David J. Danto
Travel thoughts in my
own, personal opinion
eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD on all
What Goes Around? – December 2023
What goes around – literally? A
Sphere of course. On my most recent business trip to Las Vegas my
wife and I visited the first of its kind Las Vegas Sphere, and it was a very
mixed experience. Hopefully my notes
here will help you understand how to approach your own experience should you
want to visit it.
The Sphere is actually two primary experiences –
what’s outside and what’s inside. The
outside part is spectacular. It is a
globe that lights-up bright enough to be seen in full sunshine and one that
definitely stands-out at night. As with
any large LED based sign it is better to see from a distance, as your eyes and
brain tend to fill-in the blanks of the image that are not there. Here is an up-close picture (with my wife and
I) that shows the multiple pixels, and one from further away.
As cool as it looks during the day, when you look at
it at night, it’s even more spectacular, taking its place with the other modern
Las Vegas visual icons such as the Bellagio Fountains, The High-Roller, and
It is certainly visually appealing with its many
creative images displayed over the course of the day….which means everyone will
likely want to visit it. My advice? Keep enjoying it from a distance and don’t
waste your time going to the site.
The Sphere is owned by the same folks who own New
York’s Madison Square Garden, and they are not well renowned for being people
friendly nor generous. (Take a look at this
article about them using facial recognition to keep-out lawyers with firms that
dared to argue cases against them.)
Attending one of the regular movie screenings at the Sphere is nothing
short of a nightmare. The tickets are
overpriced, the parking is WAY overpriced, and the time one has to spend
standing is soul-killing. Attendees
stand in-line outside for about 40 minutes before they are let-in. Once one does go in, Sphere security
thoroughly searches everyone’s bags – not looking for any weapons or illegal
substances – no, they’re looking for pretzels or M&Ms or water or any other
food or drinks you might have…to confiscate them. (I’ll explain why shortly.) Attendees are then herded into a holding pen to
be standing for another 30 minutes before they are allowed to take the
escalators up to the atrium. But then,
attendees are STILL NOT able to go to their seats. The MSG folks want people to stay in that
atrium to look at the various, very dated, 1970s animatronics and play with the
few ‘avatar creation’ stations for a long, long while, until they decide
that they’re hungry or thirsty enough to be willing to buy $7 sodas, $15 slices
of pizza and $18 and up beer and liquor.
Only after yet another half-hour of standing are the attendees then
allowed to sit-down anywhere.
I can understand being treated essentially like cattle
when I’m showing up to attend a free taping of a TV show…I don’t like it, but I
understand it. But when I’m paying a hundred
or so bucks to watch a movie and I’m being treated like cattle in the process,
then I get pretty angry.
Once the Postcard From Earth movie finally starts
one gets to experience a very high resolution, very big screen that somewhat
simulates flying over landscapes (a trick done MUCH better at Disney’s
“Soarin” ride – as The Sphere only uses air blowers but Disney uses scented
air and additional motion as well.)
Also, what the Sphere team calls their “haptic” chairs are exactly the
same as the old “Sensurround”
experience from the 1970s (with powerful subwoofers under every seat to make it
rumble when the sound is loud. Big whoop…)
The screen is curved and enormous and quite the
spectacle, but hardly worth the cost and the pain if you’re only attending for
the experience of seeing the movie. If
you’re attending one of the concerts at the venue, honestly, unless the concert
you’re going to see there is by a performer that you really want to see, the
venue is much more hype than must-see in my opinion.
Perhaps the owner, James Dolan (who is the son of the
guy the sportswriters in New York used to call Charles “man from monopoly”
Dolan) realized it was mostly hype when he had a tirade
against the financial controller for the project a few days after it was open
– with that controller quitting rather than keep working for the project. But then again, maybe Dolan was upset that
people weren’t being gouged enough…who knows.
To get there my wife and I parked at the Palazzo and
walked to the Sphere outside on Sands Avenue – quite the shlep. However, when we left, we decided to take the
“Bridge to the Venetian” that the signs within the site boasted
about. Wow, what a joke that was. The new indoor bridge connects not to the
Venetian, but to the Venetian Convention Center (what used to be called
the Sands Convention Center) on the second-floor lobby. To then get to the Venetian you have to walk
through the lobby, down a set of stairs, and then out to the Convention Center
corridor – the one with all the meeting rooms and the walkway that eventually
leads to the Venetian or the Palazzo. I
can just imagine what a nightmare the Sphere audiences will be when CES is in
town next month. At past CESs the huge
volume of attendees meant one could already barely make it down the corridor to
the exhibits. Adding the Sphere crowds
will only muck it up even further.
If you do plan to see Postcard From Earth despite
me warning you not to bother, definitely arrive very late (20 minutes past the
ticket time at least) to avoid all the standing and waiting. And be sure to eat first – because there are
only so many $15 pizza slices one can afford in one’s lifetime….
The Sphere information above knocked all the other
things I was going to talk about from this week’s trip to the back burner. There were some doozies in my thoughts too -
Newark airport concessions no longer sell any recognizable brands of bottled
water so they can continue to keep the price artificially high…Avis Preferred
still never has a correct car ready or the ability to switch cars in the app as
they promise, so it must mean they’d “prefer” you still go to the counter…and
United was…well…still United.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal
All image and links provided above as reference under
prevailing fair use statutes.
Copyright 2023 David Danto
As always, feel free to write and comment, question or
disagree. Hearing from the traveling
community is always a highlight for me.