news • Mar 05 2024

Themed Attractions Take Over the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Industries

Escapism is a thriving industry. In a chaotic world, being transported to somewhere new and unusual is a welcome relief from the stressors of everyday life. That’s why there’s no coincidence that themed attractions, which carry guests away from their daily lives through immersion in another world, are a booming business. 

As RWS Entertainment Group CEO and founder Ryan Stanam shared, this complete immersion “has dramatically changed the way the retail, hospitality and leisure industries position themselves.” 

While themed attractions are popular across industries, there are a few niches that are currently booming, including movie-themed attractions, immersive art and history attractions, and eco-attractions. Here’s a look at how these genres are engaging with the masses. 

 

Movie-themed Attractions

The film industry has always been a beacon for escapism, and major blockbusters like the John Wick franchise have tremendous fandoms. Capitalizing on this, Area15, the immersive entertainment district in Las Vegas, and Lionsgate have announced the John Wick Experience, a 12,000-square-foot venue based on the incredibly popular film series starring Keanu Reeves. Set to open later this year, the attraction will allow ticketed groups to take on missions involving characters, mythology, and iconography from the Wick universe. 

It’s not just newer films that are taking on the power of themed attractions, however. An “immersive entertainment destination” called Wonderverse opened at the Oakbrook Centre Mall in Chicago, featuring a Ghostbusters virtual reality (VR) experience, a Jumanji VR game, Zombieland-themed bumper cars, and several other movie themed venues. A unique creative conversion that takes a spin on the typical shopping mall experience, endeavors like these also take hold of the power of nostalgia, which is a big money maker

Movie-themed stays are also popular for vacations, and are often tied in with AirBnbs. Consider the popular Shrek’s Swamp in the Scottish Highlands, which allows guests to enjoy two-night stays in the green ogre’s home base. There have also been themed stays for films like Beetlejuice and Haunted Mansion.

 

Immersive Art and History

Gone are the days of the typical museum experience. Instead, venues are leaning into sharing art and history in a more experiential way. One strong example is the immersive museum about William Shakespeare that’s under construction on the site of the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch, east London. 

A collaboration between a multi-sensory experience design studio and several area museums, it’s a revolutionary way to bring historic information to the masses. 

Also in London, the city’s mile-long Kingsway Exchange tunnels, which were built to shelter Londoners during the World War II Blitz, will be transformed to create an innovative visitor experience that explores the tunnels’ history through high-resolution screens, interactive structures, scent-emitting technology and hundreds of individual acoustic pinpoint speakers. These experiential exhibits are thriving across the country lately, and include the popular cross-country Immersive King Tut tour.

In the world of art, Artainment “seeks to display art in new ways through the likes of technology-driven artworks, immersive playgrounds and secret passageways.” In Boston, the new WNDR Museum brings art and technology together, and has successfully brought in endless new fans. 

There’s also Meow Wolf’s fourth permanent exhibition, The Real Unreal, in Grapevine, Texas, which contains a series of dreamscapes, otherworldly landscapes, installations, surreal environments, and more. Outside of the box and bucking the traditional museum experience, these examples are on the forefront of themed attractions.

 

Eco-Attractions

Eco-attractions work to help people form a connection with the natural world. Increasingly popular, they help guests learn about sustainable living, animal welfare, and connect them to nature in a new and exciting way. 

In the UK, the Eden Project is said to be a “trailblazer” in the eco-friendly, location-based entertainment space. In addition to several new UK sites, they’re developing a series of green attractions across the world, from South America to Australia. Similarly, Norway is a hotspot for eco-attractions in spots like Jotunheimen, a span of mountains whose name means “The Home of the Giants,” or Saltstraumen, the most powerful maelstrom in the world. 

Eco-attractions can also dip their toes into the art world, boasting exciting environmental art exhibits like Arcadia Earth. Recently expanded to Canada after successful runs in New York, Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia,  the new venue highlights global challenges like overfishing, plastic waste and biodiversity loss. By engaging people with the natural world, eco-attractions are providing the ultimate guest experience. 

 

As we continue into 2024,  experts have shared that they “expect visitors to continue to demand more than an Instagrammable moment.” Simply creating a space for a cool selfie just isn’t enough anymore. 

As we just explored through movie-themed, immersive art and history, and eco-attraction genres, brands truly come to life when guests are immersed in innovative environments and experiences. As a result, they can play an “active role” in the attraction. 

 

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