Creation Entertainment’s annual Star Trek convention kicks off next week on Thursday, August 25th. This year the event—now dubbed the 56-Year Mission Las Vegas—is moving to a new location at Bally’s Hotel on the Vegas strip. Even though the event is no longer officially licensed, there are over 130 Star Trek celebrity guests booked and tickets already mostly sold out, TrekMovie got some time with Creation co-founder Gary Berman to find out what’s new for 2022 and to get some insights into Creation’s plans for the future and Star Trek.
You guys sold out early. Was it because you have a smaller venue or more interest or both?
I think it’s both. Bally’s main theater is smaller–I would say it’s about three fifths in comparison to the Rio—and there’s more active interest because COVID affected us, obviously, for a couple of years there. And then there is the revitalization of the property with all the new shows. And obviously, our marketing and these guest lists that we put together, it’s pretty enticing. So I think it’s a combination of everything.
Any hopes of more tickets going on sale?
We’re working with the facility to add a couple of rows, but if it happens, it will be a pretty minor addition. But I think it is important to note that our sellouts are different than a lot of other conventions because we don’t sell more tickets than we have seats in the main theater. And that’s a big difference and that was one of the reasons why we had our differences with CBS.
Any concern about overcrowding? Are the other two theaters also smaller?
No, the other room rooms are actually larger or the same size as they were at the Rio, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
When we spoke last year, you talked a lot about the challenges your industry was dealing with during the pandemic. Are things returning to normal for the conventions and events business?
Not totally back to normal. Like we were running a Supernatural show over the weekend in Washington DC, and we still have to test people. So we’re not back to normal, and there are still fans that are hesitant to come, but the guests are bookable now, where last year we had a ton of cancelations because anyone who was working on a production was not allowed to leave because of the pandemic. So that made it very difficult.
What are the COVID rules for Vegas?
We’re going to announce that this week. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Creation announced STLV 2022 COVID Policy on Tuesday afternoon requiring vaccination or testing and mandatory mask wearing.]
You mentioned all the new shows, how has that changed who is coming to the annual show?
What I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of new people coming and they’re younger and more diverse. But we are holding on to our core audience, which is the fans of The Original Series and Next Gen. So, I think it’s a nice mix. And I do notice some of the veterans showing the newer people the ropes of how to how to enjoy the convention to the fullest. So that’s nice. I think this year we will see if we are attracting a brand new audience because Strange New Worlds is so popular… we’ve got most of the cast coming.
What are some of the changes to due to the new venue at Bally’s?
Obviously being on the strip, there are more food choices, there are more entertainment choices, and there are more bars right outside the hotel. So I think I think that’s the major difference. And it is accessible to all the other properties. Like The Paris is connected to Bally’s. We sold a lot of rooms at Bally’s, but Paris has sold a lot of rooms too.
In recent years you guys have made a lot of improvements to the stages, especially the main stage with the band, the cosplayers, the couches, and last year the introduction of the big LED wall. Are you able to bring all that to Bally’s and what other touches are there this year?
That is all back. And I’m glad you noticed that. The stage set was really budget-busting. I like to go to some of the other events, and I like to think our stage presentation is superior to pretty much anywhere. So that’s great. We have a lot of nice displays. Roddenberry is bringing some nice tributes to Nichelle Nichols, which obviously we’re going to be doing on stage as well. Yeah, we have a few surprises. We do not have the show sets this year because that is a licensable thing, but we have some nice surprises.
What will you be doing on stage for Nichelle?
We decided to make it a little bit personal to us because we had a 30-year relationship with Nichelle. So we’re going put up some of our staff members and people who had friendships with Nichelle that have been close to Creation all these years. And we have nice video presentations of some of her appearances at various conventions of ours over the years.
Every year there are some guests that have rarely, or never, done conventions. So who were some of your best gets for 2022?
Right off the bat would be Zachary Quinto, he was a tough one. It’s been many, many years since we had him, and we try every year, so it’s great now, especially with talk of a new movie. And Ron Perlman was another one that we tried to have. And Rebecca Romijn canceled last year, and we’re really happy to have her back. And we really tried to get Ethan Peck and thankfully he signed on at the last minute, as did Anson. And obviously having Shatner back is great. I think the guest list is one of the best we have ever had.
