The private equity firm has acquired a minority stake in Populous, an architectural and design firm for sports and entertainment venues
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"The incredible response to U2's run at Sphere has only increased interest from the artist community to play the venue"
By James Hanley on 09 Nov 2023
James Dolan has revealed the Sphere in Las Vegas expects to host two more residencies in the first half of 2024 in the wake of U2’s acclaimed run.
The Sphere Entertainment executive chair and CEO addressed investors this week during the company’s first earnings call since the opening of the futuristic $2.3 billion venue on 29 September.
According to the filing for fiscal Q1 2024 – covering the three-month period ending 30 September 2023 – the first two U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere dates earned a total of $4.1m. The band’s residency was recently extended to 36 shows, running until 18 February 2024, and Dolan reported that discussions were ongoing with other artists regarding runs of varying lengths.
“Every U2 show so far has been sold out,” said Dolan. “The incredible response to U2’s run at Sphere has only increased interest from the artist community to play the venue, and we’re having conversations with artists across a wide variety of genres. We expect to host two additional residencies in the second half of this fiscal year and look forward to sharing more detail.”
The Madison Square Garden spin-off posted revenue of $118 million for the quarter, as well as an operating loss of $69m and an adjusted operating loss of $57.9m, but Dolan said its long-term prospects were very positive.
“While it will take some time for Sphere to realise its full potential, we’re off to a great start,” he said. “We are already seeing Sphere’s ability to inspire all and wonder, and the venue has become a landmark destination in Las Vegas, but we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface and are excited by how much further we can take this new entertainment media in the future, including to new markets.
“While you should not expect the venue to reach its full economic potential right away, our momentum is building with artists, promoters, sponsors and guests from across the globe, and we remain confident in the long-term outlook for Sphere.”
Dolan outlined the plan to make the Sphere a 365-day-a-year venue, hosting “multiple events per day on many days”. He added that the “Sphere Experience” concept, which debuted on 6 October with the Darren Aronofsky-directed immersive production Postcard from Earth, was a “core component” of that strategy.
“Through the end of October, we have grossed over $1 million in average daily ticket sales each day”
“We’ve been very pleased with the reception of the Sphere Experience from our guests as well as the critical claim Postcard from Earth has received for its captivating visuals and use of the venue’s immersive technologies to engage the senses and enchant our audiences,” he said.
“This has translated into strong ticket sales to date. Through the end of October, we have grossed over $1 million in average daily ticket sales each day. As we learn more about our audiences and the venue, we’re already planning ways to continue enhancing the signature content category.
“This is the first of what will be different iterations of the Sphere experience. That includes populating the atrium with additional technology exhibits and at time introducing new cinematic content as we keep Sphere at the forefront of innovative experiences.”
Both the U2 residency and Sphere Experience will take short breaks while Formula 1 begin’s a planned multi-day takeover of Sphere in the run-up to the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix on 19 November.
Earlier this week, Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) reported revenue of $142.2m in its fiscal 2024 first quarter, down 3% ($4.2m) year over year. The financial results were MSGE’s first as a standalone live entertainment company after it spun off from MSG’s Sphere and MSG Networks businesses in April.
MSGE – which owns venues including New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre – said the decrease “primarily reflected a lower number of concerts”, compared to the prior year quarter.
Meanwhile, Sphere Entertainment has acknowledged the departure of CFO Gautam Ranji, who stepped down on 3 November. An SEC filing said his exit was “not a result of any disagreement with the company’s independent auditors or any member of management on any matter of accounting principles or practices, financial statement disclosure or internal controls”.
“We thank him for all of his contributions during his time at the company and wish him well in his future endeavours,” added Dolan.
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