Las Vegas has always been a place for people who thrive on fast-paced change: one minute you’re up, the next you’re down. But that “anything is possible” excitement doesn’t just apply at the Blackjack table. At MGM Grand Las Vegas, all kinds of entertainment offerings — from the design of the resort itself, to the food and nightlife options available — have evolved over the years, continuously awing new guests. The next phase of that evolution is a recently constructed installation, called Mirror Mirage, that greets visitors with an interactive experience as soon as they walk through the doors.
In 2017, MGM Grand held a contest in which three creative studios competed for the chance to create a custom installation at the resort. One contender, Chicago-based studio Leviathan, was immediately struck by the MGM Grand lobby. Their appreciation for that space ultimately inspired the winning concept: a gilded structure built around the lion statue that uses reflective video displays and animation triggered by guests’ movement. Golden swirls (created by computer vision) follow each participant’s every move.
“The entryway has such tremendous opportunity for people to be greeted in a new and exciting way,” said Chad Hudson, Leviathan’s President, when he first took a tour back in September. “We definitely want to bring our future-forward signature look into MGM Grand and create an elevated 21st-century experience,” added Executive Creative Director, Jason White.
That idea of an “elevated experience” fits right into MGM Grand’s legacy of pushing boundaries. When today’s MGM Grand opened in 1993, its theme made a splash in what was an already heavily-thematic Las Vegas landscape. The Luxor Hotel & Casino had also opened in 1993 and boasted a 30-story pyramid structure with talking mechanical camels. In the same year, Treasure Island promised visitors a world of skull-and-crossbones adventures, complete with family-friendly pirates. But MGM Grand went even bigger.
In those early days, MGM Grand Adventures, a full theme park complete with a lion mascot, was located on MGM Grand’s 115 acres. The resort itself also tapped into youthful fantasies and themes. The building — all 30 stories of it — was (and still is) green, and meant to evoke MGM’s Emerald City of Wizard of Oz fame. Inside, an animatronic Wizard of Oz show played for guests.
Moving into the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Las Vegas backed off the family-friendly theme, at least a little bit, to make way for new trends. Many people coming to Las Vegas had traveled extensively, and they wanted an experience they couldn’t get or see anywhere else. They were perhaps less interested in replica pyramids and theme parks, and more interested in the particular energy, freedom, and immersive entertainment that only Las Vegas could deliver.
So MGM Grand expanded its repertoire. In 1997, Studio 54 at MGM Grand opened as the first dedicated nightclub space within a casino on The Strip. It attracted a wide array of musicians, including Elton John and Prince.
Meanwhile, from 1995 to 2003, visitors looking for a one-of-a-kind show could get tickets to EFX ALIVE. When it opened, EFX ALIVE was one of the largest scaled theater installation in the world. Drawing on everything from the myth of Merlin to the writing of H.G. Wells, the show wowed viewers with its acrobatics, special effects, and sheer breadth. These trendier and edgier entertainment forms ushered in a new era at MGM Grand — one that’s been further refined in recent years.
These days, visitors dance the night away at Hakkasan with Calvin Harris and Tiësto, they dine and sip cocktails with Morimoto and Michael Mina. They still gamble and see a show, but they can also take a VR headset for a spin. And, of course, there’s still a signature lion on the premises, but now with Leviathan’s interactive twist.
Leviathan returned to Las Vegas to construct Mirror Mirage right before New Year’s Eve (the installation will remain up through January). The result? A prominent symbol of the next wave of entertainment at MGM Grand for 2018 — one that is driven by futuristic designs, interactivity, and the whims of each individual guest. What exactly this means for future plans at MGM Grand, and on the rest of The Strip, remains to be seen. In the meantime, Mirror Mirage is an entertainment novelty worth a visit and an innovation true to the DNA of MGM Grand.