The Elvis memorabilia that was part of an exhibit at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort isn’t being returned to the late icon’s estate in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Graceland Presents Elvis” was a short-lived attraction inside the former International Hotel, an off-strip resort that hosted hundreds of performances by the legend. The exhibit opened in April of 2015, and closed the following February.
The 28,000-square-foot exhibit offered visitors the chance to view 350 pieces of Elvis memorabilia, the largest collection outside of Graceland. The artifacts included stage outfits, jewelry, letters, guitars, and other relics that were loaned to the casino from his estate in Tennessee.
But with the exhibit poorly attended, Elvis Presley Enterprises threatened to abandon its 10-year lease agreement less than a year after opening. Westgate, which claimed to have invested over $9 million in preparing the space for the spectacle, subsequently closed the attraction and locked the memorabilia as ransom.
Despite a lawsuit filed in March of 2016 that sought for the items to be returned, the Westgate has maintained their possession. “Everything is safe,” Westgate COO Mark Waltrip said after ‘Graceland Presents’ closed.
While public address announcers often had to inform fans hoping for an encore that “Elvis has left the building,” his memorabilia isn’t quite so quick to make an exit.
Do Not “Return to Sender”
After admission numbers failed to meet expectations, with both sides citing poor marketing and promotional efforts as the primary reason, the Elvis’ estate wanted to cancel the exhibit and bring the relics back to Tennessee.
The arrangement between the Westgate and Elvis Presley Enterprises turned bitter when the resort successfully petitioned Las Vegas into renaming Riviera Boulevard to Elvis Presley Way. The street connects Las Vegas Boulevard with Paradise Road where the Westgate sits east of the Strip. The famed Riv closed in 2015 and was demolished last year.
Elvis’ estate didn’t want his likeness on a street name, especially one that might aid the Westgate in attracting visitors to its resort.
Last spring, a judge said Elvis Presley Enterprises could post a $9 million bond to recover its items. Instead, the estate and Westgate decided to take the case to arbitration. A mediator is expected to issue a resolution in the coming days.
Viva Elvis Presley
Following a seven-year hiatus from performing live in favor of making Hollywood films, most of which were decried by critics, one exception being “Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley returned to Nevada for a residency at the newly opened International Hotel in July of 1969.
Built by the late Kirk Kerkorian, Elvis performed 58 consecutive sold out shows, and lived in the resort’s penthouse suite on the 30th floor. He would go on to play hundreds of concerts at the International, and was scheduled to return in 1978 before his untimely death.
Aside from the nearby namesake street, Elvis’ presence today at the Westgate is basically nonexistent. It appears the resort has little interest in continuing to celebrate The King. The expected conclusion to the memorabilia case will be his estate paying Westgate for the items in exchange for the termination of the lease agreement.
Graceland, Elvis’ mansion in Memphis, is the second-most visited home in America behind only the White House.