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FKPE: Why we’re investing in touring entertainment

We have to admit, when we first opened Jurassic World: The Exhibition at London’s ExCeL Centre in 2022, we weren’t quite expecting the huge response it got. But it was so successful (selling 314,000 tickets in just over four months) that it cemented our confidence in the exhibition, family entertainment, comedy, and special projects business.

In fact, we’re so excited by the potential for this segment that we’re launching a business division dedicated to it: FKP Scorpio Entertainment (FKPE).

Headquartered in London, FKPE will be led by James Cassidy and Barry Campbell, who launched FKP UK in 2018 with BBC Studios’ very successful Blue Planet II Live In Concert arena tour.

We are now investing significantly, including acquiring exhibition companies, adding staff, and developing new venues across Europe to accommodate the content we will be promoting in the coming years.

Currently, we have Semmel Exhibitions’ Disney 100: The Exhibition at ExCeL (it’s sold over 250,000 tickets so far). We are delighted with the venue, so confirmed an exclusive tenancy deal until 2027 and have many major IP exhibitions and events in the pipeline. Up next, will be London and multi-territory European presentations of Formula 1: The Exhibition (opening doors at ExCeL later this year), plus we are collaborating on a new experiential project with a major global gaming IP, details to be announced soon.

We plan to not only promote experiences but invest in producing content, too ,and will be making some major announcements later this year.

“In addition to our long-term agreement with ExCeL in London, we’re on schedule to complete the renovation and build of our own 8,000sqm exhibition venue”

While there are some crossover skills, promoting exhibitions is a completely different ballgame to concerts. That’s why, alongside James, Barry, and the team, we’re expanding our portfolio through the acquisition of Sweden- based Nordic Exhibitions & Events Ltd. The company was founded by promoter Stefan Papengelis in 2016 and has to date sold approximately 700,000 tickets in the Scandinavian market. Papengelis and his team of six will not only work closely with FKP Sweden managing director Bozo Rasic but will report directly into FKPE London and be responsible for developing the growth of exhibitions and special events in all Nordic markets. As part of the acquisition, FKPE now owns promotion rights to Jurassic World by Brickman, Titanic: The Exhibition, and Van Gogh Alive, which opens in Örebro this summer.

As anyone working in this sector knows, a lack of venue availability is a sticking point across Europe. So, in addition to our long-term agreement with ExCeL in London, we’re on schedule to complete the renovation and build of our own 8,000sqm exhibition venue in Oberhausen, Germany. The new venue will host separate but adaptable exhibition spaces in one location, close to transport links and smack bang in the middle of the Rhine/Ruhr catchment area, which is home to over 15m people. It is our intention for this to become the ultimate German destination for exhibitions and immersive events in years to come. IPs are lining up, there are so many great producers and excellent content out there, but we tend to find that there just aren’t enough venues. Our approach in Oberhausen will be to offer that balance between the tier-one IP and mid-portfolio exhibitions in a fully serviced one-stop venue destination.

In addition to Oberhausen, we also have a touring portable structure in Stockholm, which will be put to use for future exhibitions across Europe, something we are very keen to develop further.

Comedy is another key part of our strategy. In Germany alone, we’ve promoted over 365 shows in the last two years, selling more than 250,000 tickets. To support this German success, we’ve recruited top UK comedy promoter Ollie Catchpole (ex Robomagic/ATG) to join the FKPE international team – he will be working closely with all our offices to bring great comedy tours into UK & Europe.

As you can probably tell from our activities, we’re extremely confident about the future. There are now so many more exhibitions and special project events for people to go to these days, and FKPE can’t wait to be at the heart of it!

This article was first published in the Touring Entertainment Report 2024, which is available exclusively to IQ subscribers in print or as a digital magazineSubscribe now and view the full report. A preview version is below.

 


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Touring entertainment’s top trends for 2024/25

The Touring Entertainment Report (TER) 2024, a resource that puts the global business of touring theatre, shows and exhibitions in focus, is out now. In this opening chapter, IQ examines the latest trends in the business…

The growing popularity of the touring entertainment sector has led to more and more content on the road. But creating eye-popping shows that people want to tell their friends about doesn’t come cheap, and ever-increasing competition means that being ahead of the trends curve is an important part of deciding what to develop for the market.
So what’s hot and what’s not? Here are some of the key trends for 2024/25.

