Mixing immersive entertainment in established retail environments holds significant creative potential.
The concept of repurposing former retail department stores and spaces with entertainment is often referred to as “retail” – although this is not a very accurate expression of the various applications of entertainment in a space previously used by retail, be it a concourse or a standalone one Unit.
Last summer, the largest entertainment operation, Walt Disney Corp., had a “toe dip” in the location-based entertainment sector at Polk Bros Park at Navy Pier in Chicago, a temporary golf installation called Pixar Putt, based on the popular “Toy Story” , “Wall-E” and “Monsters Inc.” movie characters.
Developed by Rockefeller Productions and TEG Life Like Touring in collaboration with Disney, the concept even included an “After Dark” element for older guests – the first in a series of planned temporary LBE installations.
Disney has dabbled in the LBE sector with its short-lived properties Club Disney, DisneyQuest and ESPN Zone. Likewise, with the closure of many Disney Stores as part of a recent purge, the operation has re-examined the use of properties in high-traffic locations to promote its brand.
Disney is also reportedly in talks with holding company Hyper Reality Partners about reopening TheVoid, the immersive reality company that was forced to close its 17 venues due to COVID, with updated versions of the original free-to-view ones from ILMXLAB developed gaming experiences.
Mixed use recreational spaces
Entertainment in a space previously occupied by retail has certainly emerged elsewhere.
We’ve seen Gravity Active Entertainment take over several former Debenhams department stores in the UK to convert them into mixed-use leisure entertainment spaces.
And in the US, Launch Entertainment announced the opening of its 28th “Launch”-branded family entertainment center in Massachusetts — on a site previously occupied by a Toys “R” Us store.
This has also prompted reinvestment in existing models – the need for current facility chains to remain relevant during major times of change as new properties appear on the landscape.
For example, CEC Entertainment announced that approximately 10 Chuck E. Cheese venues in South Florida are receiving a full entertainment upgrade. This includes video and cash-in games as well as illuminated dance floors. These website improvements will be rolled out to more than 600 venues.
In the UK, Tenpin Entertainment Group invested around US$300,000 to modernize their bowling entertainment facility in Croydon outside London. Tenpin Coventry soon followed, after a $630,000 refurbishment as part of an overall refurbishment that will extend to Tenpin Bowling’s own 47 venues.
Conservation needs care
An example of the need to stay relevant and address service neglect was revealed with Intergame’s announcement that the world-famous Circus Las Vegas Hotel and Casino will see investment in its run-down amusement and entertainment offerings. An anticipated $30 million investment will be made to the operation, with a focus on the Adventuredome indoor theme park and Carnival Midway amusement areas, with the purchase of new machines and site refurbishments.
After acquiring the resort from MGM Resorts for $625 million in 2019, reports circulated that the new owner would begin refurbishing the site, with an expected opening in 2023. New casino resorts, such as the new Atari Hotel, are to come opening soon With an extensive gaming element, it is expected that all venues will be looking to up their game.
Investment in establishing “competitive social” real estate, which relies heavily on active entertainment, has continued to be made at a brisk pace.
One of the proponents of this move was football technology training developer Toca Football. After opening its first entertainment facility in London in 2021, the company has unveiled its second facility, planned for 2023 in Dallas.
This development will bring an additional four locations to operations, and the company said it will arrange for the acquisition of an additional 20 soccer training centers and an additional three entertainment centers at US locations by the end of the year. Toca Entertainment’s operations are adjacent to the original Toca Football practice facility which spawned ball launch technology and facilitates training and coaching.
Mixed reality on the go
Mixed reality is now the focus of new product launches.
- Backed by a Kickstarter investment, the latest Yaw VR motion seat, the Yaw 2 Pro, now features a robust construction in hopes of offering both commercial and consumer variants of its motion seat that cater to arcade and educational centers .
- Talon Simulations, another VR motion seat technology provider, updated the D&B VR turnkey motion system with the new Top Gun VR experience and introduced its Talon Vortex platform with a standalone motion seat and tethered VR headset unit. Haptic motion seats, haptic vests and gloves provide a means to increase the physicality of the virtual experience.
- SynthesisVR, a location-based platform for VR entertainment content distribution and facility management, introduced a VR streaming product to VR arcades worldwide through a joint development partnership with QuarkXR. The platform offers operators of LBE VR arcades an automated VR streaming solution that can be easily connected between the host PC and Android VR headsets.
There is no question that mixing such cutting-edge immersive entertainment in established retail environments promises significant creative potential.
(Editor’s Note: Excerpts from this blog are extracted from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by Spider Entertainment and its Director Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond .)
In addition to consulting positions with other market participants, he is the founder and editor of the Stinger Report, a must-read e-zine for those working in or investing in the amusement, attractions and entertainment industry. He is a prolific writer and regularly writes news columns for major trade publications. He also travels the world as a keynote speaker, moderator and panelist at numerous industry conferences and events. Author of The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities, the only book on this aspect of the market, with a second edition due out in 2023.