The theater that Celine Dion built is getting a makeover as she departs.
The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, designed and constructed for Dion’s groundbreaking run in 2003, is going dark from July through August for its first extensive overhaul.
The work begins after the Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn show July 6. The venue will shut down totally, with the next scheduled show Rod Stewart’s performance on Sept. 18. Dion, the woman who started it all, closes her residency June 8.
“We are looking for a more social experience, with more versatility for fans and for the artists,” Caesars Entertainment President of Entertainment Jason Gastwirth said in a recent walk-through of the venue. “Since the theater was built for Celine, the market has expanded, the term ‘residency’ is common — I used to have to explain what it meant — and these headliners have become the No. 1 reason people visit Las Vegas, the highlight of their visit here.
“It was time to upgrade the experience.”
Scéno Plus of Montreal, original conceivers of the Colosseum, are again heading up the design effort. The company plans to upgrade without altering any of the room’s famous, themed design effects. And Gastwirth said there are no plans to change the name of the venue, as Axis theater at Planet Hollywood was re-dubbed Zappos Theater in a naming deal with the Las Vegas online apparel company.
Also, crucial in the Colosseum’s renovations is Caesars Entertainment has formally announced it is taking control over the booking of the venue in a partnership with Live Nation for all of its headliner residencies. The venue had previously been booked by promoter AEG Live.
In a process ongoing for several months, existing contracts between Caesars Entertainment and AEG Live — including Dion’s and Stewart’s — will simply time out. Going forward, all new headlining contracts will be enacted by Live Nation, which also books Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood and Park Theater at the Park MGM.
“Artist residencies have become the dominant form of theater entertainment in Las Vegas,” Live Nation President Kurt Melein said in a statement. “Fans around the world come to Las Vegas to see their favorite stars perform in intimate settings with incredible productions they can find nowhere else.”
Gastwith points to two pivot points in the evolution of Las Vegas superstar residencies: Dion’s opening of “A New Day … ” at the Colosseum in March 2003, and Britney Spears’ launch of “Piece of Me” at Zappos Theater in 2013.
“Celine led to Elton John, and Britney led to JLo,” Gastwirth said. “They set the trend.”
To keep pace with that advancing trend, the new Colosseum will feature an improved video setup, as the 110-foot long, 34-foot-wide LED screen is to will be replaced, its resolution more than doubled. The room’s lights and sound will also be revamped, with new seats and carpeting installed throughout.
Embracing the sort of dexterity that has benefited Park MGM and Zappos Theater, the Colosseum will offer a general-admission section in front of the stage and multiple seating configurations. The capacity will inch up by about 100, to 4,400, as fans can be seated or standing in the lower level, depending on the artist’s wishes.
The venue is upgrading, and adding to, its VIP offerings and — for the first time — you can dial up bottle service at the Colosseum.
“We developing more of a party atmosphere without changing the theater’s great, original design,” Gastwirth said. “A lot of this is observational, gaining feedback by observing the customer experience and gaining feedback that away and also from artists.”
Some performers want to party on the Strip, including one who visited the venue just last Monday: Katy Perry, who reviewed the space and has been booked previously by Live Nation.
Without specifying any possible future headliners, Gastwirth said, “Not having GA has been a barrier for some artists. Others say, ‘Don’t change a thing.’ The Colosseum needs to be flexible to attract top artists.”
Gastwirth says the end of Dion’s era presents a natural time stamp on the venue’s development.
“This gives us an opportunity, and it is the right time,” he said. “It’s hard to shut down for two months. It’s a major commitment. With her residence ending, we looked at the calendar and now we have control of the venue and of the operations We are really excited about the new era of the Colosseum.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.