The Las Vegas Venues Reinventing the Theatrical Experience

Roughly a mile from the Las Vegas Strip and off the 15 freeway is Area15, a massive experimental entertainment “district” that includes food, bars, tech-driven art installations and immersive experiences involving VR, projection mapping and all-enveloping sound. These can take visitors on a safari, for instance, or to space.

Area15 is one of a number of venues that–like Sphere, which opens Friday with a U2 residency– aims to use cutting-edge technology to create new entertainment experiences in Las Vegas. “Area15 is a storytelling company and we look at bleeding-edge technology as an incredible enhancement to great storytelling,” says Area15’s CEO Winston Fisher.

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Area15 includes District One, which opened in 2020 with 200,000 square feet of space (an additional 100,000 is on the way). The site includes an outdoor “art island” that is refreshed regularly with new art and has included works that were displayed at Burning Man.

The venue plans to double in size with District Two, which will be anchored by a new immersive horror entertainment experience from Universal Parks & Resorts, which was inspired by its Halloween Horror Nights.

And directly on the Strip, Dolby and MGM Resorts International opened Dolby Live at Park MGM in fall 2021 — making the former Park Theater the first concert venue to offer Dolby Atmos sound for live music. Dolby engineers designed the sound system so that each performance could be mixed and played in Atmos — the format known for immersive sound in movie theaters — at the circular theater that seats 5,200. The system makes use of roughly 400 loudspeakers and 350 additional amplifier channels and custom tech, creating 13 sound “zones” to ensure that each seat gets the most out of the experience.

Jed Harmsen, head of cinema and group entertainment at Dolby, says the company looked for a performance space that could bring in residencies with multiple shows per artist, “allowing us to work more deeply with the creative teams.” Since the venue’s launch, Dolby has collaborated with acts including Aerosmith, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5 and Usher.

Area15, an entertainment complex and tech-driven installation venue off Interstate 15.
Area15, an entertainment complex and tech-driven installation venue off Interstate 15.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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