Instagramification
From Instagram posts to TikTok reels, we’ve all seen friends and family share their immersive experiences on social media platforms. So it’s no surprise that creating experiences that people want to share online can drive awareness, as well as sell tickets. Check out Dopamine Land in London, Washington, Brisbane, and Madrid; The Art of the Brick, with its inventive Lego creations; or any of the major art projection exhibits, and you’ll know exactly what we mean.

But audiences want more than an Instagram moment, as George Wood, MD of Luna Entertainment Group, which co-produces The Friends Experience with OGX and operates the show in the UK in Europe, says. The global hit exhibition offers fans of the hit TV series a chance to relive scenes in beloved settings such as Central Perk café or the main characters’ apartments. While platforms such as Instagram are great marketing tools, Wood says that visitors were most attracted to the appeal of creating their own nostalgia-tinged moments.

“Being able to take pictures of themselves on the famous orange sofa and recreating moments with their friends is excellent marketing,” Wood explains. “It not only promotes the show, but these things never feel forced. There’s no cheap ploy by the content producers to get visitors to engage with them. In a way, it feels like a holistic experience, and social media is just one part of making that experience that much better.”

Authenticity is key to success – audiences want to play an active role in the experience, as Nicolas Renna, CEO of Spain-based international promoter and producer Proactiv, told the Touring Entertainment LIVE conference at ILMC: “Experiences that organically facilitate social media sharing empower visitors to become active participants in the marketing process.”

“What we’re looking to do with the location-based entertainment business is extend and broaden the relationship we have between our audiences and our IP”

Eatertainment
No longer a sideshow to the main experience, dining is now very much on the menu for touring experiences. Mama Mia! The Party at The O2 in London sees fans of the hit musical treated to a Greek-style meal before enjoying a performance of the show, plus an ABBA- themed after-party. The Faulty Towers Dining Experience means you can sample some of the infamous service quality from characters of the BBC hit comedy series while dining – it’s been in constant demand throughout Australia, Europe, Ireland, Scandinavia, the United Arab Emirates, and the UK for years.

The future certainly seems to hold more mouth-watering delights on this theme ahead.

Family entertainment centres
While the lack of venue availability is a regular issue across Europe, in the US and Asia, FECs (family entertainment centres) have become popular alternatives to traditional venues.

Billed as large-scale leisure spaces, FECs allow families to not only be entertained but also provide opportunities for shopping and eating.

One of the most spectacular examples is Sony’s 40,000ft2 Wonderverse located in Chicago’s Oakbrook Center. The free-to-enter venue has individual attractions priced from $6 to $35 per person.

“What we’re looking to do with the location-based entertainment business is extend and broaden the relationship we have between our audiences and our IP,” Jeffrey Godsick, who leads global location-based entertainment (LBE) and themed entertainment for Sony Pictures Entertainment, told Blooloop. “We need activations that maintain that relationship, bring new audiences into the brand, and extend the stories. In many cases, we’re world-building with these attractions.”

“We really believe in depths of immersion. People need to be able to decide on how deep they want to go”

He added: “We really believe in depths of immersion. People need to be able to decide on how deep they want to go. They might just want to be eating in that environment, or they might want to dive deep into the world of a movie and be that character. We’re trying to provide that full range.”

Expect to see more of these multi-IP experiences around the world in the coming years.

Telling new stories
While big brand IP continues to draw in mass crowds, touring entertainment producers seeking to move beyond the ever-popular topics of Ancient Egypt, Titanic, and dinosaurs are looking to the world of science and technology for inspiration. Lightroom’s The Moonwalkers: A Journey With Tom Hanks exhibit in London sees the famous actor narrate the story of NASA’s Apollo moon landings, and the BBC Earth Experience, based on the hit natural history TV series, was a smash hit in London, and at the time of writing was continuing this success in Melbourne, Australia.

On a similar note, in the pursuit of novel stories to tell, there’s a growing interest in more diverse storylines. From shows celebrating the contributions of ethnic minorities in pop culture to exhibits championing inclusivity and body positivity, there’s been an increasing number of narratives taking new approaches and diverting away from “traditional” Western narratives.

To IP or not to IP?
Big-brand IP continues to draw big numbers in terms of ticket sales. From Hollywood movie franchises such as Marvel, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park, to the ever-popular Disney world, producers and promoters can be inundated with offers from IP owners looking to tap into people’s desire to get closer to the characters they love.

But with so much potential out there, the key to success is not only choosing the right IP but the right approach, as Renna says. “It’s always a balance between the use of IP and how you present it. I look for an IP that transcends time.” His Mundo Pixar exhibition features 13 scenes from the iconic animation house. “It works because the audience that knows the movies is very broad in age range.

