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Insights & trends for new entertainment centres & retail attractions

What are some of the key things that developers should consider when planning a new entertainment centre?

Family-at-arcade planning an entertainment centre

by Josh Cohen, Immersive Arts

Recently, I have been conducting research work for various projects on attraction trends within malls and mixed-use development properties.

When reviewing findings with clients and designing for projects, I notice specific occurrences that are consistent at properties. These could ultimately be harmful to the ecosystem of the attractions industry in the mid and long term.

friends taking selfie in arcade

With the decline of traditional retail environments, our global industry is ready to transform abandoned or struggling spaces into new guest experiences. This can drive throughput to a property and these projects have exceptional potential to revitalize a destination. However, if designed and developed improperly, they can damage existing and new attraction industry businesses.

Planning an entertainment centre: the importance of cohesive design

There is one consistent issue that I witness often with the planning and creation of a new entertainment centre. This is that developers, or their operator tenants, are going to tradeshows and picking out a selection of experience products. Then, they are just placing them sporadically in a blank (often non-designed or half-finished) parcel of space.

Commonly, it feels like more attention is given to having a large selection of offerings. This is instead of designing a cohesive, immersive space that is unique and well thought out. Fast development timelines and a desire to reduce capital expenditure are often the reason for this occurrence.

During peak times, the facility may appear to thrive. However, when analyzing the long-term success of a property (especially in competitive markets), new entertainment centres and attractions that follow this model will struggle.

EAS 2018 trade show floor amsterdam - meeting the experts Planning an entertainment centre

Each year, more developers and operators continue to open new projects with many of the same tradeshow floor products. This leads to an oversaturation of experiences within markets, guest decline, and competitive price cutting.

Guests come to properties to have fun and create memories with their friends and loved ones. Yet, one must also pay attention to creating spaces that offer a differentiated, detailed experience.

The following will offer developers and operators new trends and insights to consider when planning a new attraction development project.

Attraction segmentation and custom experiences

When planning an entertainment centre, it is common for developers and operators to determine which experience products will utilize their square feet most efficiently, with the least required staffing.

This approach is necessary when creating a business model. However, it can often lead to the “tradeshow floor” design if not completed properly.

Existing properties within local drive markets may provide similar entertainment experiences. If so, one must offer different attraction options, rather than just trying to be “bigger and better”.

Rovio-Angry-Birds_World-Qatar_GoKart Planning an entertainment centre

Fully custom experiences or custom variations of existing products are the best way to ensure the short and long-term health of your entertainment destination. Just because a product is pre-built and ready off the tradeshow floor, doesn’t mean it can’t be adapted, redesigned, or changed visually. This enables operators to offer guests a unique experience.

In my discussions with product suppliers, many are quite enthusiastic and excited about new potential variations of their core offerings. Especially variations that enhance immersion.

Before going to product suppliers, plan to offer at least 2-3 experiences that are truly unique to your market. Also, look for experiences that will allow your facility to maintain differentiation over time.

Facility layout and attraction design

Regardless of the guest experiences offered at a property, a well-executed facility layout and visual design are key. An entertainment attraction’s greatest marketing tool is the mobile device in each of the guests’ pockets. So, providing them with a space that has unique visual interest will generate substantial organic marketing.

When planning an immersive mall or entertainment centre, owners should draw inspiration from theme parks and water parks, creating spaces that allow guests to explore and weave through the property, if size permits.

nickelodeon universe mall of america Planning an entertainment centre

From my research, it is quite common for developers and operators to buy products from suppliers and have them all on full display when one enters the facility. Without proper insulation, flooring, and blocking, this can create an intense reverberation. In turn, this can impact audio attenuation of the experiential offerings, bother guests, and impact the length of stay.

Instead, one can utilize blocking, staging, and theming to create a varied visual plan of the facility. Lighting design and immersive technology integrations can further this offering. Plus, automated adjustments can be made throughout the day to cater to different age demographics and enhance facility events.

The added cost of creating a well-executed attraction design and facility layout will allow your attraction property to thrive. Both in the short and long term. Benefits include repeat visitation, more efficient brand awareness, and increased length of stay.

Planning an entertainment centre: the food and beverage experience

Industry research has proven that entertainment centres with enhanced food and beverage offerings show a significant increase in revenue at the property. While improvements in food and beverage quality have become a growing trend in the last decade, spatial design improvements are often still overlooked.

Within mixed-use malls and entertainment centres, it is common to find standard tables and chairs organized in a tight open-air section. Often, there is little separation from the core experience.

friends dining and drinking wine at restaurant

Having F&B directly integrated into the experience may be beneficial for some attractions (i.e., TopGolf). However, it can also be a deterrence for guests looking to take a break from the visual stimulation and recharge for further activities.

Regardless of facility size, there are options to create a space that will allow guests to enjoy a quality food and beverage experience. Even a small-scale bar and snack offering can be a unique experience. For instance, one could take inspiration from the boutique nightlife spots that are frequently found in metropolitan cities.

At all design budgets, enhancing the food and beverage spaces can provide guests with an experience that is unique (or should we say “hand-crafted”) to your entertainment destination.

Futureproofing the attractions industry

The three distinct touchpoints mentioned on this list are only a starting point to the design, planning and development process of an immersive entertainment centre or attraction.

Before buying products, selecting F&B options, or purchasing a point-of-sale system, take a moment to consider what your facility can add to your destination’s entertainment market.

The ecosystem of our global attraction industry is dependent on the creation of new experiences for guests. Millennials, Gen Z, and the generations to come will want fresh, unique spots to create memories and have fun.

It is important that all sectors of the attractions industry, regardless of size or scale, continue to create spaces filled with passion, creativity, and differentiation.

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Josh Cohen

Immersive Arts is an Orlando-area based design firm that specializes in creating highly realistic, multi-sensory attractions and visitor experiences. We provide a range of custom services which includes microtheming, illusioneering, ride design, atmospheric design, music composition, sound design and 360 audio

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