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July 31, 2014

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MGM Resorts tells Cirque to shutter ‘Viva Elvis’ at Aria

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Julie Aucoin/Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis at MGM CityCenter’s Aria.

Viva Elvis Blue Carpet @Aria

The blue carpet for the Viva Elvis world premiere at Aria in CityCenter on Feb. 19, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Viva Elvis Media Tour

The Viva Elvis media tour at CityCenter's Aria on Feb. 19, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Viva Elvis Blue Carpet

Celebrities walk the blue carpet at Aria for the premiere of Viva Elvis.

Click to enlarge photo

A copy of an internal memo announcing that "Viva Elvis" is likely to be replaced at the end of 2012.

MGM Resorts has asked Cirque du Soleil to replace its show “Viva Elvis” at the Aria by the end of 2012, citing poor ticket sales. The move is the first time that the Canadian company, which has come to dominate the big-production showrooms on the Strip, has been asked to shut a show since arriving here in 1993 with its first permanent show, “Mystere” at Treasure Island.

“As attendance levels have not been meeting expectations, we have asked our partners at Cirque du Soleil to replace the show,” a company statement said. “We will work closely with Cirque as we explore future entertainment options.”

An internal Cirque du Soleil memo was sent to the cast of “Viva Elvis” on Wednesday afternoon announcing MGM’s intentions. “Viva Elvis” has played 900 performances at the Aria resort at CityCenter, to nearly 1 million people.

In a letter to the cast and crew, Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre said: “All of us are saddened we may have to bring ‘Viva Elvis’ to the end of its journey. The artistic merit of the production is exceptional ... We were given the notice by our partners there. We respect the decision as ticket sales have not met expectations ... I am proud of our work on this show and understand that this is simply a business decision.”

Lamarre said in an interview, “We will now take the appropriate time to focus on redeploying as many of the show’s employees as possible, when the time comes, and evaluating next steps for exploring the many possibilities for creative content.”

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman said the show simply had not met business expectations. “I think it’s a terrific show, but it’s not selling the tickets we want it to sell. There’s a point in time where we’re in a position to ask them to put in a different show.

“Cirque has a very long planning cycle with its cast, and we don’t want people to not know what’s going on in their lives,” Feldman said.

“Viva Elvis” is the newest of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows along the Strip — its 1,840-seat, acoustically refined showroom costing an estimated $100 million.

The show was previously scheduled to go dark for a 90-day retooling in January and reopen in early spring. A top Cirque official told the Sun Wednesday evening: “The extended dark period for a full revamp of the show will now not take place. It will just be the regular dark period from Feb. 4-11, but we will make previously planned artistic adjustments ... We will also be integrating the Banquine act from our ‘Zed’ show for sure.”

“Zed” is a Cirque production that opened in Tokyo on Oct. 1, 2008, and will close this New Year’s Eve as a result of the economic effects of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake this year. The Banquine number “highlights the extraordinary agility of the human body as the troupe mystifies the audience by performing acrobatics and human pyramids in a series of dramatic movements and perfectly synchronized crossings that depend on the artists’ absolute trust.”

“If the Presley show was suddenly to achieve a 100 percent sold-out rate in the next months, it could live on longer,” the Cirque executive said. “However, that is unlikely.”

Wednesday’s news comes just 10 days before the French Canadian entertainment giant Cirque opens the highly anticipated “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” for a four-week run at Mandalay Bay. A permanent Michael Jackson resident show is scheduled to open in 2013 at Mandalay Bay.

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  1. That's a shame, but who could afford $69 which is the cheapest ticket. I believe that the Cirque du Soleil are too expensive. Tourism is up in Vegas but many are watching how they spend their dollars.

  2. So, the school of logic at play here is basically, low ticket sales means shut down the show. Makes good sense I suppose.
    At what point does low room occupancy shut down the resort? It is about as well received as the show. Oddly enough, I think this show could have had a chance at a different venue. Aria, aka the Industrial Warehouse Hotel & Casino, is only worth one visit. No need to return, even for a cirque show.

  3. Zed? Like this is going to be a better draw than Elvis? It's the PROPERTY!!! No one likes Aria or CityCenter. It's a failure!! Why hasn't Jim Murren been fired for this monstrosity!!???

  4. This announcement is not a surprise to me and I agree, I went to Aria once and see no reason to return.

    I'm just not a fan of CityCenter.

    From it's construction and inception phases, it's too big, too much and doesn't me strike as representative of Las Vegas.

    All I see is a monstrous monument to the old economy.

  5. We saw the show, and found it to be a huge disappointment in comparison with Cirque's LOVE and Ka. The Elvis show is simply people bouncing and doing not-terribly difficult acrobatics, plus dancing, to Elvis music. I begin to wonder if the new Michael Jackson show will suffer from the same problem.

    More than $100 per ticket for a not-so-great show, compared with other Cirque shows, is probably what kept Cirque's Elvis attendance down.

  6. Well this show and CityCenter in general should be a lesson in what happens when Wallstreet bankers take over large corporations and pretend to have an imagination. Murren should have been left to his numbers crunching gig.

