the best of luck elsewhere where they know what they’re doing. I love VEGAS and it’s been a home to me for 16 years. I’ve seen shows come and go and most of the time it’s the producers or management fault.

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Enoch Augustus Scott, host of long-running hit Zombie Burlesque at Planet Hollywood’s V Theater also took exception to my finger-pointing at Vegas:

There are a million possible reasons besides fat Americans to account for this. Injury. Bad accounting. Or it could be the standing up. People stand and walk around Las Vegas all day along. Sometimes the only chance they get to sit is dinner or a show. Also the Las Vegas show demo skews older. Also people from all over the world come to Vegas. Cirque has been able to grow as big as they are by catering to and attracting an international market base. So you really can’t blame fat Americans on a show not running. Clearly the producers did not understand the landscape or have enough capital to go the 6 months. Happens all the time. Producers come here with a hope and dream and without a business plan or the necessary investment to run a show long enough for it to become a success. It is poor craftsman who blames his tools and even poorer performer who blames his audience. Literally.

While I agree on much of what Enoch says, he also had added “It was always meant to be a limited run. Calm down everybody.” Correct, but that limited run was for six months with the hope of an extension. Four weeks was clearly a failure with deeper implications.

 

See, that’s the problem with having so many choices in one city. Without brand recognition, a famous headliner or a simple-to-explain concept, your middle-American Vegas visitors just won’t make the time for it. Hence we’re inundated with magic shows, impersonators, topless revues and lots of “Circus Day Solay”.

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It’s interesting to note that Fuerza Bruta played in New York City from 2007 through 2016. That’s over 3,000 performances! But we’re talking about an entirely different demographic over there. Visitors to NYC book their tickets to Broadway hits months…and sometimes a year or more…in advance. They’re also a more sophisticated crowd that makes Broadway entertainment part of an elegant evening that includes fine dining while wearing tasteful and carefully-selected outfits.

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But in Las Vegas we’ve got 1) no backing from the host hotels, 2) no opportunity to build brand awareness….and 3) a group of visitors not exactly looking for high art to go along with their yard-long daiquiris.

I went poking around other social media outlets to see how people were reacting to the news of Fuerza Bruta’s sudden shuttering. Always-reliable VitalVegas.com had quickly published an article announcing the closure, and it was a comment from reader ExVegasLocal that caught my eye:

I was “this close” to buying tickets to see Fuerza Bruta for an upcoming trip. It looked like a really cool show, but I was on the fence because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be jostled in a crowd from one side of the room to the other for an hour. In the end, I decided not to bite.

No matter what Vegas thinks about itself, it’s not really that forward thinking/avant garde. Neither are its visitors. Hence the constant replication of one thing that works until it’s completely overdone. Another Cirque show/night club with one syllable name/shopping arcade in front of a hotel/pool party/CVS pharmacy anyone? Now that’s more like it.

Vin A., one of The Bronx Wanderers, had a humorous reaction to my post:

Well THAT was obnoxiously fast 😢 i didn’t even get to see the freaking thing! Wtf? Need a low low overhead to survive out here. Why all the one man shows live on forever and a few small cast things barely squeak by. It’s tough as hell out here.

Raja Rahman of the musical magic duo Jarrett and Raja added his own thoughts to the situation:

It’s never about the quality of the show. It’s the $$$ behind it. Ugh. The cycle continues. After our experience, I’m convinced this business model is crap. Any business needs time to ramp up.

“Our experience” no doubt refers to the troubles Jarrett and Raja encountered at various showrooms throughout the city. They’ve had to deal with four-wall scenarios and abrupt closures at downtown’s Plaza Hotel, Hooters Casino and Stratosphere. Even though these gentlemen are residents of Las Vegas, they often find it sensible and more lucrative just to take their talents on the road.

Actually, it’s a pretty common thing for Vegas shows to go on tours. And often they never return. A few years ago I shadowed a production as it searched for a suitable venue on the Strip. After months of meetings and hassles, they decided on a major casino with a troubled showroom history. Sadly, their production would just be another casualty in a long list at the historic south-Strip hotel.

An opening date was chosen, tickets were sold, sets were constructed and advertisements went up throughout the casino and outside. But after being frustrated by resistance and lack of support from the hotel’s regime, the producers abruptly decided to throw up their hands, walk out the door and take the show on the road without doing a Vegas residency.

It makes no sense. It’s like they don’t want you here. Why should I put up money and then fight with the people who I’m paying rent to? After all that, if I’m lucky I’ll sell two hundred tickets a night in Las Vegas. We could take this show to other places where entertainment like this isn’t available and sell out two THOUSAND seats a night. And those places roll out the red carpet for us.

