The new operators of Elvis Presley’s estate and brand took their show on the road for the first time with a nine-month exhibition of Presley artifacts at London’s O2 arena that began in December.
Now Graceland, the longtime Presley home that opened to the public in Memphis, Tenn., in 1982, five years after the star’s death, will establish a second permanent home in Las Vegas, where the singer had some of his greatest triumphs.
Joel Weinshanker, the managing partner of Graceland, said that the new Presley outpost — featuring an exhibition space and live performances — will be at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino on the site of the former International Hotel, where Presley played a record 58 consecutive sold-out shows in 1969. Presley would eventually play 837 performances in Las Vegas.
“We have everything from a 35-foot-high outdoor sign promoting Elvis’ show there to a Stutz car he had delivered to him when he first performed in Las Vegas in 1956,” Weinshanker said, adding that the live performances will be “Elvis-related but not Elvis impersonators.”
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Las Vegas offers an opportunity to show off more of the million Graceland artifacts that often remain in storage, Weinshanker said, saying that the exhibit will not cannibalize audiences from Graceland but whet people’s appetites for a trip to Memphis.
“Once you give someone a taste of this they’ll want more,” he said.
Weinshanker, who is also founder of the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, partnered in late 2013 with the Authentic Brand Group, which bought 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, owns the rest as well as Graceland and its artifacts. Weinshanker oversees Graceland and live events, while Authentic Brand Group manages licensing and intellectual property.
There has been plenty going on at Graceland since Weinshanker and Authentic Brand Group took over. In August, they introduced an interactive iPad tour guide and the Graceland Archive, in which curators exhibit and discuss material not on permanent display.
Additionally, the Guest House, a 450-room hotel and conference center that is owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises, is scheduled to open in 2016 to replace the 128-room Heartbreak Hotel. It is Memphis’ largest new hotel since the Peabody Hotel was built in 1925 and features a 500-seat theater.
One recent decision by Elvis Presley Enterprises has made some fans unhappy. It is planning to evict Presley’s two planes, the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog II, from Graceland, inspiring a Save the Planes campaign on Facebook that alternates between pleading and vitriol. OKC Partnership, which owns the planes, has been trying to sell them for months.
Presley owned the planes only during his final two years and barely used the smaller Hound Dog; he spent more time aboard the Lisa Marie. His father, Vernon, later sold both, but after Graceland opened to the public, a leasing deal led to their display.