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Studio owner wants to bring Pan Am attraction to Las Vegas Strip

A Hollywood movie studio owner is seeking to land a Pan Am double-decker 747 on the Strip.

Talaat Captan, chief executive officer of studio Air Hollywood, is hoping to convince Las Vegas casino owners that a reconstructed plane of the once-beloved-but-long-bankrupt airline can become the city’s next high-priced tourist attraction.

Captan and his business partner Anthony Toth have re-created the experience of flying aboard a 1970s Pan Am plane down to the outfits, magazines, menu, silverware and cologne.

The two have hosted more than 400 events aboard the plane at their Los Angeles movie studio — including birthday parties, weddings and corporate events — since 2014.

They host between four and six events a month, including two open to the public every other Saturday evening. The next public event on Sept. 9 is sold-out.

Captan now wants to transport the entertainment venue to the Strip to book the deep-pocketed tourists and convention attendees that visit the city annually. He is looking to strike a deal with a high-end hotel to host the plane on its property.

“Our client is mature, has been around the world and knows what Pan Am is,” Captan said. “This experience is a luxury and is targeted toward people that stay at high-end hotels. People that have money want to do something different.”

Dinner theater

Captan’s Pan Am Experience is similar in format to a dinner theater: The cast — the pilots and stewardesses dressed in 1970s uniforms — interact with the crowd. The 100-seat, double-decker plane is the stage.

The experience starts with cocktails in a re-created Pan Am lounge. Next, passengers board and are served a five- or six-course meal, depending on their ticket class, including black caviar, shrimp, chateaubriand and vodka. The stewardesses cut the meat right in the aisle as they once did on actual flights.

“Our Pan Am Experience is a time machine. We bring you back 40 years. You are going to scent cologne and perfume that reminds you of your grandparents,” Captan said.

In between meals, passengers can play aviation-related trivia games and watch a fashion show demonstrating the Pan Am uniforms through the decades. The show lasts three hours and costs $300 per person for the five-course, lower-deck seats and $400 for the six-course, upper-deck seats.

Captan wants to upgrade the experience in Las Vegas by using LED projectors to create the impression of flying over Paris, London and other famous cities. He also wants to add the sensation of light turbulence to make the experience more authentic.

“We have perfected the experience over the years and are in a position to do it on a daily basis,” Captan said.

Can the idea fly?

Not everyone is convinced the idea — as it is now conceived — can fly.

The price would rank it among the more expensive experiences offered in Las Vegas. A one-hour air balloon ride starts at $175, race car driving at $199, a Grand Canyon helicopter tour at $400 and machine-gun-shooting helicopter flight at $999 per person.

“There are tons and tons of proposals for things that never get off the ground,’’ Las Vegas historian David Schwartz said.

He said the project’s authors should consider offering a range of experiences with different prices and time commitments.

“There are many things to do in Las Vegas and limited time, so expecting tourists or convention-goers to dedicate several hours to one experience might be too much,” Schwartz said.

Thom Greco, chairman of the Nightclub and Bar Convention, and Dennis Wharton, senior vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, said there probably would be interest from their show attendees. The Nightclub and Bar Convention attracts more than 36,000 to Las Vegas, and the NAB Show brings more than 100,000.

“I can certainly see demand for corporate entertainment during the larger conventions.

It is a unique experience, and corporates like to treat their big customers or team,” said Greco, adding that one of his favorite restaurants is Anthony’s Runway 84, a jet plane concept in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

How many seats the Pan Am experience will be able to fill on a daily basis will depend not only on the number of corporate visitors coming to Las Vegas and their willingness to spend $300 or more a head but also on the distance from the Strip, Greco said.

“Got to balance all of the above to determine if it would be a success,” he said.

Caesars’ offer

Captan, who has licensed the rights for Pan Am, said he would seek to generate additional revenue by opening a retail store alongside the plane to sell hats, T-shirts and other souvenirs, as well as a museum. Captan estimates he needs at least 15,000 square feet of space for the project.

Captan said Caesars Entertainment offered to rent him 10,000 square feet near the High Roller at an undisclosed price. He said the Caesars proposal was not attractive.

Caesars declined to comment. Captan said he is now in initial talks with another casino.

Captan came up with the idea of creating a movie studio focused on the aviation industry while producing “Ground Control,” a film that included an airport scene.

Los Angeles International Airport withdrew filming permission just days before he was to shoot in 1998, causing him delays and cost overruns.

Betting other producers faced the same problems, Captan financed the building of a 100,000-square-foot studio that focused solely on airport and airplane scenes.

The studio was used to shoot scenes for “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Bridesmaid.” It was the location used for shooting the new Fox sitcom “LA to Vegas.”

When Captan learned that Toth, an aviation fan and airline executive, had assembled a huge Pan Am collection, he thought it would be a good addition to his studio.

He persuaded Toth in 2014 to move the collection and plane from an industrial suburb outside Los Angeles to his studio.

The idea for the Pan Am experience came shortly thereafter with the first show in October 2014.

“Instead of letting it just sit there in the studio, I thought, let’s try to do something with it like re-creating the time period,” Captan said.

When the initial demand to attend was strong, the two decided to hold regular public and private events. First Republic Bank and Star Alliance are among the companies that have held corporate events aboard the plane.

Pan Am history

Pan Am, founded in 1927, was the United States’ leading overseas airline for decades. It was called the Ritz Carlton of the aviation industry for offering luxury service such as dressing rooms, overnight beds and a dining salon aboard its planes. First-class service consisted of a seven-course meal with the use of china and table linens.

“Pan Am set the stand ard for aviation luxury, service and traveling the world. There was no comparison at that time,” said Captan, explaining why its popularity has lasted long after the company ceased operations.

The airline’s popularity and profits peaked in the 1960s.

It suffered financially when an oil price spike in the early 1970s triggered a global recession. Terrorists blew up a Pan Am plane in 1988 over Scotland, killing all 259 people on board, a blow from which the airline would never recover. Within three years, Pan Am ceased to exist.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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