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[The Incidental Tourist]

Breaking down the Britney situation and its impact on the Strip

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Singer Britney Spears makes an appearance in front of the Park MGM Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 to announce her new residency at the Park Theater.
Photo: Steve Marcus

If you’re slightly obsessed with the rotating roster of resident headliners on the Las Vegas Strip (like me), things just got very interesting. Here’s what we know about the indefinite suspension of Britney Spears’ Domination show, which was set to open February 13 at Park MGM’s Park Theater.

Spears’ emotional social media announcement on Friday might sound a little cliché (“I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time.”) but it makes complete logical sense. Her father Jamie Spears was hospitalized (initially in Las Vegas) for 28 days after his colon ruptured and while he’s expected to make a full recovery, “he still has a long road ahead of him,” in Britney’s Instagram words. Another pop star may not have postponed his or her Vegas show under these particular circumstances, but the Spears family is different. Jamie Spears oversees all of Britney’s business and financial operations through a court-approved conservatorship and has done so since 2008, so it’s understandable that his recovery could sideline this show or any other Britney project.

It’s been reported that ticket sales for Domination were sluggish, but those reports were mostly comparing sales with Lady Gaga’s residency, also at Park Theater. It’s apples to oranges. Gaga is in her prime and brought major buzz to her Vegas debut on December 28 thanks to her Oscar-worthy lead performance in A Star is Born. Selling out the 5,200-seat Park Theater for her first three shows was a cakewalk. And this is Gaga’s first time doing the Vegas thing; Britney famously performed the Piece of Me show for four years at Planet Hollywood and sold nearly one million tickets, raking in more than $140 million in revenue in one of the most successful modern residencies in Las Vegas. Most of these Strip headlining shows don’t sell out and that’s a good thing because it allows Vegas visitors to make decisions about what show they want to see after they’ve arrived. You can never predict how successful a residency production will be, but Britney at Park MGM was a very safe bet.

There’s no indication when Domination might actually happen, but considering how close we were to opening night and the considerable investment from MGM Resorts International and promoter Live Nation, it’s likely this is truly a postponed show and not a cancelled show. It’s been reported that Britney’s new deal came with a $500,000-per-show guarantee, a big number that reinforces the idea that she would only cancel under emergency circumstances. Choreographer/director duo Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo have been interacting with Britney fans over the weekend on Twitter and while they’ve been teasing certain details about elements of Domination—and offering plenty of words of support for the Spears family and positive vibes for the “Britney Army”—they don’t appear to have any information about when the show could come back to life.

There are now 32 more open nights at Park Theater in 2019, no longer occupied by a 37-year-old pop culture icon with one of the most dedicated audiences in music. Expect some of them to be filled by Bruno Mars, who has been performing regularly there since New Year’s Eve weekend in 2017. His massive 24K Magic World Tour ended in Hawaii in November and he has no tour dates currently scheduled, but there have been reports that his Park Theater residency isn’t over. Compared to other big headliner venues like the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood, Park Theater has been very active and flexible in booking one-off concerts and events as well as limited engagements from legacy acts. Queen + Adam Lambert had a successful run there in 2018 and is heading out on tour again this summer, reinvigorated by the success of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Park Theater could (and should) bring them back for 2019.

Live Nation promotes the majority of current big Vegas residency shows, including Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys. The execs there like to take risks and push the boundaries of what’s possible in Las Vegas entertainment and they’re coming off two wins with Gaga and last year’s (riskier) launch of Gwen Stefani’s Just A Girl show at Planet Hollywood. If Domination doesn’t happen, it could be a sign that it’s time to keep pushing those boundaries and bring more new-to-Vegas and diverse artists to the Strip.

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Brock is an award-winning writer and reporter who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently ...

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