The capital of gambling and hasty weddings is known for its celebrations organized by emulators of the rocker. But the rights holders claim their share of the business.
Slicked back black hair with a banana hairstyle, sideburns from another era, sequined and colorful suits… For forty years the look-alikes of the “King” have been marrying lovers for an evening or a lifetime, in Las Vegas, Nevada . So much so that they are part of the city’s heritage. But the company that manages the rights of the deceased “King” is not feeling and has ordered chapels with the theme of Elvis and his imagery to cease their activities or to comply.
Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which took control of Elvis Presley’s estate rights in 2013, sent letters of formal notice last month, prompting outcry from lookalikes, chapel owners and the mayor of Las Vegas himself.
“Elvis Presley has long made Las Vegas his home and his name has become synonymous with Las Vegas marriage”Jason Whaley, president of the city’s Marriage Chamber, which represents the thriving industry, told AFP. “The Vegas Marriage Chamber shares the concerns of many chapels and look-alikes whose survival is at stake, especially as many of them are still trying to recover financially from the difficulties caused by the Covid-related closures”he explains.
Wedding in Vegas, a business that pays big
ABG on Thursday apologized for the move, saying the group supports Elvis fans. “We are sorry that recent communication with a small number of chapels has created confusion and concern. That was never our intention.”, the company said in a statement to AFP. Artists taking up his works, look-alikes, chapels and fan-clubs, “every one of his bands helps keep Elvis in tune with new generations of fans”she continues.
On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal site indicated that the ABG company had proposed to the chapels concerned to continue their activities within the framework of financial “partnerships”, such as annual franchises. “Their solution is to pay $20,000 a year to continue doing what we have been doing for nine years”says Kayla Collins, co-owner of LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and Little Chapel of the Hearts. “It wasn’t on the table a few days ago. Frankly, I think bringing the matter to the public square made them think.”she believes.
Weddings with an Elvis theme or celebrated by look-alikes of the singer have been a very lucrative business in Las Vegas since the 1970s. Elvis in the “Viva Las Vegas” chapel aboard a 1964 pink Cadillac convertible.
According to the Las Vegas Marriage Chamber, the industry has annual sales of $2.5 billion. Harry Shahoian, one of dozens of Las Vegas-based Elvis lookalikes, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he had officiated “all day Sunday, 22 ceremonies”. The company holding the singer’s rights is already anticipating the success of the biopic dedicated to the life of the artist: Elvis, which will be released on June 22 in France.