And that’s exactly what he did. A show designed for the Vegas Strip had to leave the city to survive. As for the showroom in question? It still remains unused two years later.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but greed always puts short-term profit ahead of long-term goals. Let’s use BAZ as an example. That innovative musical was brought to Mandalay Bay from Los Angeles by none other than Cirque du Soleil. The launch occurred during an awkward time frame in which ownership and business models at Cirque were being radically altered. Cirque abandoned BAZ in no time and without their support it closed after only six weeks.

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      BAZ was the perfect blend of sass, class and contemporary pop culture…

That’s when the Sands Corporation stepped in. Recognizing the many benefits of having a fantastic and unusual show on their property, they forked over the money to retro-fit the Palazzo Theater and supported BAZ’s run for two years. BAZ was never going to be a huge hit, but it was a prestigious project that brought a great deal of class and pride to the Venetian/Palazzo family.

So on one side we’ve got performers stating from personal experience that the four-wall business model doesn’t work. And on the other we’ve got these huge corporations that just don’t care. Working within the confines of the current system, what can be done to help a show succeed?

Well, if there was an answer to that, then at least a few of the dozens of shows that died in 2017 and 2018 might still be around. And that theoretical answer still wouldn’t apply to an existing property like Fuerza Bruta. So should it have been the responsibility of the PR firm to suggest “Hey, your show isn’t going to work here without a bit of overhaul”? Unlikely….they’re a third-party agency being hired by the show to spread awareness and buzz….nothing more. And who tells their boss on the first day that people might not even want their product?

Besides, public relations firms work mostly within the industry, reaching out to people like yours truly and much larger outlets such as TV networks, magazines and newspapers. They can tailor an existing ad campaign to make it Vegas-centric, but a risky top-to-bottom re-do for one stop of a tour? Not gonna happen…and we’ve already decided that there’s no magic formula for success, so why even try to change what’s worked everywhere else on the planet?

Should the PR firm have at least suggested a name revision for the show? Again, that would have understandably been met with resistance from a product that’s already a worldwide brand. And yet, a temporary re-naming to “Fuerza Bruta – Brute Force” might have eliminated some confusion and put a few more arses in those non-existent seats. Even the wise folks at Wynn eventually decided after several years to officially change the name of  Le Reve to “Le Reve – The Dream”. Because, you know, French is hard!

So just how much is in a name? Maybe the folks at the Strat should be asking that question right about now. No doubt they are sweating, because their delayed-delayed-delayed tent show Celestia, which was supposed to open on January 30th, is suddenly looking at an even more troubled future.

Celestia, now set for a May 1st debut (even though tickets are still not up for sale), may have an edge over Fuerza Bruta simply because it’s a show created specifically for Vegas. But we can justifiably counteract that advantage with the simple fact that it’s way at the troubled north end of the Strip and not the heavily-traveled Excalibur/MGM Grand/Tropicana/New York NY intersection where F.B. failed.

Celestia can also boast having some Cirque du Soleil DNA in its genes….and a few years ago that might have mattered. But now it’s time to recognize something really scary: Cirque du Soleil is facing genuine trouble here in Las Vegas. I’ve been told by people behind the scenes that MGM Resorts is quietly preparing to shut down all of their Cirque shows by the end of 2020.

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                             It’s my blog, I’ll be dramatic if I want to be…

While that might sound like absurd conjecture, there is plenty of evidence to back this rumor up. For one, huge productions like KA, ZUMANITY and Beatles LOVE are now advertising on Groupon. Yes, Groupon…the place where you go to buy discount Botox treatments and personalized make-up bags.

In my Vegas Chatter days, Groupon was a clear indicator that a Vegas attraction was struggling badly and would soon be gone. If you don’t believe me try to visit Eli Roth’s GORETORIUM. That’s not always the case anymore, but with must-see shows like LOVE, it’s an embarrassing way to put butts in seats.

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Hundreds of empty seats during a Friday performance of Cirque’s “Beatles LOVE” 

I recently attended a Friday-night performance of LOVE and was shocked that the massive auditorium was perhaps 40 percent filled. Hundreds upon hundreds of empty seats. And that’s apparently been the case for most of the Cirque shows for awhile now.

Vital Vegas stated in May of last year that Cirque’s 2017 capacity had been running at around 50 percent. With the removal of free parking to Nevada residents and a continued drop in tourism, that number would look even bleaker in the first quarter of 2019.

