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Monte Carlo theater plan prompts musical chairs

If you‘re counting venues, it hardly makes sense.

Why build another 5,000-seat concert hall when we already have three? (The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and the Axis at Planet Hollywood). Or five, if you lower the seating capacity to about 3,000 and add The Pearl at the Palms and Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan. Seven? Sure, you throw in the House of Blues and Brooklyn Bowl.

If you‘re counting corporations, the number "two" is a little easier to grasp for last week‘s announcement of a new theater at the Monte Carlo. Two gaming companies own most of the hotels on the Strip. And one of them, MGM Resorts, didn‘t have a midsize concert venue.

The company owns six properties less than a mile‘s walk from the Monte Carlo and plans to tear down the theater that hosted Lance Burton and, for the past three years, the Blue Man Group. It will be replaced by a 5,000-seat theater, tied in to a new 20,000-seat arena and the retail promenade connecting that arena to the Strip.

While MGM has been more focused on the concert industry‘s drift to outdoor festivals — developing fairground sites on both ends of the Strip €” there are still plenty of names out there who could be signed to "residencies," as Las Vegas likes to call a rotation of big names playing multiple engagements.

A three- or four-name rotation seems even more likely if you consider the concert industry is basically monopolized by two promoters. One of them, AEG Live, already books the Colosseum and Hard Rock. The other one, Live Nation, books the Axis. (The Monte Carlo theater won‘t be a partnership with any single promoter, MGM executives say.)

Either way, midsize halls have become the new normal for the concert industry. Big enough to guarantee a good payday, but "not so huge it‘€™s beyond (the) abilities‘€ of the artists to fill it, Gary Bongiovanni of the concert industry trade bible Pollstar noted last year.

Which, ahem, brings us to the downsizing of two resident shows on the Strip and a possible new normal for Las Vegas shows.

The new Monte Carlo means moving the Blue Man Group from its 1,274-seat venue to the 830-seat theater created for the Jabbawockeez at the Luxor.

The Jabbawockeez in turn will bounce down to the roughly 250-seat Beacher‘s Madhouse at the MGM Grand. Producer Jeff Beacher will continue to operate his club with environmental performers on Saturday nights but apparently no longer has to worry about "Fun €” The Show," a long-promised but never-delivered early-evening show.

Nothing about this round of musical chairs flies in the face of what we all seem to understand about present-day Las Vegas entertainment: People want to see names, not shows. (Or names doing a show, if you look at the production-heavy formats for Mariah Carey and the like).

If 1,200 seats were a typical venue size when Lance Burton opened shop in the early ‘90s, the Blue Man Group sounds just as happy to be able to run more often in a smaller room now.

"It just gives us the opportunity to do more shows, says Jack Kenn, who oversees the Las Vegas operation of the Blue Man Group. "We‘re built to do a ton of shows."

The Blue Man Group has done as many as 21 shows a week at peak times. Some competitors have scaled down to six performances per week, figuring they would rather have six full ones than 10 or 12 half-full. But Blue Man management has always maintained you can‘t force people into a time that doesn‘t work for them.

"There‘s a lot more distractions in this city than there were back in 2007, 2008," Kenn says, putting it mildly. The strategy of "When (the other shows) are dark we‘re always open" has worked for the group.

It‘s the Jabbawockeez who may end up proving you-know-what rolls downhill, if you end up at the bottom. But if the dance troupe wasn‘t filling its Luxor space, there could be a psychological benefit in the move.

Bongiovanni again, from last year: "If you‘€™re attending a show you know is sold out and you can‘€™t get in, there‘€™s a certain coolness and you know you spent your money well. On the other hand, if there‘s lots of empty seats around, your whole vision of the evening is not quite as positive."

Some might argue the Blue Men and Jabbawockeez have worn out their novelty on the Strip, so the downsizing is natural. But what new production show would take their place? MGM Resorts seems to be saying it would rather go to the mat with six other venues to score concert acts than try to answer that question.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mikeweatherford on Twitter.

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