“If visitors saw the films as a child, they probably have children themselves now, so they can come with friends or their own family.”

“Our aim was to create something that awakens all five senses within people of all ages”

IPs are no longer limited to well-known film, TV, and video game brands, celebrities and fashion designers are all fair game. Recent examples include DIVA and Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, both of which took place at the V&A in London.

But with licensing such properties often proving very costly, is this always a route to success? And can producers create their own IPs?

Exhibition Hub followed up the massive Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience by curating another captivating attraction in tandem with Fever. Billed as London’s largest-ever “ball pit” when it made its UK debut last year, following successful jaunts in Los Angeles, Milan, and Brussels, Bubble Planet is a whimsical exhibit that spans 11 themed multisensory zones – including a meditative bubble bath pit, a hot-air balloon simulation, and a VR-powered experience where visitors see the world through the perspective of a giant bubble.

“The concept of bubbles, whether in the air or in the water, is presented throughout a surreal and imaginary journey,” explains Hamza El Azhar, co-founder and creative director of Exhibition Hub. “Our aim was to create something that awakens all five senses within people of all ages, and the concept of bubbles, whether in the air or underwater, is presented throughout a surreal and imaginary journey.”

The joy of horror
Hallowe’en has become an all-year-round activity as ‘recreational fear’ increasingly draws in audiences seeking spooky thrills and chills at attractions such as escape rooms and immersive experiences.

“There is a trend for immersive horror attractions where your involvement is greatly encouraged,” says Charles Read, MD of visitor attractions website Blooloop, citing the success of US-based producer Meow Wolf’s series of immersive exhibits as an example of how people will “pay to go and be terrified.” Among its attractions across the US is The Real Unreal, an “existential adventure game” that envelopes the viewer in a world where the real world seems to melt away.

And Heather McGill, director of Unify Productions in the UK, says: “While I’m not sure about the rest of Europe, the Hallowe’en market is doing exceptionally well in the US and the UK.”

The death of the word ‘immersive’
Just joking. It looks like that word is here to stay, despite everyone in the business bemoaning its use.

The Touring Entertainment Report 2024 is available exclusively to IQ subscribers in print or as a digital magazineSubscribe now and view the full report. A preview version is below.

 


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Touring Entertainment Report 2024 out now

The Touring Entertainment Report (TER) 2024, a resource that puts the global business of touring theatre, shows and exhibitions in focus, is out now.

From Cirque du Soleil to Jurassic World, the second edition delves into this multi-billion dollar sector of the live entertainment industry.

The report follows the launch of Touring Entertainment LIVE, a new one-day event at ILMC that brought together the world’s top show and exhibition producers, rights holders, venue operators, and promoters.

The second annual Touring Entertainment Report, available to subscribers of IQ, includes:

“It’s a fascinating time in the touring entertainment business,” says TER editor James Drury. “With increasing demand for content, growing numbers of productions, and imaginative new experiences hitting the road every year, it’s a dynamic and fast-moving business. But growth brings challenges, as we explore in this edition. From the lack of venue availability in Europe to creating more sustainable productions, we reveal top tips from experts on how to navigate some of the questions facing many companies.”

The Touring Entertainment Report 2024 is available exclusively to IQ subscribers in print or as a digital magazineSubscribe now and view the full report.

A preview version of the Touring Entertainment Report 2024 is below.

 


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Touring Entertainment LIVE programme complete

The conference programme for the first edition of Touring Entertainment LIVE, which is set for London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel on Friday, March 1, is now complete.

Leading executives from the world’s biggest and most successful touring shows and exhibitions will gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the multi-billion dollar sector, topped by keynote sessions from ABBA Voyage producer Svana Gisla and theatre legend Richard Lewis.

The final schedule includes the State Of The Nation session, which will see Tom Zaller (Imagine Exhibitions), Liz Koops (Broadway Entertainment Group), David Pitman (Cirque du Soleil) and Jenny Sirota (RoadCo Entertainment) survey the key issues facing the sector. Susan Vargo (Moonbug Entertainment) will chair a panel on The A&R of IP, featuring Sana Ali Aamir (Fever/Secret Media Network), Kurt Baker (NEON Global) and Andrew McGuinness (Layered Reality).

