The only celebrity restaurant that went bankrupt twice: Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis’ iconic investment in Planet Hollywood

more than 30 years ago, a chain of restaurants tried to capitalize on people’s fascination with the world of movies and television. That this love for the stars was not limited to just shows and magazines, but that they could directly rub shoulders with those celebrities while eating fried chicken. With Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as partners, Planet Hollywood became one of the places of the moment in the early 1990s. But the initial momentum faded, it went bankrupt twice, and today its shine is much dimmer.

In the 70’s Hard Rock Café was born in London with the idea of ​​uniting gastronomy, entertainment and music. It soon became a brand in itself and exploited this vein through merchandising. Bryan Kestner was working at the Taft-Barish production company in 1987 when it occurred to him to propose a venture to his boss, film producer Keith Barish. The premise: open a Hollywood Hard Rock Café and take this mystique to all parts of the world.

Robert Earl, co-founder of Planet Hollywood and current owner of the brand

Barish liked the concept and met with several entrepreneurs from the gastronomic field. One of them was the British robert earlwho had become known for his chain of medieval-themed restaurants and at the time he was CEO of Hard Rock International. “I told him I wasn’t going to do it unless we had celebrities as partners. to do marketing,” recalls Earl, speaking with Esquire in 2021.

dream team of stars

The first to join the project was the Terminator himself. arnold schwarzenegger he had already achieved fame playing the T-800 and was filming the sequel. Then it was the turn of Bruce Willis and later came Sylvester Stallonewho, unlike the other two, personally asked to become an investor.

Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were part of the firm’s initial investment group.

Planet Hollywood was intended as an entertainment industry museum that also sold food. That’s why they went to the movie studios that lent props from various moviesalthough they also found some gems at auctions and garage sales.

The walls were decorated with everything from the iconic leather jacket from The Terminator to the ax that Jack Nicholson’s character uses to terrorize his family in The Shining.

opening night

The grand opening was held in October 1991 in Manhattan. The restaurant was located on 57th Street and demanded more than US$8 million in investment. Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger went on every TV show in the weeks before to promote it, and also gave various celebrities T-shirts, jumpsuits, and robes to start building awareness for the brand.

It was intended as a museum of the film industry that also served food.

George Clooney, Donald Trump and Elton John were some of the many guests for the debut. “It’s like the Oscars, but better”, assured Oprah Winfrey. In 1993 Demi Moore joined as a shareholder and the company opened her second location, this time in Minneapolis. Later openings followed in Moscow, Paris and Las Vegas.

the crisis came

In April 1996 Planet Hollywood went public and raised more than $725 millionHowever, this will be the beginning of his crisis. “It was a bad year and a mistake. That put unnecessary pressure on the company to grow every quarter,” Barish said.

To this was added that other celebrities began to open their thematic premises, not only from the world of cinema but also from sports. The competition grew and at the same time the starlights faded.

At first it was common to see A-list actors having dinner or a drink at Planet Hollywood. Gradually it became a tourist attraction and celebrities stopped showing up or if they did it was less and less frequently. Barish left the venture in 1999 and a few months later the firm declared bankruptcy. It closed several nine of its stores in the United States and eight of those it had distributed around the world.

planet hollywood today

In 2000 Schwarzenegger sold his shares and a year later Planet Hollywood filed for bankruptcy again. Earl had the idea to diversify the business and extend it to other areas, such as accommodation and games of chance. So it was that in 2007 he opened a casino resort in Las Vegas.

Planet Hollywood changed its logo and is now targeting the casino and hotel business.

Today the brand is still standing, although Stallone is no longer part of the investment team and Willis did not mention it again. According to its website it has restaurants in Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Paris, Malta and Qatar.

Meanwhile, the casino and hotel business continued to grow. They opened in Cancun, Costa Rica and India. Before the pandemic they had announced the creation of a luxury brand ph Premier that would have a 547-room cone-hotel in Florida.