Who would have ever thought that a huge exhibit of Elvis’ clothing and personal effects wouldn’t draw record-breaking crowds in Vegas? Instead, it was a colossal flop.
An ambitious exhibit that featured Elvis’s stage outfits, jewelry, personal letters and other items at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino is at the center of a lease dispute between the casino and Elvis Presley Enterprises. The artifacts and memorabilia are locked up at the casino, awaiting the decision of an arbitrator.
According to Trust Advisor’s recent article, “Casino Still Holding Elvis Presley Items Sought By Estate,” the dispute arose from the 10-year leasing agreement that Westgate says the exhibit, “Graceland Presents Elvis” defaulted on when it vacated the casino. Last year, a judge ruled that Elvis Presley Enterprises, which runs the Graceland attraction in Memphis, Tennessee, could retrieve the items by posting a $9 million bond while the leasing issue was pending. Instead, the parties decided to take their dispute to arbitration. Mark Waltrip, the casino’s chief operating officer, expects a decision in a few weeks.
The Westgate took control of the items in February of last year, when the attraction closed. “Graceland Presents Elvis” included a museum exhibit, a wedding chapel and a theater. The attraction’s operator abruptly said it was quitting. The casino believes this move was the result of poor attendance and poor marketing and promotional efforts.
At that time, the Westgate said the “Graceland Presents Elvis” exhibit was defaulting on its lease. The casino claimed that it spent millions of dollars reconfiguring the space. It said it was holding the items to recoup money owed as part of the leasing contract. The estate responded by filing an action to retrieve the items it said the casino seized with no legitimate legal basis.
Graceland Presents Elvis was open less than a year. It debuted with great fanfare in the same casino where Elvis performed several hundred shows. At that time, it was known as the Las Vegas Hilton and The International. The exhibit was billed as the biggest display of Elvis memorabilia outside of Graceland.
The attraction included a 28,000-square-foot exhibit featuring a rotating display of Elvis items, such as the $1 million-a-year tablecloth contract that Elvis signed to perform at what is now the Westgate and the two-piece black tunic and single-button black suit worn by Elvis for his first performances at the casino.
The exhibit also included an Elvis Presley wedding chapel, which seems like it would be the hottest ticket in a town famed for quickie weddings. When it first opened, the chapel was even featured on NBC’s “Today Show.” An unsuspecting couple was thrilled when Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ ex-wife, suddenly appeared as the bride’s matron of honor.
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