MGM Resorts numbers bear out rumors Cirque shows running at 50-60% capacity in Vegas: 3.6 million Cirque tickets sold in 2017, 9,890/week avg. per show. At 10 shows per week, that’s 989 sold with avg. capacity of 1,700.

Vital Vegas was also one of the first to report that Cirque Vegas was undergoing huge layoffs behind the scenes as part of a massive cost-cutting measure:

As they say in show business, “Holy crap!” Cirque du Soleil has reportedly informed all their Las Vegas shows (excluding “Mystere”) all department heads (lighting, sound, wardrobe, etc.) will be let go Apr. 17.

7:19 PM – 23 Mar 2019

He followed that up with an even more troubling tweet:

Hearing at least one well-known Cirque variety act was spotted auditioning at another (non-Cirque) show in town, presumably due to safety concerns related to Cirque layoffs.

12:48 PM – 31 Mar 2019

So, department heads have been axed, individual shows are being consolidated under one umbrella and performers are supposedly jumping ship to save their own skins. Does that sound like Cirque du Soleil will be around much longer to you?

In November I visited the Vegas Cirque du Soleil headquarters for a profile on Kim Scott, their Senior Manager of Sourcing and Partnerships. In her twelve years with the company, Scott had spearheaded shows like KA, Beatles LOVE and Criss Angel Believe.

During the interview, Kim had proudly spoken about being “responsible for maintaining our position in the industry as a leader in live entertainment safety standards, and position(ing) Cirque du Soleil as an employer of choice.” Yet one week after the article was published, Ms. Scott notified me that she was leaving Cirque to start her own consulting firm. I was astonished…and a little concerned.

Scott had also mentioned at the time that Cirque was busy creating a new show for Luxor in the theater vacated by Criss Angel’s Mindfreak. Raise your hand if you’ve heard anything about that one….I certainly haven’t.

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          Wanna go gaga over Gaga? It’ll set you back about a grand….

If a major brand like Cirque is struggling, new shows can’t afford to open and dozens of existing productions have disappeared, what will the future of Las Vegas entertainment look like? I have three answers: pricey headliner residencies, sports teams and celebrity DJ’s.

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       This….person…was just hired by Palms Resort to the tune of $60 million…

I don’t think anyone’s unaware of the Golden Knights or the new Raiders stadium. And who isn’t buzzing about Lady Gaga‘s two new shows at Park MGM Theater? Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Aerosmith and more are settling in for extended gigs. Throw in Marshmello/Calvin Harris and their ilk for the club kids and that’ll probably cover nearly every major kind of entertainment in the city.

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           1.8 billion dollars is the projected cost of the new Raiders stadium…

Oh, those little one-man shows will probably survive. And the strippers most likely will never run out of poles to swing from. But for productions shows, you’ll just have to head Downtown to the Smith Center. That venue for the performing arts will continue to host nationwide touring productions for short-term runs. Las Vegas will just be another stop on the schedule…no longer unique.

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               “Closed. Refunds will be available at the point of purchase.”

 

Clips and photos by Sam Novak. Except for a few from…wherever….

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Sam Novak

Fitness buff, outspoken critic/blogger. Enjoys writing about shows, restaurants, events and performers in Las Vegas. Staff writer for BestOfVegas.com. Former contributing editor for VegasChatter and former deputy editor for VegasBright...

13 thoughts on “Hanging By A Thread – Sin City’s Huge Entertainment Dilemma”

  1. About two months ago, Cirque announced a deal to acquire The Works Entertainment, who has a number of magic shows touring the globe under “The Illusionists” banner, a licensed deal with Lionsgate for a touring “Now You See Me Live” show, and were the ones behind Circus 1903, which had a brief Vegas run a few years ago after a pretty successful national tour (I was out there in October 2017 and the guy that portrayed the ringmaster in the show made an appearance at Mac King’s 1PM in costume to promote the show.). They currently have “The Naked Magicians” over at MGM Grand. But much like with the deal in which CdS bought the Blue Man Group, The Works will be run as a subsidiary company. So maybe we’ll see some of their magic shows or one of their CdS style shows (Although based on the hype videos for them, they have acts in which variations of are currently seen in Vegas at shows like Absinthe, Opium, and V-The Ultimate Variety Show.).

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  2. I have been here 10 years and, as a performer, I would rather punch myself in the face multiple times than try to have a show on the strip. I did it once early one for 3 months at a restaurant on the strip and they treated us like an inconvenience. If a place like that doesn’t care about entertainment pulling in more business, what hope does one have at a corporate run casino?

