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September 1, 2014

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No lingering ‘Hangover’ headache

Special features allow viewers to create their own wild night on the town in Las Vegas

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Leila Navidi

Gamblers play the Hangover-themed slot machines at Caesar’s Palace

The Hangover

Hangover merchandise for sale at Caesars Palace. Launch slideshow »

The Hangover DVD Release Party @Pure

Heather Graham at The Hangover DVD release party at Pure in Caesars Palace on Dec. 10, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Sometimes Vegas is too Vegas.

But sometimes even Vegas is not Vegas enough for Hollywood.

And sometimes fake Vegas is the best thing for real Vegas.

Last week's DVD release of "The Hangover" makes all three points. The hit movie's tale of a Las Vegas bachelor party gone wrong puts Caesars Palace and other area landmarks center stage. The movie proved to be a marketing bonanza for Caesars and reminded Southern Nevadans of the ways the rest of the world views Las Vegas. The DVD takes it all one more step.

Its special features allow people to recreate a night they'll never remember. A "Map of Destruction" allows people to map out their own night of mayhem.

Check into a suite at Caesars. Have dinner at the Palms. Play craps at the Bellagio. Go support the local strippers and the next morning, head over to the Riviera to win back all losses with a few hands of blackjack.

The map allows viewers to click on the casinos and fictional Vegas hot spots and watch or listen to corresponding scenes. Some properties are featured more extensively than others, such as Caesars and the Riviera, where "The Hangover" cast and crew shot on-site.

The DVD does even more for the casinos. It prominently features the properties, giving companies the chance to extend their brands to potentially millions of buyers, at no cost to them.

When a viewer scrolls over the map and clicks on Caesars, for example, the soundtrack offers various praise for the property.

"Let's really shoot in the lobby of Caesars Palace, let's really walk down the hallway or go down the elevators that are really at Caesars," the film's director Todd Philips says. "That adds something to the audience's experience of seeing the movie."

"When we walked into the lobby, Todd just said, 'This is perfect for us,' " producer Dan Goldberg says. "We approached Caesars (executives) and they totally got it. Once they said yes, they put the entire Caesars staff on our side. Whatever we wanted, we could have."

From the day the movie hit the theaters, Caesars reaped its benefits. Bonnie Gilmour, Caesars' vice president of marketing, said in July that the resort's reservation desk immediately received calls from people who wanted to book the suite seen in the movie.

"We had to train our call center on how to handle the incoming calls and figure out how we were going to play it," Gilmour said. "We were a little surprised on how quickly the response came in."

Emperors Suite at Caesars Palace

The Caesars Palace suite that inspired the set for the movie Launch slideshow »

The first step was branding a suite that didn't really exist. "The Villa" abused by the movie's bachelors was actually a soundstage inspired by elements from several suites at Caesars. Producers chose most of the set elements from Caesars' Emperors Suite.

That suite is covered in marble and filled with flat screen TVs, just like the movie. The floor-to-ceiling windows seen as the actors enter the suite and gaze out at a panorama of the Strip are right out of the Emperors Suite.

So, when guests call and want to book "The Villa," they are offered the Emperors Suite. It costs $2,500 to $4,200 a night, though, and don't expect to skip out on any damages, either.

The suite went through a previous wave of popularity, by the way. Its nickname used to be the "Rain Man" suite because it was featured in the 1988 Oscar-winning movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.

"Rain Man" was more critically acclaimed, but "The Hangover" gives more screen time to Caesars, so the resort has been able to do more to capitalize on it. It introduced "Hangover" slots exclusive to Caesars with video from the movie a few weeks ago, and has for months been selling merchandise in the resort shops and featuring behind-the-scenes interviews as in-room videos.

The resort also held the official press junkets before the theatrical and DVD releases and the official DVD launch party this month with the cast members Justin Bartha and Heather Graham.

Debbie Munch, Harrah's Entertainment vice president of public relations for Las Vegas, has been working with production crews at Caesars since 1983. Harrah's Entertainment owns Caesars.

She compared the success of "The Hangover" to Caesars' role in "Rain Man."

"It's been really gratifying seeing people check into the hotel and ask, 'Did the real Caesar live here?' " Munch said, referring to one of the lines in "The Hangover." "We see that the entertainment experience that guests had when watching the film translates into their resort experience."

Munch said the movie has piqued so much visitor curiosity that the resort will soon be offering walking tours for guests to see the location shots around the property.

At least one aspect of the movie may not project such a great image, though. Metro Police have gotten more publicity than they would like for officers shooting and shocking people with Tasers, and one of the characters in "The Hangover" is "Officer Franklin" who gets his kicks by using his Taser on tourists.

He has his own special feature on the DVD, and after flashing what appears to be a Metro Police logo, Franklin, in uniform, talks about why he really shouldn't be in law enforcement.

Amanda Finnegan can be reached at 259-8825 or at [email protected].

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