Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | 3:30 p.m.
When they booked Britney Spears to play just a shade less than 100 shows in two years in Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood, Caesars Entertainment officials reviewed her strong sales during her most recent world tours.
And they sure liked what they saw.
Those numbers showed that Spears’ fans flocked to arenas by the thousands all over the world. Her “Circus” tour was No. 5 on the Billboard list of top concert tours of 2009, selling out every show in North America. The first leg of that tour averaged 20,500 tickets sold per show. Two years later, her “Femme Fatale” spree was No. 11 in the Billboard list and drew an average of 8,700 per night.
So when Spears signed on for 96 shows at the 4,500-seat theater renovated specifically for this club-like production, Caesars and Live Nation reps pointed at those world tours and said, “She can do this.”
The results have been inarguable: Spears is a hot ticket in Las Vegas. At this point, “Britney: Piece of Me” has delivered sold-out audiences every night since it opened Dec. 27.
“It’s been a huge success,” says Jason Gastwirth, Caesars Entertainment senior vice president of marketing and entertainment. “The demand is amazing. Not only have all of her shows sold out, but many of them have sold out far in advance. The show delivers every night.”
Spears’ performance at the box office has outpaced her critical response. Britney’s shows have been picked apart for some sluggish dancing on the part of the headliner (especially early in the run), and the fact that her vocals are pretty obviously tracked (Blake Shelton even chided Spears’ lip synching during his stint as host of the Academy of Country Music Awards last month at MGM Grand Garden Arena).
But the Spears production itself is wondrous, filled with generous effects and staging. The backing dancers are as good as you’ll find anywhere. The show does work on that artistic level.
Just as important, the Spears show has achieved the sort of nightlife vibe you’ll find at massive clubs on the Strip, which is a crucial achievement. If you are grooving to dance music at, say, Hakkasan at MGM Grand (which drew 4,800 partygoers on Easter Sunday night, eclipsing any of Spears’ shows), vocal balances are not terrifically important.
I asked Gastwirth if Spears’ show was, in effect, critic proof, if her fans simply ignore any criticism of the production.
“Going further than even reviews, everyone going to the show loves it,” the exec says. “And I think the large majority of the reviews have been positive. The people who see the show absolutely love it, they have a great time, and they appreciate what we have set up in that theater, which is a taste of nightlife entertainment.”
Spears herself is reportedly setting into the show and her role as a Strip headliner.
“She is comfortable in the theater, and that gives us confidence to add more dates to her existing schedule,” Gastwirth says. He also noted that there are slots in the current two-year timeframe to add event more dates without extending into 2016.
Reports of a $12 million payment to Spears for adding those 30 or so dates are “inaccurate,” Gastwirth says, though the company does not disclose specific financial figures among its resident artists.
“The bottom line is we’ve built a great show and a great business with Britney in this theater,” Gastwirth says. “This is the only place you can see her perform in North America, and it has become the show to see in Las Vegas. We are beyond satisfied.”
Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.