Nitro Circus Live athletes are headed for Vegas, opening a new show at Bally's in the spring. (Courtesy Nitro Circus)
For five years, Nitro Circus has seriously explored opportunities for a permanent show in Las Vegas. The challenge was making it “big enough to be a Nitro Circus show,” said Andy Edwards, Nitro Circus CEO. “Everything we do has to make a huge statement and be true to the Nitro brand of going bigger, higher and harder than anyone else.”
On the heels of Travis Pastrana’s tribute jump to Evel Knievel on July 8 in Las Vegas, which drew 3.5 million viewers for the TV special and so many live that they had to close down the Strip, Nitro Circus announced the plan – a theatrical show at Bally’s Casino in what is now the Jubilee Theater.
The show opens in spring 2019, Edwards said. The three co-producers — Nitro Circus, Base Entertainment (Brian Becker and Scott Zeiger) and Caesars Entertainment — agreed to terms about a month ago, Edwards said. Terms are confidential, but the journey to that agreement is public.
“We identified there was a huge opportunity to put a permanent show in Las Vegas years ago,” Edwards said. “Obviously, Cirque du Soleil did it in the early days and uses that as a platform, a creative lab.”
The challenge was where to put such a big show, with motorcycles going 50 feet up in the air over a 75-foot gap, “how do we actually get that on the Strip,” Edwards said.
“Version 1.0 was our idea to build a 60,000-square-foot tent,” he said. They had a full tent design, did a lot of research and development and were “close to a doing a deal,” but the logistics and expense ($10 million just to build the structure, not including production and creative), sidelined that plan. To put that in perspective, each touring version of Nitro Circus is upwards of a $5 million production range.
“Then our agent Seth Shomes at UTA (United Talent) introduced us to Base Entertainment and Brian Becker, and that’s when the conversation turned toward whether we could do this in a theater, which we had kind of dismissed,” Edwards said. “We took another look at it to see if we could get it in a theater mode. We started in earnest a couple of years ago.”
When they narrowed it down to available venues, Jubilee Theater, which has a huge stage, made the most sense. It will seat about 1,000 as the Nitro Circus Theater, housing a 90-minute show performed eight times a week, ticket price to be determined by October, the on-sale date. “We’re able to make some adjustments, including knocking down a wall stage right. It enables us to have full freestyle motocross from one side of stage to the other. Our guys riding dirt bikes and doing their biggest freestyle motocross tricks, will be able to land it and ride out, but with a shortened space to stop the motorcycles,” Edwards said.
There will be no danger to the audience, he emphasized, but they will feel completely immersed in the whole experience. “We will have guys rolling in on BMXs, skateboards and scooters, just feet away from the audience.” The experience of bodies flying through the air around the audience is crucial to the Nitro Circus brand and this will take it the next step, he said.
The Nitro Circus core demographic is 16-to-35-year-olds, mostly male, though it trends 60/40 male to female in repeat markets. And families are in the mix more and more as the brand matures, Edwards said. “Nitro Circus appeals broadly; you don’t have to be an action sports fan — we get lots of families, even grandparents.”
That demographic is a big part of the appeal to Caesars, he said. “We speak to a demographic that is not a traditional showgoer. A pool party is the more obvious go-to for that age group. We will be able to capture that and a traditional showgoing market as well, because it’s a spectacular and also speaks to the core.”
The theater will be loud — “the smell of gasoline and sound of motorcycles is exactly what we want,” Edwards added. But he says there will be no noise abatement issues outside the theater.
It won’t affect the Nitro Circus Live touring product except as a way to cross market. It simply adds to the brand, which started as a DVD and ballooned into movies (“Action Figures 2” was just released), a two-year TV series and the touring product. Seeing the show in Vegas will lead to more merchandise sales, more touring show ticket sales, more of everything, he predicted. “That’s always our business model.”
The actual Vegas production will have its own name and theme. Edwards was excited about the creative possibilities, including using video mapping and huge big screens, “which will enable us to change the environment, so fans will be taken through different worlds, things you can do in theater but are much more difficult to do in the touring show.”
The talent pool is vast, with in 20-70 athletes on the road with Nitro Circus Live. “This will mean moving the cast to Vegas a minimum of six months, ideally 12 month, at a spell. We’ll still have plenty of talent on the road. It doesn’t fit everyone to live in Las Vegas,” Edwards said. Forty-plus athletes are exclusive to Nitro Circus on 12-month contracts. Those picked for the permanent show become employees and go on the payroll.
Pastrana, the ringleader and inspiration for Nitro Circus, is very involved in the creative and will make appearances at the Vegas show. Other high-profile athletes will be dropping in as well, but the production is all Nitro Circus.
“What we always try to do is make Nitro Circus the star, delivering a spectacular, amazing experience every time that draws people, but we always like to surprise people. A bunch of our guys love the idea of dropping into Vegas for a week or so, and we’ll always be able to accommodate that.”
In the future, he envisions more residencies, either the same show in Macau or the Middle East, or a different show for a different market. They have tailored the touring show for big events like the 02 in London, where they play in November, or smaller outdoor and tertiary markets playing offseason baseball fields.
“It’s horses for courses, really, but by doing that we want to have shows everyone can see on different budgets in different venues, globally.”
The Nitro Circus live tour started in 2010 in Australia, expanding from four cities to playing nearly 100 shows around the world on every continent in 2018. Nitro World Games, its competitive event, started in 2016.
“This show is able easily to cross borders. There aren’t cultural sensitivities to it; it’s instantly appealing — guys doing extraordinary feats of athleticism and putting their lives on the line,” Edwards said. “That’s why Evel Knievel captures the imagination of the world.”