    I have been saying one of the reasons for our homogenization is the lack of competition. There was a time when casinos tried to “one-up” each other by getting better entertainment than the other guys. Now it’s all owned by the same people and all shows feed the same machine. It’s not just Vegas, but it’s more noticeable here because of the amount of entertainment we have/had. Mix that with all of the nickel and dime-ing of parking and resort fees and the fact the suit monkeys refuse to blame themselves for their bad decisions and well… welcome to Thunderdome.

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  3. It’s the down season in Vegas. I’m a performer at Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque Du Soleil, and our seats have been at about 75%-95% full every show. This is a doom and gloom article, only focusing on the negatives right now. Fueza Brueta is a beautiful show, but picked the absolute worst time to come to Vegas. Should have waited until late Spring or Summer where every show is packed. No worries, Cirque is doing fine. Sales are UP in many of the shows, especially “O” and “MJ ONE”.

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    1. While you may find my article to be “doom and gloom”, I might suggest that your response seems overly cheery. I find it rather surprising that a show built around an embattled celebrity (prompting a very recent petition calling for its closure and backed by over ten thousand signatures) residing in a hotel that suffered huge layoffs after the mass shooting, and whose department heads are going to be laid off this month, is doing “fine”.

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  4. My wife and I were in Vegas in February for the KISS End of the Road Tour and stayed at Excalibur. We noticed the tent in the parking lot, but didn’t see anything about what was going in it. Other than an advertisement on the walls across from the Buffet at Excalibur, I still didn’t know what the show was about. I later had to turn to the Internet to find out what the tent show was going to be. So, I do agree that the production did not get much help from the Casino. I also think this is a slow time to open a new production too. But if the future entertainment choices is going to be DJs at clubs, residences and sports teams that does not impress me much. We would have liked to have gone to a GK game while in Vegas but the tickets were outrageous for nose bleed seats. We also did not like the parking fees imposed by MGM. Gone are the days of eating cheap in Vegas and great shows like EFX! When we were there in 2015 we went to see Jubilee. The show had some many empty seats they told us to move in closer in the theater. Now the last true Vegas Showgirls show is gone too. Luxor looks pathetic with the Esports logo pasted on its pyramid too.

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  5. I agree with the article and the comments that Lance makes over on Screamscape. Cover bands go through the same problem, where they will play a venue, and get no help in terms of marketing. The owner of the club expects the band to bring 50 people to the show. Yes, bands have FB pages, but the competition is so much, that no one sticks out. I’m in a band, and we go through the same thing in terms of playing empty rooms because the club owner didn’t market the band. Every hotel has a show, and marketing it is expensive, the band or show can’t afford to do a marketing campaign. Just look at the major shows in Vegas, the entire side of a hotel will have the name of the show as marketing. They’ll have billboards up, signs in the airport, cabs, buses.

    I haven’t been back to Vegas since 2010. I used to stop in on the way to California when riding roller coasters. Now I don’t even bother. Why? All the reasons that Lance talks about. Slots are tight, hotels have resort and parking fees, buffets are not cheap. I can do everything in Vegas at the local Hard Rock casino, just that I don’t get free booze when gambling. I don’t even bother going to the local casinos because those slots are also tight. Spin, Spin, Spin, nothing. Spin, Spin, Spin, nothing. Why did I just do that? I don’t even bother going to hang our or eat, I find other places to go.

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  6. The owners of the strip hotels seem to be digging themselves a hole. I frequented a national organization’s convention that had been in Vegas since 1975 it took all the convention space at Bally’s and Paris for 4 days with most goers staying 5-7 at those two hotels. But when it came time for the most recent contract renewal all they cared about was raising the price through the roof and with no real competition provided by the other hotels the convention moved on. So for the first time in 43 years the convention was held in another major city who’s downtown hotels and merchants rolled out the red carpet to welcome us.

    As far as the shows go, I am not a gambler and would much rather have gone to more shows when we were in Vegas but the cost for even the cheap seats was so high it was unaffordable.

