Pepper’s Ghost Key in New Lawsuit Against Cirque du Soleil

Inside Magic Image for Tony Spain's Seance for ChildrenIt is not often when the worlds of west coast rap culture and classical illusion come together.  It is an even more rare event to have those two spheres of history collide with patent law.  Today, then, is a special day for fans of the late Tupac Shakur, Pepper’s Ghost and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to industry magazines (the entertainment industry) a company is suing Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts for their alleged infringement on a patent it owns.  The suit claims Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One uses its patented technology to “create a hologram” of the late King of Pop for one of the final scenes of the show.

FilmOn  and hologram-maker Musion filed suit against the defendants in Los Angeles yesterday alleging Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts bring Michael Jackson back to the stage by an unlicensed use of their technology.

The complaint gives a little background on Pepper’s Ghost in its opening paragraphs – before getting to the meat of the issue:

“In 1862, John Pepper and Henry Dircks invented ‘Pepper’s Ghost,’ an illusion technique, which, over the last 150 years, has appeared in movies, concerts, magic shows and amusement park rides,” says the lawsuit. “Today a new incarnation of Pepper’s Ghost exists — Musion Eyeliner technology. Musion Eyeliner uses a patented system to project three-dimensional images virtually indistinguishable from real life bodies.”

The complaint then alleges that it is “widely acknowledged that Defendants employ the technology to create a three-dimensional hologram of Michael Jackson in Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One, Defendants do not possess a valid license to practice that technology.”

One wonders what they mean by “widely acknowledged.”

This will be an interesting case to watch.  Patent law is an intricate and difficult world to navigate.  We make no claim of expertise and it is always tough to judge a claim by the opening salvo.  As we write this, the defendants have not issued a statement in reaction to the complaint but when they do, we will provide coverage.

We note that despite the headlines and the loose text that floats through coverage about the lawsuit, Pepper’s Ghost is not a hologram – not even a little.  It is – as the complaint notes – a method of projecting an image.  Plaintiffs complaint is that the method used to project the ghost onto a live stage is protected by their patents and therefore Cirque and MGM have infringed.  Perhaps our beef is with the misnaming of the illusion.

Read more about the lawsuit here: http://m.hollywoodreporter.com/entry/view/id/268549

Magician Mac King Escapes for New Jersey

Image of Mac King in Cloak of InvisibilityInside Magic Favorite Mac King is to appear on Saturday, March 16th at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey for one nearly sold out show at 8:00 pm.  The theater is a long way from Las Vegas but just 1500 feet from the home of Albert Einstein.  We explore the obvious implications of this “coincidence” in our special investigative article today.

One of the downsides of being a headliners on the Las Vegas strip is . . .

Okay, actually we cannot think of many, or any downsides per se.  We suppose having people trying to force business cards for escort agencies into your hand each time you enter your place of work would get old and risk paper cuts but other than that, it seems like a pretty good thing.

And to be fair, Inside Magic Favorite Mac King is not complaining about being a favorite of both resident and tourists.  It is just an unfortunate truth that being a headliner means you have to appear live on stage at the venue for which tickets are sold lest you lose your headliner status and risk class action lawsuits by disgruntled putative audience members.

(By the way, according to our recent review of Clark County, Nevada’s civil court docket, there has not been a lawsuit against a headliner by a disappointed ticket holder that was described as “gruntled.”  It appears only the disgruntled are willing to pay the filing fees and cost of serving a summons to seek recompense for their alleged damages.

Interestingly,  we came across a lawsuit brought by a family who attended the Cirque du Soleil show “O” and found it wanting.  For some reason, the ticket broker told them the front row seats were for a show starring Oprah Winfrey.  The suit was dismissed at a preliminary stage of proceedings.  We were amazed that they stayed for the entire two-hour show apparently waiting for Ms. Winfrey to appear in the midst of the aquatic fete that is O.  See, Family Van Der Wallen Jag v. Cirque du Soleil, et. al., (Nev. Nov. 23, 2012)).

Mr. King performs ten shows a week and if he were performing them all on one day, he would have plenty of time to see the world but apparently his contract with Harrah’s requires him to take the stage at the beautifully appointed Main Showroom twice a day on five days a week; Tuesday through Saturday.  (We did the math, performing a show at 1:00 and 3:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday equals ten shows.  We were pretty certain Mr. King’s representation was correct but it is also good to check things for one’s self).
Continue reading Magician Mac King Escapes for New Jersey

Criss Angel to Critics: Believe Me

Criss Angel Readies Believe for Vegas Opening on Halloween Night

Criss Angel Readies Believe for Vegas Opening on Halloween NightDespite the critics, Criss Angel is set to open his $100 million show Believe at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Halloween night.

Critics and preview audiences have panned the show with adjectives ranging from “unwatchable” to “unsalvageable” to “a train wreck.”

But, as Groucho Marx would ask, “who are you going to believe, Criss Angel or your lying eyes?”

Even in Vegas, $100,000,000.00 is a lot to gamble.

Criss Angel and the folks behind Cirque du Soleil claim to believe in Believe and want you to disbelieve those who do not share their belief.

The Las Vegas Review Journal‘s Norm Clarke tested the limits of Believe’s supporters belief in a call with Criss Angel this week.

“Ultimately it’s up to the public, and the public has spoken,” the Mind Freak star pronounced.
Criss Angel says advance ticket sales make Believe the “number one best-selling show in Vegas.”

Yes, but what about the critics and the preview audience?

“I mean no disrespect to the Review-Journal,” he said, referring to some critical accounts of preview shows. “But it doesn’t really matter what you, the Review-Journal, Criss Angel or (director) Serge Denoncourt think.”

The public is all that matters, he said. “They’re the ones that made me the No. 1 show on television and made me the No. 1 Cirque show in Vegas.”

Unfortunately, Inside Magic’s Theatre Reviewer,  was not invited to the previews and cannot not weigh in on whom to believe.

The Review-Journal ‘s Doug Elfman found two die-hard Criss Angel fans who flew from London to attend the preview.  Their report is discouraging:

“We were hysterical about coming. We came. It was a waste of time,” Jordan Wilson said. “The magic’s not even magic.”

They complained they could see wires and stage holes used in unconvincing acts.

“Belief was not suspended once,” said Steve Moffett, who called the show a “dead end.” “They fake an accident at the beginning, and it sets the tone of the rest of the show — fake.”

“David Copperfield is better, and he’s a boring old” guy, Moffett said.

Wilson said it should be called “Criss Angel — Don’t Believe.”

Well, at least some of the critics thought the scenery was pretty.
Continue reading Criss Angel to Critics: Believe Me