Friday, October 26, 2012

How The Demise Of One Ticket Broker Can Spell Disaster For Las Vegas Shows.

How The Demise Of One Ticket Broker Can Spell Disaster For Las Vegas Shows.

Three days ago Prestige Travel filed for bankruptcy. This might not mean anything to people outside of Vegas, but to casinos, producers, and ticket holders this means a full on panic.

Prestige Travel was one of the main ticket brokers for shows in Las Vegas. They sold a lot of show tickets and took a very high commission from those tickets. Most producers relied on the check they received every week from Prestige for tickets already sold to pay for the shows, cast, crew, advertising and theater rental. Large show producers like Cirque du Soleil will be hurt yet not truly affected by this sudden turn of events. But smaller shows will be soon be forced to close or declare bankruptcy themselves because of this one company's bankruptcy debacle.

Most of the smaller shows rely heavily on the weekly check they receive from Prestige for ticket sales and are surviving from check to check. Without this money, producers suddenly find themselves in the position of paying everyone and everything out of their own pockets. The theater rentals that these producers pay dearly for don't care about a ticket company not paying the producers. The theater expects the check every week or they pull that show and bring in the next show that is waiting in the wings. The ad agencies expect the producer's weekly check as well, or advertising gets pulled. Dancers, acts, and stage crew who work so hard to put on a show every night will wonder if they will get paid this week. Most of these performers also live pay check to pay check, which will leave them unable to pay their bills. This sudden disastrous circumstance has shows and performers wondering how they will recover from the financial setback.

In the next week the fall out from this one company's bankruptcy filing will have a huge impact on the smaller-scaled shows providing entertainment in Las Vegas. There will be many shows closing as others scramble to find new backers to carry them over this hardship. Some shows will be forced to cut costs, firing performers and keeping stage crews to a minimum until they can get back on their feet, if they can get back on their feet. And when Prestige Travel has debts that add up to over $10 million, I don't see the little guys getting their money anytime soon. It has left producers with very little recourse.

Even though there are other ticket brokers in Vegas, and Prestige is restructuring under Chapter 11, the damage to small Vegas shows is as yet unfathomable. Revenues from prior ticket sales will never been seen by producers, as funds from those tickets sales are swallowed up in the bankruptcy. The money owed these producers ranges from $20,000 to $500,000, enough to send even a well-established show into a tail spin.

The snowball has started and unfortunately over the next month it will be rolling down a very steep and slippery slope, picking up speed as it get bigger and bigger, clearing a path that leaves me wondering who will survive.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Real Cost of Las Vegas Show Business.

While working a guest spot in a show on the Las Vegas strip last week, I got to thinking about shows in Las Vegas and what the producers have to deal with.

20 years ago casinos used to have a big production show as well as a lounge show to entertainment their patrons. This meant the producers were paid to supply a casino with lavish shows featuring beautiful costumes, stunning dancers, amazing choreography, plus unique variety acts. There would be a cast of 50 or 60 performers that filled the stage every night to the delight of the casinos' gamblers. These shows were considered a loss leader because the casino used them as a marketing tool. They would advertising the dancers in their skimpy showgirl costumes and give tickets away to guests as a perk for coming to that casino and gambling. The lounge shows would be used in the same way because a good lounge show would keep gamblers around to spend a little more. The casino owners understood the value of these shows, they knew that shows had the ability to not just entertain but to also create a form of good will. Casinos only wanted the best shows at their casino because ultimately it meant more people through their doors. But all that has changed.

Today shows compete for space on a casino stage. Meaning the casinos have become landlord renting out the theatre to whom ever has the most money, not the person with the best show. There is no quality control and ticket brokers will push only the shows which pay them the most to sell their tickets. What does this mean? A lot!

  •   The casino no longer cares how good the show is, only how much money they are making from the rental of the theatre, not realizing that this backfires on them. Casino patrons don't know the casino has nothing to do with the show, but they assume it does, so people walk out of a bad show thinking it was a casino show and leave the casino resentful that they wasted time and money watching a terrible show.
  •   Shows now have to make money when they never use to. So there are no lavish productions numbers with beautiful sets, because that takes time, money and space. When a show shares the theatre with 3-4 other shows backstage space is at a premium. These shows not only have to pay rent but also pay for music rights, dancers, singers, speciality acts, stage crews, advertising, pre-production, etc. All this leaves producers scrambling to fill seats as soon as possible spending valuable dollars on advertising.
  •   Anyone with money can rent a room and because there are so many rooms with so many shows, some amazing little jewels get lost in a sea of mediocrity. There are hundreds of shows to chose from, how do you know if you are getting the diamond or the coal.
  •   Ticket brokers used to be paid a couple dollars for every ticket they sold, now they are making $35 dollars or more per ticket for some shows. For most shows that means the broker is making more off of the ticket than the actual show. It also means that the broker is not selling you the best show but the show they will make the most money from. When you as a ticket buyer walk up to a ticket booth and they start telling you about the different shows, generally brokers will only tell you about the show tickets they want you to buy, skipping over the shows they still only make $5 dollars from.

I know that this current trend with shows and show business will change, but will that change come soon enough? Will casinos realize that a good show is worth its weight in gold, and a bad show is not worth the rent? Yes! I know it will change, I just hope it doesn't take another 20 years to make that change.