Monday, May 20, 2019 | 2 a.m.
The days of regularly imploding casinos and building brand-new casino resorts on the Strip appear to be over. We are now in the era of the massive remodel, currently exemplified by the major changes wrapping up at the Palms and the evolution of Monte Carlo into Park MGM.
But some Vegas resorts can’t be remade. Luxor President and COO Cliff Atkinson was on the job for just a few weeks when he acknowledged as much during the recent announcement of the new Cirque du Soleil residency show coming to the 25-year-old Egyptian pyramid-themed property this fall.
“I think it’s more about updating the property we have to be the best asset in its class. We can’t really rebrand what Luxor is, but what we can do is improve and update the offerings from rooms to restaurants and things like this show.”
That makes the arrival of “R.U.N,” billed as Cirque’s first live-action thriller production and set to open October 24 at Luxor’s 1,500-seat theater, even more important for the pyramid, MGM Resorts International and the Strip in general.
Cirque announced the show on April 30, the Montreal-based live entertainment company’s 47th original production, 10th resident show on the Strip and first new show in Las Vegas since the 2013 arrival of “Michael Jackson ONE” at Luxor’s neighboring resort Mandalay Bay.
“R.U.N” is a first-of-its-kind collaboration with some major players in the Hollywood movie and stunt community, including filmmaker Robert Rodriguez who is writing the show. Cirque du Soleil is moving away from its traditional ethereal acrobatics and dream-like landscapes to create an immersive, action-packed, story-driven show that could be compared to a live version of a “Fast & Furious”-style blockbuster movie.
“Every time you add a show you add something to the Cirque experience,” said Cirque du Soleil President and CEO Daniel Lamarre. “We did that with ‘O’ and with ‘Zumanity’ and ‘KÁ,’ and we did that with ‘The Beatles LOVE.’ That was also a huge departure. It’s a good thing for us now to bring something fresh and new.
“It’s not unnatural for us. It’s almost as if we were to add a new arm to our casting department which is stunts. Our best discovery has been the huge stunt community in Hollywood, where everyone is intrigued to work with Cirque and figure out what we can do with a live production that we have never seen before. We said, ‘Guys, you have been doing it in the movie business forever. Come to our world and let’s see what you can do live.’”
Cirque’s crew and those talented stunt performers and coordinators could prove to be a perfect team, but Luxor and “R.U.N” might also be an ideal fit. Much of the Egyptian-themed elements have been stripped away from the south Strip resort over the years as it has updated its offerings to appeal to different Vegas visitors. As Lamarre noted, the creative inspiration behind “R.U.N” targets a younger showgoer, a demographic direction Luxor has also been drifting toward in recent years.
“I think they complement each other very well and it shows the direction of where the property is going,” Atkinson said. “The show is a big part of the property’s next step. It’s going to bring a lot of renewed attention here and then we’ll follow it up with what will happen here when the Raiders’ stadium arrives. The closest properties to the stadium are us and Mandalay Bay and we couldn’t be more excited about that.”
It’s easy to see that an action-based show like “R.U.N” — as well as one of Luxor’s other resident shows, the all-ages favorite Blue Man Group — has a broader appeal that aligns well with the NFL’s 2020 arrival in Las Vegas and all the potential programming that will come along with it. The resort’s HyperX Esports Arena, opened last year in a former nightclub space, has a more specific draw but also targets a younger demographic and has vast potential for football and sports-related events and programs.
“We definitely have a little harmony going on here at the pyramid,” Atkinson said. “We like how very complementary the programming at the Esports Arena and the show can be and how they have some overlapping, similar demographics. That’s how we update, through the programming and of course throughout the property, but the brand will remain Luxor for the foreseeable future and I think we’ll play up that narrative and that brand because it matches all the action we have. And I like that word, ‘action.’ It really says a lot.”
The “R.U.N” theater was formerly the home of illusionist Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak” production — also originally a Cirque collaboration — and is in the final stages of a massive renovation.
“Once we got a sense of how immersive the show is, we knew it would be a significant renovation of the whole space including the lead-up into the theater,” Atkinson said. “It’s completely revamped and reconfigured.”
Lamarre said the “R.U.N” experience will begin in the theater’s lobby with interactive experiences that will “give you the buzz about what we’re talking about. Then when you sit in your seat, we want you to forget you’re watching something and feel more like you are a part of something. You will be surrounded by giant screens and visual effects and a lot of stunts happening live.”
It sounds similar to being inside a video game, or maybe like having 50-yardline seats for an NFL game in a brand-new, hi-tech, 65,000-seat stadium.