Someone different that many people may not know is Ande Richardson Kindryd who worked with Gene Coon on The Original Series. We wanted her on stage talking about it because that’s a rare link back to those early times. It’s one of the last links there is.
What are some of the event and entertainment highlights for you this year?
Robert Picardo has been one of my favorites all these years and I think he’s so talented. I’m looking forward to what he’s going to do at the Saturday Night Gala with his friend of many, many years [Jordan Bennett] and their two-man show where they try to one-up each other. I hear that’s great. Tig Notaro is one of the top comedians in the country so having her do a comedy set is pretty amazing. That’s kind of a tradition of what we do is have people who are really famous outside of Star Trek, do what they’re famous for. There is a tribute to Ricardo Montalban. We had him twice at the conventions before he passed on so we’re doing a nice tribute to his career and life, involving his son-in-law.
Looking to the future, has the decision been finalized for where the show will be next year? Is the renovation on the Rio going to be done?
We’re back at the Rio. They’ll definitely be ready. From what I understand, some of the renovations of one of the two hotel towers will be done. I think they hope to have the whole towers done. And those are the rooms that the attendees will hopefully get. So that’s the hope. Sometimes these renovations are delayed, but we’ll see. And the plan is to renovate the convention center too.
My feeling about the Rio is convention center is probably the best facility for us that there is in Vegas, because we get that whole building and it’s just pretty perfect. And the size is great. Bally’s is too small if we want it to grow, and obviously, Star Trek is growing, so we need to be back at the Rio and I think it is a good thing.
So you will continue with a full Star Trek focus for this annual show, not even including a show like The Orville?
We’ve had many, many discussions about this, about whether we should open up the show to other longtime genre properties. And we decided that Star Trek deserves its own singular show, especially by us. We’ve been involved with the property for so long. If there would be another outside property, The Orville would be the one. We have talked to them about doing an Orville convention, and they were open to the idea. So maybe that is something that will happen in the future. But I don’t know, I just love the idea of just having this strictly Star Trek convention. There’s so much to the property after all these decades that there’s obviously enough to do for four or five days.
Last year you had planned on some regional “Sci-Fi Summit” events with a mix of Star Trek and other genre properties including The Orville. In the end, I think the only one that happened was in New Jersey. So is this an experiment that won’t be repeated?
Yeah, it was. For many, many years, we did the Grand Slam conventions in Pasadena, which were great. And we tried to replicate that more recently in New Jersey, and I think the other cities may have been canceled because of COVID. The show in Jersey did not work. I mean, it was a great show, but the attendance was really low and it was in the middle of the COVID thing so it didn’t really work. And Bill [Shatner] was the headliner, so for him not to draw a crowd was really unusual. So, I don’t think we are going to repeat on that. I think we have found our thing is these conventions devoted to a specific topic that really differentiates us from everybody else. I think we’re going to stick with what works. We got the Game of Thrones event, which is new for us, and we’ve got another property we’re going to be announcing pretty soon with Warner Brothers that we’re doing the official conventions for.
Anything else you want to highlight or say as we wrap up?
One thing is we’re introducing an app this year. So people don’t have to bother with paper schedules, although we are doing a program booklet because, again, that is something people like as a souvenir with the color covers. So the schedule will be on the app. That was another thing because the schedule was printed and then there were changes so it got to be really complicated to tell people, especially last year. So we went to this app, which we used successfully [at the Supernatural convention]. So that’ll be fun to try this year. [Editor’s note: The app can be downloaded now with a scannable code to unlock the schedule available around the Las Vegas convention]
And I would just like to say that I’m just thrilled about the fan support. When we canceled 30 shows during COVID and the fan support on rolling the tickets over to the new day was really outstanding. About 90% of the people held their tickets. And obviously, that was really important for us in terms of the longevity of our company. So we’re really grateful to all the fans, and we also appreciate that they’re supporting our convention, even though we’re not the official licensee any longer. That is really generous of everybody. And we’re trying to do the absolute best show we can. And we’re maintaining the things that make our show special. We feel that we’re delivering the very best show there is.
Tickets for the 55-Year Mission are still available. For more info on the convention, visit creationent.com.
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