    Harmon hotel never even got off the ground, literally, and now MGM just wants to rip it down and pretend it was never even there. Now the only show in the entire CityCenter complex is closing down. What an embarrassing debacle. And Cirque needs to take a lot of the blame. They got swelled heads from years of great runs and thought they could just slap their name on anything and it would be a hit. The only reason what's-his-name the "magician" is still at Luxor is because they signed a stupid deal with him and it was too expensive to shut it down.

    Immortal will be the same. There'll be the intial rush of those who give a damn about Jackson and the Sun will rave about how it's the best thing since Rogers met Hammerstein and then we'll be hearing that Cirque is "retooling" it and then it will go caput.

    So listen up MGM, you may think you're catering to the twenty and thirty somethings in this town but it's the people in their 50s and up who want to spend money on a show and a good dinner. Love proves that without a doubt. Hell, Frank Marino's crowd is all grey heads from the Midwest.

    Wake up and smell the coffee folks. Either turn the entire town into one giant topless day club pool party puke fest or offer things that real travelers and grownups want to see.

  7. You know after thinking more about this article, something is not quite right.

    "An internal Cirque du Soleil memo was sent to the cast of "Viva Elvis"...has played 900 performances at the Aria resort at CityCenter, to nearly 1 million people."

    If this is the case you're talking about an average of 1100 people per show. This is "bad"?? I know the theatre seats 1800 plus but here again is the fundamental stupidity of MGM and Vegas in general. There's, what, six Cirque shows in town? Right? All of them seat over 1,000 people and have two shows a night average. Who in their bloody right mind could possibly think that you could fill eight or nine thousand seats twice a night, every night of the week?? Especially at those prices! This tells me clearly that MGM is completely out of touch with the demographics of Las Vegas visitors. I mean have any of them ever actually gone out and walked 100 yards down the Strip and seen who's here??? Even with the shows being dark two nights a week you couldn't possibly have enough people in this little town on any given day of the week to fill all of the shows, restaurants, spas, clubs, etc. while still dumping money at the tables. This is simple math. Something our country seems to have thrown out the window these days.

    But assuming for a moment that the show has truly had 1 million viewers. Even if you lowballed the average ticket at $50, that's $50 million! That's a flop?! On what planet?? At those numbers only a fool who close down that show. How many months has it been open??

    Something's not right here and in usual fashion the Sun writers just print what they've been told and don't think or look into the facts of a situation.

  8. We took our 13-year-old daughter to see "Viva Elvis" for her birthday, and we all enjoyed the show. It was sparsely attended, so the kind folks made my daughter's birthday by allowing her to sit up front on one of the loveseats. No complaints about show quality here. The show was fast-paced and fun...what more could we want?

  9. Admittedly, not an Elvis fan, I enjoyed the show. Like Ka it told a story but instead of being mystical, this story was of one of the greatest musicians in our history. Problem is, fame/popularity in music comes and go and even though Elvis has a huge fan base even to this day it just wasn't enough to bring in the crowds. With all that has recently happened to Michael Jackson or his legacy The Immortal is not likely to share the same fate, at least, not anytime soon. To replace Elvis I'd imagine a revolving production of various shows equal to what The Smith Center is going to offer next year. I'd go see someone sing an aria at Aria!

  10. The bottom line is Aria, like all of CityCenter, was a huge investment and costs incredible amounts of money to run and maintain. Thus, attendance numbers have to be at or near capacity to make any profit. They've left themselves no room for any show or venue that just does "O.K." as that's a failure under their business model.

  11. You just can't have an effective Cirque show on a horizontal theater stage - at that point it becomes, as previously mentioned, just a bunch of acrobatic acts (and not such good ones at that). In order for Cirque shows to be effective they need to be on a huge stage like the one used in LOVE with many parts of the stage being raised/lowered to coincide with what is going on - and it definitely needs to have very high ceilings. The Elvis show should have just been made into a 'regular' musical play on the lines of Jersey Boys - it might have stood a better chance of survival.

  12. The theater at Aria is a decent sized venue. They should start a schedule of top 40 performers to play there. Making "Immortal" a permanent or 6 month gig there would be great too! Aria has potential to be a great resort with the right leadership and vision. Tourists will stay there more if the right things are there.

  13. Sporty - You made some valid arguments but when it comes to attendance i think you are missing some things. First, Elvis cost ~125-150 million for installation and production (it also was delayed by 8 weeks). So both Cirque and MGM have a reasonable expectation of a certain level of seats being sold on average a week. Roughly 75%. You also need to account for the daily cost of employees and artists as well as typical production costs on a show of this size. Its not cheap.

    I've seen VE twice, it was a decent show however i think it was doomed from the start by its creative intentions. But hey, they can't ALL be homeruns. Right?

  14. I think they should move the new Michael Jackson Cirque show there now that Viva Elvis has left the building, lol. They should also make the MJ fan fest a permanent attraction at Aria as well. The new MJ Cirque is going to be separate from the touring Immortal one.

    I bet and hope this is what they'll do.