The Las Vegas Strip is ripe and ready, with plenty of entertainment-based developments in the pipeline. But how many of them will truly be something new?
The Kind Heaven project was announced more than two weeks ago, several articles were written about it, and you still probably don’t know what it is. That announcement included an event where Caesars Entertainment officials and Lollapalooza innovator Perry Farrell—who originally dreamed up the immersive experience as an interactive musical theater production set in Thailand, according to a Rolling Stone story from January 2014—spoke about a new venture slated to open next year that has never been attempted before.
“There’s no question the greatest challenge to any innovation is explaining it and having people understand what you are trying to do,” says Cary Granat, CEO of Immersive Artistry, the relatively new company headquartered in Los Angeles that’s partnering with Caesars and Farrell to install Kind Heaven at the Linq on the Strip. “We look at it certainly as a new geographic destination and everyone has talked about it as an immersive experience, but we look at ourselves as transportive. For a period of time you can enjoy and let go in a place that pulls from and is honoring a culture in a lot of different areas.”
That culture comes predominantly from southeast Asia and those different areas include music, food and drink, theater and technology. You’ll eat and drink, but it won’t be a restaurant or bar. You can dance to the music and even catch a live performance, but it won’t be a nightclub or a show. It will be all those things, but not just any one of those things, and you won’t need to bring anything because Kind Heaven will leverage radio frequency and wearable technologies to create a cash-free environment.
“It’s a hard one to explain because it has a little bit of everything and when you overlay the technology and the vision, there’s really nothing that compares to it,” says Shaun Swanger, general manager and vice president of the Linq Promenade and Caesars Attractions. “I think the intrigue with this place is going to be off the charts. The response so far has been very curious and positive. People need a frame of reference to compare, and this time there just isn’t a comparison.”
After digging into the project—and understanding exactly where Kind Heaven is going to be—my best explanation is this: The goal is to make a movie that you can step inside. There seems to be a story, but it will be different for everyone and it can be different every time.
Granat’s background in film helps this explanation along. He’s formerly the president of Miramax’s Dimension division (From Dusk till Dawn, Scream) and CEO and co-founder of Walden Media (The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web).
“What I’m most excited about is we built this company because film and theater have always been to some degree a genuinely passive experience. You’re sitting and watching people in other environments,” Granat says. “The hope was always to create a new medium that became active, where you really are part of the story. I think people want that now. It’s looking for the next level in being in an environment that’s emotional and intimate and they can decide what to do.”
That definitely sounds like something new for the Strip. (Another immersive, large-scale multimedia experience, Area 15, anchored by art collective Meow Wolf, is also due to open next year, just behind Palace Station.) The location is also new: above the Linq casino, facing the outdoor promenade, moving up to the roof and taking over portions of the Vortex event space, then back inside where the property’s sports book used to be, exiting back to the casino near the Mat Franco Theater. The Linq cobbled together approximately 100,000 square feet for Kind Heaven’s various environments and it should arrive about the same time as the Fly Linq zipline, which you’ll be able to ride from the Strip to the High Roller observation wheel.
“The impact this will have at the front of our property and the views of the Strip are phenomenal,” Swanger says. “It’s such a groundbreaking, forward-looking experience. Obviously Vegas is possibly the most competitive landscape in the world for people’s time and entertainment dollar, so for the Linq to be constantly evolving, that’s our vision.”