Star Tour

When it comes to Gregg Perloff talking about the first tour he has ever produced, the word is effusive. And he has a right to be.

“There’s basically five major promoters in Los Angeles that were all quite skeptical,” Perloff told Pollstar. “I had been working on the show for a very long time. Then I started talking to people about the show and most kept saying, ‘Gregg, are you out of your mind? A symphony show with film clips and some special effects?’ All of a sudden I started second guessing myself.”

Perloff, Sherry Wasserman and the team at Another Planet Entertainment had an idea four years ago to put together a show, one that would not be anything like the rock concerts they promote. “Star Wars” started coming to mind.

Another Planet – located in Berkeley, Calif., and the flagship producer of the Outside Lands festival – is located below San Rafael, home to George Lucas, Lucasfilm, THX and Industrial Light & Magic.

Another Planet approached them with a traveling “Star Wars” idea, where visitors would be “immersed” in an environment filled with exhibits, special effects and music. Turned out Lucasfilm had a similar idea. But they were looking at theatres; Another Planet was thinking arenas.

What is touring now – “Star Wars: In  Concert” – is presented in part by Lucasfilm and, according to Lucas and Perloff, it is credited in great part to Lucas Licensing President Howard Roffman, who sold Lucas on the idea.

“We would kid him about how his concert was going and he had to get Johnny [Williams] to buy in and me to buy in,” Lucas told CNN

But make no bones about it: the Berkeley-based promotion company invested a large amount of galactic gold into this extravaganza.

With Anthony Daniels, the voice of C3PO, as narrator, a Meyer MILO sound system, an 86-piece orchestra, 60-voice choir and the largest HD video screen to ever go on tour, it could have had all the makings of a “Heaven’s Gate”-style debacle.

And Pollstar heard independently that at least one of the largest promotion companies in the world would have likely passed if it was offered the opportunity to produce this show.

Instead, it is a highlight of the year, doing multiple nights in arenas, putting up sold-out numbers, getting standing ovations and touring all over the world. After launching at The O2 in London and its current North America stint, it’s off to China. After all, it’s mostly sound and images – there’s no need to understand the lyrics.

WME Entertainment’s Marc Geiger, the tour’s responsible agent, is known for matching an artist with the right-sized venue. In this case, Yoda, Luke and the rest of the Resistance are grabbing 19,210 people on a Sunday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.

One recent tour made the interesting choice to book arena shows in Los Angeles and nearby Anaheim, got slow ticket sales in return and was eventually canceled. “Star Wars,” on the other hand, opened at Anaheim’s Honda Center then packed Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.

“You wouldn’t normally start a tour in L.A.,” Perloff said. But Tim Ryan, GM of Honda Center, got the first show for a reason. After all the detractors had their say, Ryan stepped up and predicted “Star Wars” would be a huge hit. He even put money on it.

“[The Honda Center] did all of the local advertising. They put together a PBS special. They worked with our PR company and our people to develop an advertising plan,” Perloff said. “They had six people on their staff assigned to just this show. They did a phenomenal job.”

It’s a trend. “Star Wars” is co-promoted by the buildings, something Perloff characterized as unique. Several are doing this for the first time.

Many venues are using it to demonstrate their often under-appreciated ability to do creative local promotions. The Ford Center in Oklahoma City had a good time with it, putting together a VIP hospitality menu that includes Princess Leia Cinnamon Roll Hair Buns and TIE Fighter Ties Italian Sausage Croissant Wraps.

“Go on the blogs, look at the reviews. People have just loved this show,” Perloff said.

There are other shows out there – Video Games Live comes to mind – where orchestras play to video. But unlike the themes to “Silent Hill 2” and “Bioshock,” the music of the Lucas movies appeals to people from age 10 to 80.

“People are asking for dates and you wouldn’t believe how many markets there are that we haven’t played,” he said.

The first leg of the tour includes an “all-star” orchestra that has members of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra among others, and the second leg is the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Composer John Williams rearranged the score to match the movie clips and was pivotal in arranging the show in chronological order (rather than starting with “Episode 4: A New Beginning” / aka, the first film).

Then there’s the accompanying exhibit that concertgoers can visit before or after the show, one that consists of memorabilia, Williams’ handwritten compositions and special-effect photo ops.

“Lucasfilm is the best company I’ve ever worked with,” Perloff said. “All they ask of us is to protect the brand, then it’s ‘What can I do to help?’ Every time we’ve needed help – a TV spot or the PBS special called ‘The Making of Star Wars: In  Concert’ – Lucasfilm either did it or was involved in helping us do it.”

The tour has nearly 50 dates left between now and when Nashville’s Sommet Center wraps the North American leg Dec. 13.