Saturday, June 27, 2009 | 1:55 a.m.
What do you get when you throw four inebriated bachelors, a tiger and a baby into a suite at Caesars Palace? One of the summer’s biggest movies, a new marketing campaign and people curious about your hotel. And that’s exactly what Caesars Palace wanted.
“The Hangover” is the tale of a Vegas bachelor party gone wrong and puts Caesars at center stage for the debaucherous trip. The film has grossed more than $150 million since its June 5 opening and Caesars is taking advantage of its presence in the film through social media and “Hangover” hotel packages.
Bonnie Gilmour, Caesars’ vice president of marketing, said on the night of the movie’s release 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.”
The suite seen in the movie doesn’t really exist. “The Villa,” which the bachelors request, is actually a soundstage inspired by elements from several suites at Caesars but producers chose most of the set elements from the Emperors Suite.
The actual suite is a two-bedroom, two-story suite, not like the one-story villa seen in the movie. There’s also no grand piano or bar area, but the Emperors 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 — showing a sprawling view of the Strip — also are right out of the Emperors Suite.
The rest of the footage in Caesars — the lobby, the pool, the elevators, the front drive, the roof — is shot at the casino-hotel. “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips said it was important for the comedy to revolve around real places.
“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,” he said. “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 said. “We approached Caesars and they totally got it. Once they said yes, they put the entire Caesars staff on our side. Whatever we wanted, we could have.”
“They were a great group in every way,” said Debbie Munch, Harrah’s vice president of public relations for Las Vegas. Munch has been working with film crews at Caesars since “Rain Man,” including more recent films and TV shows like “Oceans 11,” “Iron Man,” “The Sopranos” and “Entourage.”
“Bringing a production of that magnitude to a resort that never closes is very challenging,” Munch said. “We worked together to get the scenes they needed while still accommodating guests, and they were very gracious of that.”
“The Hangover” cast and crew taped from mid-September to October at the Strip property. In the weeks before the release, Caesars ramped up its marketing, capitalizing on the movie’s Vegas party vibe -- and is still running with it.
Caesars set up a Facebook fan page, garnering 2,000-plus fans, and has more than 4,000 followers on Twitter. Caesars also started a Twitter and Facebook “Hangover” contest, giving away two- and three-night getaway packages.
The goal was to turn a virtual Caesars experience into a real one, Gilmour said.
“We wanted to make sure if people were going to be talking about it, we wanted to make sure they had a place to do it,” Gilmour said. “People did what we thought they were going to do, which was come searching for Caesars Palace after seeing the movie.”
Caesars also is playing “The Hangover” trailer prominently on its outdoor sign while showing an in-room video (exclusive to the hotel) with cast and crew interviews and a “Hangover” hotel package.
Munch said the hotel’s nationwide exposure from “The Hangover” reminds her of other movies on the big screen.
“In so many ways it’s created some guest interest that I compared to ‘Rain Man.’ People to this day call about the ‘Rain Man’ suite, even though we don’t have an official suite called the ‘Rain Man’ suite,” Munch said. “Now, they’re asking about ‘The Hangover’ suite.”
Those looking for the true-to-movie “Hangover” experience should be prepared to shell out $2,500 to $4,200 for the suite that inspired the set. Don’t expect to skip out on any damages, either. They’ll have your number and credit card.
And Caesars asks: No swimming in the fountains and please, no tigers.