Zack Snyder returned to the zombie movie genre in 2021 with Army of the Dead, a Netflix exclusive that is tangentially connected with Dawn of the Dead, the 2004 film which saw him burst onto the mainstream scene.
The streaming release of the movie helped expose it to a huge audience, with 75 million people checking it out in the first month, and a host of prequels and sequels are already scheduled thanks to its success.
Anyone who’s seen the film will be wondering whether or not the Las Vegas casino it features is actually a genuine venue, and indeed whether they can visit it in person to get a taste of the movie magic themselves. So what’s the deal with the gambling den in Army of the Dead?
Image Source: Pixabay
The restrictions of Sin City
While Las Vegas is very much a town in which anything can happen, one of the few restrictions that is placed on filmmakers hoping to shoot there is that the casinos themselves are open round the clock. This means that it is impossible to transform them into movie-making sets overnight, since there are always punters playing at the tables.
You’d think that in the age of the best online casinos for US players found here, land-based venues might be falling out of favor, but the international renown enjoyed by Las Vegas proves that this is simply not the case.
Because of this, Snyder and his production team had to find somewhere else to use for the interior shots. A Hollywood production of this scale with a $90 million budget might have made it possible to recreate a casino on a soundstage, of course, but as there are plenty of other places in the US with bricks and mortar casinos of their own, this would have been an unnecessary expense.
The stand-in for the interior of the Vegas casino in the film, then, was the Showboat Atlantic City, which had a casino floor spanning a whopping 60,000 square feet, giving the crew plenty of room to maneuver, and lots of scope for reconfiguring the space as needed for different indoor scenes.
The behind-the-scenes shenanigans
While the casino floor used in Army of the Dead is genuine, the production team were actually able to adapt it pretty thoroughly because the Showboat Atlantic City hasn’t actually hosted any kind of gambling on-site for the past seven years. This effectively gave the crew a blank canvas to work with, which meant that they had to hire hundreds of slot machines to bring the disused space back to life.
It is unsurprising that the interior shots were so convincing throughout the film, since they were essentially genuine. Meanwhile the exterior was recreated almost entirely digitally, albeit following a thorough three dimensional scan of the Las Vegas Strip being carried out using LiDAR technology. Just as Sin City’s casinos cannot afford to close for shooting, so too the main thoroughfares of the gambling metropolis are rarely able to accommodate productions of this scale, especially those intent on transforming streets into a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.
So you can visit the casino from Army of the Dead in person, but you’ll need to head to Atlantic City to do so. And in place of the slot machines and table games, you will instead find one of the most impressive, family-friendly arcades in the country.
The fictional aspects
The interior may be shot in an entirely different part of the country, but lots of movies and TV shows use this trick, even if they are set in real places. Unfortunately, Army of the Dead’s casino is entirely fictional, which is something that a lot of viewers may have guessed, especially if they know Las Vegas well.
The biggest clue is that Bly’s Las Vegas, the name given to the casino that is at the core of the heist, makes use of the surname of a character from within the universe of the movie itself, one Bly Tanaka.
While there is no doubt that Bly’s Las Vegas is heavily inspired by a number of different real-world casinos from the Strip, it is ultimately a fictitious gambling complex which it is impossible to visit, save for in your imagination as you watch Army of the Dead.
The best bet for anyone who was enamored by the story and action of the movie, or who simply loves Las Vegas, is to visit it anyway, as all of the casinos it has to offer are designed to dazzle.