His name is Alex Goude. He’s a well-known writer, director, actor, and tv show host in France, but he’s rather anonymous in the US. Goude has directed many live stage shows in France before moving to Las Vegas a few years ago. With success overseas, he’s always wanted to work his magic in Las Vegas—more specifically, to live the American dream and have his own show too. Alex Goude rolls the dice on Vegas. As Alex puts it, “Crazy idea.” (LOL)
We discussed with Goude his expectations for a Las Vegas show and the challenges he faced in bringing a new show to the market. What we found was an honest assessment of his previous and current shows and a thoughtful analysis of how his choices affected their success.
My beloved uncle and aunt, and my amazing cousin, have lived in Las Vegas for more than 40 years. So I had the luck to come in this town pretty often in my life with the best guides ever. It’s a city very easy to fall in love with! Always sunny, always warm, always fun, always expanding, and at the same time also extremely quiet off the strip—and close to the best thing mother nature has to offer.
VEGAS REPORT: Explain how the deal with the Westgate Hotel came about. What type of deal did you have? Split costs? Marketing? Billing?
My great friend Olivier Zardoni and I negotiated the deal with them after being introduced by Adam Steck, who told us from the beginning that it was an incredibly hard idea to sell a top show at the Westgate. But, no other room in town wanted us because we were unknown. So like most of the deals those days, it was a 4-wall deal where you pay everything. Thanks to Olivier’s skills with casinos (he manages a ton of restaurants in town), the Westgate participated in the effort by completely revamping the casino at the time, which included the poster of the show everywhere. But that wasn’t enough. We only needed to sell 200 tickets a day to be break even and we tried to push them to buy half of it so we could be safe forever. Never happened. (LOL)
VEGAS REPORT: The show “Twisted Vegas” lasted only a few months. What happened?
You might notice that only a few months (3 to be precise with 70 shows) is kind of a record this year! We had the budget to launch the show and sustain it for one and a half months. With some success we had and the public word of mouth, we earned the money for one more month. But it was quite dramatic in the end. At least we had the time to try to survive, which is more than many shows can say this year. More than 20 shows closed in the worst year in the industry ever.
The problem is the Westgate tried to help with the cost of the theater room but not with the technician labor cost, which is what killed us. Twisted Vegas was a big show with a lot of people backstage and in this economy we couldn’t afford it. We tried to reduce the workforce but then the show would have been really different. The shame is that despite amazing reviews online (from the real audience who gave us 5 stars on yelp and Trip advisor—not the journalists which were 50/50 sold on the show) and a pretty low ticket entry, nobody wanted to go off Strip to the Westgate just to see a show. And, everyone staying at the Westgate only wanted to go to the Strip. (LOL) We asked the hotel to try to secure a deal with the Monorail to offer the ride with a ticket but it never happened also. Bringing people there is tough.
VEGAS REPORT: In hindsight, is there anything you could have changed or done differently that might have kept the show running longer there?
Of course there is! We spent a fortune in marketing where we shouldn’t have. I think today everything is Internet and we completely didn’t do it with our advisors at the time who wanted to go in another direction. I ‘m not sure buying a ton of billboard or be on top of every taxis is what sells a show today. I’m not sure either spending a huge amount of money pre-show is useful at all. I would also not have been that ambitious for a first show with all the people working on the show. And, the timing was wrong—again, this year is BY FAR the worst in las Vegas shows history.
VEGAS REPORT: Could Twisted Vegas survive in another casino? Or another city like Atlantic City or Branson?
I think your point is really valid. Doing twisted Vegas in Vegas was actually a false “goude” idea. The show has a lot more potential outside of Vegas because 1) people in Vegas are already in Vegas and don’t want necessarily to see a show about Vegas and 2) Vegas is already twisted so calling a show this way wasn’t necessarily the best marketing idea ever. Unfortunately, I put all the money I had in this show and even more than that, and my partners know it’s a tough time for shows, so I need to find other people to redo the show somewhere else and pay the debts—sounds complicated. If you are interested, let me know. I also believe that being off the Strip without a big brand name is completely doomed now. We’ll see how Magic Mike Live does at the Hard Rock Hotel, but it’s a big brand name, so hopefully they ll be OK.
VEGAS REPORT: What were your challenges in selling tickets? And working with ticket agents in Las Vegas?
Well at first I wasn’t handling the relationship with the brokers which is changed today for Xavier. By the time I realized the situation was in jeopardy, it was actually too late. Brokers make or break a show in Las Vegas today. For years the hotels were helping the shows to survive by buying tickets for their top customers, helping in the production and the marketing. At the time it was believed that people who come see a show in an hotel will eat there and maybe play there. Now people don’t play as much anymore. Also, the restaurants are not part of the hotels anymore but instead they are independent and paying rent. It’s a whole economic paradigm which is gone to the toilet.