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  7. In my recent trip to Vegas, I saw David Copperfield and enjoyed it quite a lot. I’m burnt out of the Cirque residence show and seen them all at least once. I saw “Love” a few years back and was totally disappointed. This show had major problems like uneven pacing and poor music selection. The acts were not impressive since it was more dancing than acrobatics. The supposed highlight was the guy on the swing that went full 360 degrees. It seems a bit expensive for that. In contrast, the Cirque touring shows have bigger bang for the buck. That’s the main problem. Stop charging so much for half realized circus shows. All residency shows must max out below $100.
    I saw Le Reve 3 times because I loved it, but it has grown tired. They replaced the acrobatics for more dancing too. The sureal staging and weird comics were removed.
    So it should be clear that some casinos like Wynn is willing to pay for quality productions, but MGM isn’t. Frankly, I don’t know what’s the fix. Follies Bergere lasted 30 years, but you cannot have showgirls today. They’re boring if you can’t see their boobs. And who’s enjoying their dancing? Not the men.
    Let the casinos solve their own problems of empty showrooms. I have no problem keeping my money in my pocket. The market is just different today. People enjoy watching shows on their phones. Shows are more distracting. Perhaps a new entertainment medium needs to be developed just for Vegas. Instead of seeing passive lackluster $130 show, spend $150 on a immersive experience with a professional celebrity chef. Disney has no problem selling this at their festivals in Orlando. Make your own beer or wine. How about actually learning magic tricks from a real magician and be his assistant without being the butt of his jokes (like I was a long time ago).

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    1. Thanks for your response, GQ. Although I’m a fan of LOVE, I agreed with plenty of your points. Since FUERZA BRUTA was such an immersive and unique experience, I thought for sure that it would catch on. If you watched any of the clips I included in my article, people were really into it. I recently wrote a piece on the POLICE CHASE LV attraction, another immersive experience that’s new in town. Not expecting very much, I was blindsided by how invigorating and exciting it was. Combine that with all of the “escape room” attractions, my piece on PAMPERED CHEFS who come into your home for cooking parties and the new zip line at The Linq, it’s clear that people are indeed looking for more participation in their entertainment. It just has to be marketed right and at a price point that makes sense for everyone involved.

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  8. All good points. Not mentioned is making a new show succeed in Vegas has even more difficulty in breaking even when half-price outlets are taking a huge cut of the pie. Visitors believe they are getting a deal by buying tickets at these outlets, but the price has to be doubled from the norm just to make up for the so-called “discount”. Without a supportive hotel environment to help make their shows and entertainment a reason for guests to set foot in their property, it will not be possible for the shows to succeed or get traction. The resorts are now just malls leasing their space to everyone. And we all see what’s happened to the malls. Stop the backwards approach from just revenue stream to elevating the guest experience. In the end, that’s what made Vegas different…and made Vegas $$$.

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  9. Count me among those who is not impressed by how Vegas has evolved. I’ll stop short of predicting the death of Vegas, but it was clear to me some years ago that Vegas will never be the same because, for better or worse, gamblers need not wait until they can make that magical trip to Sin City once or twice per year. Vegas has so much to offer, but Vegas now competes with many states across the country for that discretionary spending, and plenty of people get their fix elsewhere, despite the fact a state or tribal casino is usually its own little bubble.

    Vegas brings in big names and major attractions, but much of it is not cheap. That’s OK, I don’t expect a Cadillac at Kia pricing, but as noted, the cost of everything is discouraging. If I’m going to spend a lot of money to go on vacation, and budget $100 for a show ticket, am I going to want to see a known commodity, or hope the quirky show I’m not too familiar with lives up to the Yelp reviews?

    There’s no one fix, and no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. There will always be a young crop of Vegas virgins who don’t know any better, and will want to enjoy the adult playground at just about any price.

    Plenty of people have reported they don’t do Vegas as much as they use to, and not because they’re suddenly poor. I haven’t reached that point yet, but the way things have been going the past 10 years, perhaps I won’t be coming around as often 10 years from now. But Vegas doesn’t need me, anyway. They need to keep bringing in young money, and lots of it.

    Your analysis of the Vegas entertainment industry was quite insightful, Sam.

    Change is inevitable. But it’s not always for the better.

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  10. In 2016 I sadly left Cirque as a department head. Cirque was my dream job and after opening and working on three massive shows in Vegas I am very proud of my 11 year Vegas/Cirque career, I’m also lucky and thankful to have been there during the height of growth.

    Almost every point in this article is true, and it is a combination of all of the above. Audiences have changed (both budgets and tastes) and casino owners have definitely adjusted their priorities. The recession was the trigger, and once audiences came back they simply weren’t going to spend the cash. There also were (and still are) too many shows? Cirque (as a company) is primarily a show creator and never (or very slowly) pivoted once the recession hit. MGM couldn’t help with the debt of City Center and its been a partnership of decline ever since. Together the companies tried to survive, but in this business you have to innovate or audiences lose interest.

    I have dozens of very close friends (family is a better term) that have lost their job at Cirque this past week and I am just immensely sad to watch the institution I love slowly decline.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but being owned by an investment group isn’t it. Cirque needs vision and capital to match – along with a health seminar in supply and demand. How about 5 totally brand new shows instead of the 8 old ones?

    Like

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