Elvis Presley’s daughter, granddaughter and ex-wife are praising Baz Luhrmann’s new movie, “Elvis,” very publicly. I’m sure they really like it, but they also need it to be a hit more than ever, and more than Warner Bros.
The whole world of Elvis, once a financial powerhouse, needs a boost to get it going again. The film is a publicity boon for them. Priscilla, Lisa Marie and actress Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley Keough are surely praying for a big hit when “Elvis” opens June 24.
This is because the state of Elvis needs to be invigorated and quick.
For one thing, Lisa Marie’s finances are in shambles after years of lawsuits and litigation for tens of millions in losses. Years ago, she sold the rights to Elvis’ estate to the now deceased Robert FX Sillerman. But instead of big investments turning that money into a bigger pot of gold, Lisa Marie says her business manager ripped her off. They have been in court for a long time.
There are many other problems. Elvis record sales are down the toilet. His generation of addicted fans has aged. They have all the records they need. A new generation has not emerged, like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Elvis is considered a number of the 50s or a Vegas artist. He didn’t write his own songs, so all those radio hits make money for songwriters and publishers, but not for Elvis. (That’s why the fight continues in Congress for a radio performer royalty, which the radio conglomerates are fiercely opposed to.)
Sales of the actual records are minimal these days. According to Music Connect, sales to date of all Elvis records, including streaming, are just 1.4 million. The top 3 selling singles so far in 2022 are “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, “Suspicious Minds” and “Jailhouse Rock”.
Elvis’ best-selling album, “Essential Elvis,” only sold 144,000 copies this year.
It is therefore hoped that the success of Baz Luhrmann’s film will stimulate all these sales. A soundtrack album is coming, but it’s full of newly recorded versions of old Elvis hits. New artists get paid, but Elvis doesn’t – he didn’t write the songs. The Presleys have to hope that fans will return to the originals and want them in their collections.
According to Forbes, Elvis’ net worth as a deceased celebrity in 2020 was $23 million, which is not a lot compared to successful modern stars like Madonna or Justin Bieber. Revenue comes from merchandise and ticket sales at Elvis’ famous home, Graceland. But the past two years have hit attendance hard. Graceland was closed for two months in 2020 and is only operating at limited capacity due to the pandemic. Once again, the film should attract new curious tourists to this famous destination.
Revenue generated solely from the film’s public relations is expected to help the former Elvis Presley Family Foundation, which used to make huge donations to Memphis charities. In recent years, the foundation has dwindled from its previous status. Read my stories from 2017 and 2018 here.
Long live Elvis! And “Elvis”!