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Exhibition control: Trends in touring expos

From rock royalty to sci-fi geekery, the market for touring exhibitions is in rude health, with a focus on the audience and big-name brand partnerships key to its success

By Jon Chapple on 15 Nov 2017

Star Wars Identities, X3, Lucasfilm, touring expos feature 2017

Star Wars Identities has proved an international hit for X3 Productions


image © Lucasfilm

After a scheduled detour in 2016 (spurred in part by the runaway success of the Rolling Stones’ Exhibitionism) to focus solely on music expos, normal service is resumed this year, with IQ quizzing the innovators behind some of the world’s leading family, film, sports and – yes – music exhibitions for our annual health check of the global market for touring expos.

Our latest examination of the sector comes as blockbuster shows such as Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, Star Wars Identities and Harry Potter: The Exhibition continue to pull huge audiences worldwide… and as rival producers plan to emulate their success with new exhibitions drawing on hitherto untapped IP, such as recently announced events based on HBO’s Game of Thrones and ITV’s Downton Abbey. But what does it take to be successful in a sector where shows run for months, not hours – and how are those on the front line making sure their exhibitions stand out amid a swell in both demand and supply?

Participation prize
A large part of the boom in the popularity of touring expos is down to the shows becoming increasingly more immersive, suggests Sophie Desbiens of Canada’s X3 Productions, with technological innovation rapidly obliterating the stereotype of museum exhibitions as reserved affairs attended by people standing in silence and looking politely at the collections.

“People want and expect highly immersive and innovative entertainment experiences”

Montreal-based X3 focuses on major, blockbuster-style exhibitions – specifically those licensed from Lucasfilm/ Disney – which Desbiens says appeal to a “broader audience than traditional exhibits”. The result, then, is that the “visiting public is changing”, with exhibitions such as X3’s Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology and Star Wars Identities “starting to interest people who wouldn’t normally go to a museum” by building interactivity into their design.

“Technology now delivers interactive experiences, so the days of exhibitions being mainly about artefacts and inanimate objects are no longer the main offering,” agrees Geoff Jones, CEO of Australian live entertainment giant TEG. “People want and expect highly immersive and innovative entertainment experiences, which also opens up new, younger audiences who might not have previously been seen dead in an exhibition.”

 



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