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On the strength of Tuesday's QoD, which concerned... [Continued]

Question of the Day May 28, 2015

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Las Vegas resort-casino opening attractions and their fate: Part II


Continuing yesterday's answer about Excalibur and its raft of entertainment offerings at opening time, we pick up today with Part II of our similar roundup for the other major resort-casinos operating on the Strip today, starting at the south end and working our way northward:

  • When Luxor opened on October 15, 1993, it featured four gondola-like barges, which  navigated a miniature "River Nile" that encircled the casino floor and were intended to ferry guests to the "inclinators" (the special elevators designed to accommodate the unique pyramidal shape), for a $2 fee. When guests complained about the wait that all this navigation entailed, however, the ride was promoted purely for entertainment purposes as the Nile River Adventure and tickets were up-sold at for first $4, and then later for $3, indicating its similarly limited appeal as an "attraction" (presumably not helped by rumors of its haunting by three workers who died during construction). The whole river experience remained in place for just three years, after which it fell victim to a major interior remodeling and similar "de-themeing" process as occurred at neighboring Excalibur (see yesterday's QoD).

    Meanwhile, returning to opening attractions, guests who entered the atrium were greeted by a trio of themed paid attractions that collectively made up a $50-million "participatory adventure" in time travel under the umbrella moniker of "Secrets of the Luxor Pyramid." What were billed in this awesomely cheesy and hyperbolic official preview video as a "trilogy of cutting-edge special-effects attractions," included "In Search of the Obelisk," which took guests on a virtual journey inside an underground pyramid, "Luxor Live" - a kind of interactive contemporary talk show set in New York that for some reason featured a 3-D solar eclipse, and the "Theater of Time," in which guests could experience a time tunnel to the future featuring three alternate realities set in the year 2300 via an IMAX screen.

    Back at opening time, the exterior also featured a laser-imaging show that interacted with the exterior fountains and the Sphinx, whose eyes projected "Luxor" onto the side of the pyramid (check out the end of this KLAS-TV coverage if you don't believe us about all this). As Anthony Curtis wrote at the time in the LVA newsletter, "It's meant to be the pyramid's answer to the Mirage's volcano, but it's not." The whole "hi-tech" futuristic vibe was complemented by the 18,000-square-foot Sega VirtuaLand arcade.

    Then, of course, there were all the ancient-Egyptian replica artifacts, which debuted collectively shortly after the resort in the King Tut's Tomb Museum attraction (admission $1). Both this, and the IMAX theater, fell victim to the de-themeing juggernaut in 2008, evicted to make way for Bodies ... The Exhibition and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

    Last but not least, let us not forget Elias and Jodi (a.k.a. "Humpy and Lumpy"), the animatronic dromedary duo named for two close friends of Luxor's head developer. These talking camels were originally located in an oasis area in the casino but were later moved first to the casino lobby and then (Office Space-style) in 2003 to the walkway between Luxor and Excalibur, before being removed from the property entirely. They were the subject of a "Question of the Day" all of their own back in March 2014, which you can find in the QoD archives.

    Today, pretty much all that remains of Luxor's opening attractions are the famous lightbeam (the pharaohonic equivalent of a stairway to heaven), the exterior statuary, and the pyramid itself, which to-date has defied de-theming.

  • "It's open. It's big. It's unbelievable." Thus wrote Anthony Curtis at the time of MGM Grand's December 1993 debut which, thanks to its tie-in with the movie studio, featured an extensive Wizard of Oz theme, including the green "Emerald City" exterior color scheme that survives to this day, unlike the original Leo the Lion's-head entrance way that was (expensively) ditched after it transpired that walking into the mouth of a giant predator was considered unlucky by Asian gamblers (and frankly, who can blame them?)

    Once inside, visitors found themselves in the Oz Casino, facing Emerald City. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch of the West were all present, in audio-animatronic form, as was an elaborate yellow brick road walk-through, complete with cornfield, apple orchard, and a haunted forest, which led guests to the door of the city and inside, for a performance of The Wizard's Secrets show. This all lasted only until 1996, when the Oz Casino was axed and The Emerald City completely demolished (aside from a gift store, which was relocated and remained open until early 2003).

    Also debuting with the resort-casino was the MGM Grand Adventures amusement park, which occupied 33 acres and featured seven (relatively) big rides and attractions, four theaters with shows, and about a dozen eateries and another dozen shops. It can be considered another casualty of Las Vegas' ill-fated attempt to beat Disney at its own game and would shrink, in terms of both visitation and area, over the next few years, until it disappeared off the map altogether in May 2002, when it closed for good after a private "Parrothead" party following a Jimmy Buffett concert.

Tune in tomorrow for more adventures in Las Vegas Strip history, as we chronicle the next batch of resort-casino hits and misses on the attractions front. It's turning out to be a more epic journey than we'd bargained for but we've started, so we'll finish.

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