Elvis Exhibit Dispute Goes in Favor of Westgate Las Vegas, Resort Retains Memorabilia

Posted on: July 10, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: July 10, 2017, 05:20h.

Two ill-fated Elvis Presley attractions that closed almost as soon as they opened cost Westgate Las Vegas $2.25 million in damages, and the production company behind the exhibits now must pay the resort.

Westgate Las Vegas Elvis Presley exhibit
The Westgate Las Vegas promo for its Elvis Presley exhibits read “Now & Forever,” but forever lasted just a month before the main stage production shut down. (Image: Graceland Holdings, LLC)

A federal arbitrator ruled last week that Exhibit A Circle LLC, a third-party that produced the shows, violated its 10-year lease with the Westgate when it abruptly closed the exhibits and walked away.

“The Elvis Experience,” a live stage show commemorating the King’s storied career, closed in May 2015, just a month after its opening. A collection of memorabilia titled “Graceland Presents: Elvis the Exhibition” closed in February of 2016.

Westgate COO Mark Waltrip told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the independent arbitrator sided with the resort, and ruled that Exhibit A purposefully defaulted on the lease agreement.

The stage show and 28,000-square-foot exhibit were both scarcely attended. In an effort to increase foot traffic, Westgate successfully petitioned the city into renaming Riviera Boulevard to Elvis Presley Way, which links the Strip to the property.

One Down, One to Go

The verdict in its favor allows Westgate’s legal team to now focus its attention on Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE). After Exhibit A “left the building,” the resort quickly locked the exhibit containing the artifacts belonging to EPE.

The hotel is holding around 350 historical pieces of Elvis memorabilia as ransom. Among the relics are Elvis’ high school yearbooks, his 1957 Harley-Davison motorcycle, 1962 Lincoln Continental, and jumpsuits and jewelry he wore onstage at the resort.

Westgate claims it spent about $9 million renovating the space to house the exhibits. Waltrip says the items will be returned once it receives $9 million from Elvis’ estate.

EPE loaned the items to Exhibit A in return for a percentage of the revenue generated by the attractions. Westgate believes the estate shares in liability for the multimillion-dollar fiasco.

Thanks to Graceland, as well as trademark and licensing royalties, Elvis made $27 million in 2016 according to Forbes.

The trust is routinely embattled in protecting Elvis’ likeliness. Just this week, the estate won a legal fight against BrewDog, a brewery in the United Kingdom, for the name of its flagship beer, “Elvis Juice IPA.”

Elvis in Las Vegas

Elvis Presley was the biggest attraction wherever he went, and between 1969 and 1976, the King was unquestionably the king of Sin City. He performed 58 consecutive sold out shows at The International (the former identity of the Westgate), and lived in the penthouse suite on the 30th floor.

Several years ago, the idea of establishing some sort of museum dedicated to Elvis’ residency in Las Vegas was welcomed by his trustees. Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley attended the blue sued ribbon cutting to open the exhibits in 2015.

“Elvis loved Las Vegas,” Priscilla said at the time. “Lisa and I are so happy to share these wonderful artifacts from our family with you and are thrilled to bring the authentic Elvis back to Las Vegas.”

Now, they just want their memorabilia back. An arbitrator is expected to soon sit down with the two sides in hopes of reaching a resolution.