Each year, thousands of tourists visiting Las Vegas have recourse to them: lookalikes of Elvis Presley who proceed to express marriages, uniting the lovebirds of a day or a life in more or less kitsch “chapels”.
But the company that manages the rights of the late “King” is not feeling and has ordered dozens of Elvis-themed chapels and his imagery to cease operations or come into compliance.
Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which took control of Elvis Presley’s heritage rights in 2013, sent letters of formal notice last month, raising an 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”, explains-t- he.
On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal site reports that ABG is offering chapels to continue operating in financial “partnerships,” such as annual franchises.
“Their solution is to pay $20,000 to continue doing what we’ve been doing for nine years,” says Kayla Collins, co-owner of LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and Little Chapel of Hearts.
“It wasn’t on the table a few days ago. Frankly, I think that bringing the case to the public square made them think,” she said.
Asked by AFP, ABG, which also controls the rights of Marilyn Monroe and Mohammed Ali, did not react Thursday at midday.
Moreover, the company declares the communication of the local media that if it has “no intention of closing the chapels offering Elvis services”, it is the “responsibility to preserve its heritage in Las Vegas”.
Weddings themed around Elvis or portrayed by lookalikes of the singer were a very lucrative business in Las Vegas after the 1970s.
For example, it costs up to $1,600 for a “formula” allowing the happy couple to be united by Elvis in the “Viva Las Vegas” chapel on the edge of a 1964 pink Cadillac convertible.
According to the Las Vegas Chamber of Marriages, 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 officiated “all day Sunday, 22 ceremonies.”