Today, when we think “casino”, we probably bring to mind the scores of casinos that are available online, and the couple we might frequent the most and are therefore more familiar with. However, there was a time when a casino only existed in brick and mortar form. When you had to dress up in furs and pearls to be allowed entry. Even today, land-based casinos still exude a certain beguiling allure and some casinos still exude a glamorous atmosphere which recall days long gone. When gentlemen in immaculate tuxedos leaned on the bar and asked for their Martini shaken not stirred… but more on that later.
So, what happens when Hollywood meets these grand establishments? A winning combination is born, as evidenced by the amount of blockbusters recorded on the legendary strip of Las Vegas in the past decades. The biggest stars and producers have chosen Las Vegas or as it is aptly nicknamed, the “Sin City” as their main location for their cinematic pieces and it has mostly paid off
Starting in 1946 with Heldorado, a movie about syndicates laundering money at the casino tables (what else?), the strip was well on its way to becoming a prime location for a vast range of gangster, action and even romantic films and comedies such as Honeymoon In Vegas or Hangover. However, it was not until the 1970’s when the famous (or should we say infamous) strip was further developed, that it became the set for Diamonds are Forever, one of the best James Bond movies ever to hit the theatres, shooting to the top spot at the box offices in the United States and a large number of other countries. This film sets a standard for James Bond whereby he became more closely associated with casinos. This is also evidenced in later movies and in our comprehensive infographic that shows him gambling extensively.
My personal highlights have to be The Godfather I and II, the Rocky franchise, Hangover and the original Ocean’s 11 as well as the remake franchises featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon among other well-known cast members. While taking part at a conference in Las Vegas, I was lucky to experience the shooting of an outdoor scene of Ocean’s 13 from my room on the 15th floor at the Treasure Island Hotel. A part of the strip was completely sealed off and there was a flurry of action at all times, with the main actors repeating the scene at least a dozen times before the producer gave his approval. I was absolutely stunned to see how much hard work goes into a five second scene.
Similarly, to other land-based casino resorts around the globe, it is the glitz and glamour combined in this case with the seemingly never-ending flux of visitors to The Strip that will always mark it as a viable choice for a movie set. After all, the city countless casino resorts is inundated by more than 40 million tourists every year, each of them in search of their big lucky moment to hit one of the jackpots or have their heyday on the tables.
A myriad of entertainment shows such as David Copperfield, Cirque du Soleil or The Blue Man Group, an abundance of bars and night clubs, dozens of instant wedding chapels and a huge variety of other establishments cater to each and every desire of its visitors, making sure that the majority will have a day to remember for the rest of their lives. As we said before, “Sin City”, a very apt choice of name.
Other cities do feature in movies as well, but this is rather a small is probably because it is very difficult to compete on the same stage against The Strip in Las Vegas, which can cater for virtually any kind of movie theme. One of the most prominent alternative locations is Monaco, the municipality in the South of France. The local casinos such as the royal Casino de Monte-Carlo has been featured repeatedly in James Bond movies like Golden Eye or Never Say Never Again. It was also the setting of the hilarious animation franchise Madagascar 3: Escape to Europe.
A casino city that has seen a big rise in movie shootings is Macau, the autonomous region on the western side of the Pearl River in Eastern China. The last decade saw a large influx of foreign giants such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts developing the city by building integrated casino resorts in the lush Las Vegas style. We have also seen some blockbuster movies using Macau as a shooting location, most prominent of which are Skyfall in 2012, Johnny English Reborn in 2011 and the latest big Asian production, Now You See Me: The Second Act in 2016. More will undoubtedly follow.
Casinos are set to continue featuring in many movies to come, especially given man’s propensity to enjoy movies laden with intrigue, lavish riches, lost fortunes and crime, elements embedded in the very fabric that makes Las Vegas. We took the liberty of displaying some of the best-known film casinos in a common chart in our latest infographic above.