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Ex-Cirque, BMG exec sheds traditional shows for flight of fancy

For decades, identified flying objects have invigorated Jack Kenn’s career. This aerial show has included soaring Cirque acrobats, and flurries of marshmallows flung by Blue Men.

This aerial spectacle continues as Kenn takes on his new adventure. The former Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group exec is jumping into FlyOver, the new flight-simulation attraction moving into the old Showcase Mall to the north of MGM Grand and neighboring Hard Rock Cafe to the south on the Strip.

Set to open this fall, FlyOver is a spherically designed, simulated, high-altitude tour over such landmarks as the Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches National Parks, Lake Tahoe and (naturally) the Strip. The feeling is wide-open, with passengers viewing the sights on high-def theatrical screens.

Free-form floating, seems an apt description.

FlyOver’s parent company, the hospitality company Pursuit, has modeled the Vegas experience after FlyOver attractions in Vancouver, Canada and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Pursuit is reportedly spending a Cirque-scale $40 million-$45 million on FlyOver. Tickets start at $34 for adults, $24 for children ages 12 and younger (and you must be at least 40 inches tall to ride). Hours are 10 a.m.-midnight, weekdays 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. All ages are welcome at FlyOver.

“There is not one specific audience group we’re targeting,” Kenn said in an online interview last week. “It’s not a nightclub, not a whiskey bar, but there is a flair and a feeling for those who want entertainment in the evening. It’s for everyone, depending whether you want to visit in the afternoon or at night.”

Kenn pilots this flight after a career steeped in live, theatrical productions. He worked at “O” from its creation in 1997, then shifted to company manager of Blue Man Group at Luxor. He returned to Cirque, moving up to GM of its resident shows division and finally VP of the company’s arena shows.

In 2013, Kenn pivoted back to his friends at Blue Man, as the company’s VP and senior resident GM through Cirque’s acquisition of the BMG in 2017.

Thus, Kenn has heretofore always been involved with productions where audience members sit, while the performers demonstrate awe-inspiring acts. His move to FlyOver denotes a shift in the entertainment focus in Las Vegas, prompted largely by the pandemic shutdown but evident even before.

As Kenn views it, from his 40,000-foot perch, folks are seeking a more participatory and (to use an overused term) immersive form of entertainment. They want to feel part-of. The development of Area15, with BMG co-founder Chris Wink the lead entertainment visionary, is a clear example. That entertainment district is filled with ultra-sensory, walk-around attractions as OmegaMart, Wink World and Museum Fiasco.

“It’s interesting what’s happening around town right now,” Kenn said. “Who’s opening, who’s not.” Kenn’s own former company, Cirque du Soleil, is coming back with “Mystere” and “O” within the month. It has also dumped “Zumanity” at New York-New York. Blue Man Group is coming back June 24, with a 10-show-per-week schedule, at Luxor.

But Kenn notes such smaller shows as those cut by Caesars Entertainment last month, and also “Zumanity,” as evidence of a seismic shift of offerings in Vegas.

“Entertainment is certainly going to change,” Kenn said. “The days where everyone is just going to hour-and-a-half-long shows with $60, $70, $80, $100 tickets, and theaters being filled up, are not coming back. At least, not in the way that they were before. The writing’s on the wall.”

Tickets at FlyOver start at $34 for adults, $24 for children.

As promoted, the FlyOver venture gives guests a chance to have a “wow” experience at high altitude in an efficient format. The rides last about 30 minutes. FlyOver is presented in two 40-capacity theaters, a full bar is offered. Folks can get in and out swiftly and move on to their next big thing in Vegas.

“I think it’s going to speak to the audience that is going to come to Las Vegas, do more stuff and spend less money doing each one of those things, rather than a whole pile of money on one thing,” Kenn said. “This is where Vegas is going … It’s these sort of self-guided, interactive, short-hit moments. It’s 15, 25, 30-minutes, not super-expensive and gives people an opportunity to do something completely different.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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