So now if a show struggles, the casino doesn’t care anymore. So the only people pushing for your sales are the brokers. Vegas.com, ebg, Tix4tonight, Groupon all do an amazing job. Now I know them personally. But the problem is, without the hotel pushing for the show to its customers, it’s complicated. Let me give you an example with the Westgate. I pushed like crazy to have one of the hotel shuttles redesigned with Twisted Vegas. All of the shuttles of the Westgate are wrapped with restaurant pictures and logos. I was saying just promote the show, people will be off Strip and eat at the casino. I never ever got my shuttle. Because now, shows are the third or fourth thought of any casino: first, the club if they have one, second, the hotel, third the restaurants and fourth… the show.
Look at the Tropicana situation. The casino is on the Strip—10 times a better location than the Westgate, and still no show is working there. The last big one stopped after two weeks despite great talent in it. How a show can open with only two weeks of production in the bank is beyond me? The show was pretty good. Same thing happened in this property with Mamma Mia which is a worldwide success but only lasted a few weeks. But a show at the Trop is vital for the place, it’s a really good hotel, really nice room but nothing is luring tourist in. I think it’s just a matter of getting the good show and support it from their part. If they want Twisted Vegas, I’m ready to go there. 🙂
VEGAS REPORT: How important is onsite marketing? Posters, lollipop stanchions, marquee signage, table tents?
Onsite marketing is important but look at the Westgate. More than 3,000 rooms and Twisted was everywhere on the property: blackjack tables, marquee, elevators, employees pins and still we were selling less than 10 tickets a day to hotel guests which was our smallest consumer crowd. So I don’t believe in it anymore. I mean I think it’s necessary but I would prefer the hotel to invest online or with partnership with the brokers, and of course I think every employee needs to be invited to the show to promote it to guests. We did that at the Westgate but only 5% of the employees showed up.
VEGAS REPORT: Tell us about the changes in how you approached producing your current show, Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream.
Well it’s completely different. Twisted Vegas marketing was not handled by me. Now I’m handling all of Xavier’s myself with my friend Seb Theve. We are dealing with the brokers ourselves and doing the marketing and spending. A lot less money. Again, the days where a show could spend $40,000 a week in marketing are gone. Look, even Cirque shows spend a lot less in marketing because, except for “O” and Michael Jackson ONE, they are not doing that good either. Remember the time where you can’t find a ticket under $100 for any show? Now they are all doing 2 for 1 and start at $49.
So, for Xavier we rescaled everything. Our spending in marketing is $3,000 a week, money we can afford because as you can see we are on for six months now. And still we are not making a ton of money because the room is quite small (less than 200 seats for our show because i want only good seated people for the tricks). You have to be a lot smarter. If I was doing Twisted Vegas today, I would only spend around $5,000 in marketing weekly (we were spending 20 at the time) and use the extra money to let the show survive a lot more. Because surviving in this town is key, especially those years. The brokers know that a new show has now 95% of closing before the end of the first month! So why go through all the pain for them of creating the assets for a new show? Honestly it’s understandable when you see how tough it is to set up all those systems and the prices. Now because Xavier is [still running] after 6 months they know its a pretty good show if it’s surviving in this crazy economy.
If you look at shows this year, Baz and Xavier are the only new ones surviving. And Baz is the only exception of the year of a show supported 100% by the property! Everything else they tried at the Palazzo/Venetian crashed after a few days because they were not supported by the property. I hope we’ll go back to the system where the casino really wants to help and support at least the major shows of the property a lot, and the others a little.
VEGAS REPORT: How did the deal/partnership with Sin City Theatre at Planet Hollywood come about? What type of deal did you contract? 4 wall? 2 wall?
It’s again a 4-wall contract of course. I knew Pete and Norbert the boss because at the time, I met them for Twisted Vegas. Their room was of course a lot smaller than the Westgate and it would have been tough to do twisted there, but Xavier is a one man show (well with one gorgeous girl). So we talked and pretty easily we concluded a deal. The situation is quite different again because Norbert owns the lease to the casino. So, by contract, we are in all the signage of the Caesars Entertainment group which is of course a big plus too. The Westgate is a lone island, the Planet belongs to Caesars, so instead of only 3,000 rooms having access to your show promotion, you have 10 times more rooms.
VEGAS REPORT: What challenges do you face promoting a magic show among so many other magic shows in Las Vegas?
Well Las Vegas is the city of magic! Our goal was to show that Xavier’s magic is different from any other kind of magic you can find in town or even worldwide. I know EVERY magician says that but in our case it’s true. Nobody is doing what Xavier is doing. It’s poetic, fun, old and new at the same time. You will not find a girl cut in half or any other big illusion that you have seen for years. Even the other magicians like Xavier. And also we have a story which is kind of new in this market. You are in Xavier’s dream and it’s full of crazy characters. If you haven’t seen it, it’s very cheap. So my guess, come see it, post a good review online like 90% of our customers and spread the word! We co-wrote the show with Michael Goudeau who is also a great asset in this. Being the best Friend of Mac King and Lance burton, he knows how the market works.
VEGAS REPORT: Do you promote outside of Las Vegas, or purely in-market?
Essentially in market. We try to work with the plane companies and some press in LA but it’s a long shot. We are a small show and can’t spend crazy amounts of money. We are thinking about doing a tour with the show, so well see.