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September 14, 2014

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Mark Shunock’s interest in running a theater is no act

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The Act Nightclub at Palazzo.

The Act @ Palazzo

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Katie Morgan, with “Rock of Ages” star Mark Shunock, hosts “Pussy Galore,” a benefit for the no-kill animal shelter Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, at The Act in Palazzo on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013.

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The Act Nightclub at Palazzo.

Only in the nightclub industry do you hear this description of a potential multimillion-dollar transaction:

“We had a couple of people making serious offers, but you’re not taking offers when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re on the dance floor.”

So says Sean Dunn, the outgoing special events manager of the Act at Palazzo, who learned at 9:30 p.m. Saturday that the club would be closing after that night’s business.

In the following hours as word of the club’s imminent closing seeped around town, suitors began lining up, including one Mark Shunock.

Yep, Lonny wants to run a club that is not the Bourbon Room.

So how does the mullet-wigged, trou-dropping emcee of “Rock of Ages” figure to become a venue operator on the Strip? Shunock possesses vision, passion, a strategy and an existing relationship with the hotel, as “Rock of Ages” plays just down the escalators and hall from the Act in the Venetian.

Shunock describes an entertainment-business model in which he would produce and promote a variety of shows in that space, similar to how David Saxe has juggled as many as a dozen shows at V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood. The obvious difference is the Act space is but a single venue, but the model — staging many shows per week — could easily work in that room.

“I’ve already talked to friends of mine in town who have shows, and they love the idea, the whole concept,” says Shunock, who has contacted Venetian/Palazzo officials and is one of the city’s more network-savvy entertainers. “We could get some really cool shows in there.”

But what about money? Shunock says he has that, too. He notes two wealthy investors who could easily underwrite the type of financial outlay required to take over the Act. And Shunock’s brother, Michael, knows how to assemble an investment group: He’s an analyst for Ontario hedge-fund company Polar Securities.

“I do know a couple of people who are at the financial level we all wish we could be at, and I contacted them right away. I have always wanted to run a theater, and my brain is saying, ‘Now, here’s a $14 million vaudeville-style space that’s only been used three nights a week. If someone could get in there nightly, there is some money to be made there,’ ” Shunock said in a phone interview Monday. “It could be a win-win there if I change the concept and turn it into a theater venue instead of a nightclub. It’s a killer space.”

At the moment, the lease for the space is held by the Act’s parent company, VV Ventures, which is in possession of a 10-year lease with nine years remaining (including two five-year renewal options) on an entertainment space in a major Strip resort that cost $14 million to build. One educated estimate is that anyone interested in buying out that lease could have it for about half that price, pitching in $200,000 in renovations to turn it into a proper theater.

Shunock would likely be more nimble in making such a deal because he has a kind of home-court advantage. He knows the hotel executives and could efficiently communicate with the resort’s box-office team and PR reps. Shunock was already working with hotel and Act officials for his “Mondays Dark” charity show, which was to open its monthly series on Monday. Shunock has moved the show to Nov. 18 (it’s always set for the third Monday of the month) at a site to be determined.

“This show was tailored around the Act,” he said. “We wanted to cut from the main stage to a really cool aerial performer, and that was specifically for the club. I don’t want to do anything half-assed, and now we have some time and I am looking at some really cool venue options.”

It could well be that the first “Mondays Dark” show will be outside the Venetian/Palazzo. It won’t be at the Act, obviously, as it sits dark and empty. Reports of Saturday night’s rollicking party that closed the club notwithstanding, the Act space is still structurally sound. As Dunn noted, the party closing the Act was “over the top” even by that club’s high (or low) standards, as some employees pulled art from the walls and took such items as light fixtures and menus from the venue.

Otherwise, the place greatly resembled the end of last year’s Halloween party, or Dunn’s own birthday party last month, or any other weekend night of rowdiness at the Act, where the night wasn’t considered a success unless a few tables were toppled.

“We’ve trashed that place so many times … it takes a beating and gets fixed,” Dunn said. “Twenty-four hours later, if someone wanted to rent the space, it would have been ready to go. Look, nightclubs are built to get trashed, and the Act was built to withstand a closing party three nights a week for 10 years.”

As it is, the Act has been swept away and the space swept clean. One person says this is not the end, but the beginning.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Shunock says. “This could be a blessing in disguise.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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