Semmel Concerts’ Christoph Scholz will be looking at Standing Out In A Crowded Market with Ryan Amstad (Pophouse Entertainment), James Cassidy (FKP Scorpio Entertainment UK Ltd), John Langford (AEG Europe) and Marine Tanguy (MTArt Agency). Unify Productions’ Heather McGill will host an expert panel looking at the Trends For 2024/25. Meanwhile, Manon Delaury (TEO) and Jessica Willig-Rosenstein (Fever) will also host Quickfire Sessions featuring short pitches of new touring content.

“We’re really excited to welcome some of the leading names in the touring entertainment industry to this inaugural event”

TEL takes place on the final day of this year’s sold out ILMC, but one-day passes for the specialist event are still available.

Companies attending include ASM Global, Live Nation, FKP Scorpio, Kilimanjaro Group, Neon, Semmel Exhibitions, Fever, TEO, RoadCo Entertainment, Terrapin Station Entertainment, Cirque du Soleil, Harlem Globetrotters, Imagine Exhibitions, Broadway Live, Pophouse Entertainment and Layered Reality.

Also confirmed are AEG Europe, Great Leap Forward, Science Museum London, lililililil, Imagine Exhibitions, Universcience, Proactiv Entertainment, Let’s Go Company, MB Presents, World on Ice, Expona, Slam Dunk Entertainment, World Concert Artists, Grand Palais Immersif, Fierylight and Opus One.

“We’re really excited to welcome some of the leading names in the touring entertainment industry to this inaugural event,” says ILMC MD Greg Parmley. “With so many influential decision-makers in attendance, we’re looking forward to some really fruitful conversations at Touring Entertainment LIVE.”

Full information about Touring Entertainment LIVE is on the ILMC website here.

 


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Teo details the Touring Exhibitions Pavilion 2024

Teo (Touring Exhibitions Organisation) has announced two special conference sessions dedicated to the latest trends and experiences in international touring exhibitions, for the Touring Exhibitions Pavilion 2024.

The Pavilion will take place in Paris as part of Museum Connections, an international trade fair focusing on the business and sustainable challenges of museums, cultural and touristic venues, that has been running for 25 years.

Taking place over 16–17 January at Porte de Versailles, Teo’s sessions will see international producers and specialists in art, science, design, history, natural history, world cultures, popular culture and technology exhibitions present their latest productions and insights.

Speakers include American Museum of Natural History, the Design Museum, the Musée de la civilisation and Québec

Visitors will have the opportunity to discover new experiences presented by speakers from the American Museum of Natural History, the Design Museum, the Musée de la Civilisation, Québec, National Museums Scotland, lililillilil, Science Museum Group, PANART Connections, Nomad Exhibitions, Cap Sciences, Contemporanea Progetti, MEDARTEC, la Sucrière, Grand Palais Immersif, Science Centre Singapore.

Other speakers represent the Natural History Museum, Culturespaces Digital, PHI Studio, Universcience – cité des sciences et de l’industrie & Palais de la découverte, ACMI, ASTER, Project Holocene, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, Tempora, Lascaux international exhibition, Citéco – Cité de l’économie, Disgusting Food Museum, World Touring Exhibitions.

The conference sessions will also be made available online on the Teo platform after the event.

 


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John Empson joins UK promoter Senbla

London-based promoter Senbla has hired John Empson, known for promoting Eden Sessions, Wilderness and last year’s Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival, to lead the company’s growing experiential events business.

Empson – who was instrumental in setting up Eden Sessions (now run by AEG Presents) in 2001, and later programmed Wilderness, Citadel and Somersault festivals for Mama Group – will also support Senbla CEO Ollie Rosenblatt in “maximising potential across all verticals”, according to the company.

“The experiential side is clearly a huge growth area, marrying music and IP, entertainment and interaction,” comments Rosenblatt on the appointment. “We see huge potential, as do our partners at Sony Music Masterworks, with the exploitation of IP.”

“I have known John for quite some time now,” he adds. “One conversation led to another and we found a great common ground and an area that could really be developed.”

The Empson-created Legitimate Peaky Blinders festival, based on the hit BBC TV series of the same name, will also return for a second outing next year under the Senbla umbrella.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Senbla,” says John Empson. “Their ambition, creativity and enthusiasm is unmatched in this industry.

“With the backing of Sony, we’re working together on ground-breaking new live formats, developing a major experiential arm and presenting a raft of original immersive events and festivals. There’s more to come.”

“We’re working together on ground-breaking new live formats, developing a major experiential arm”

The appointment of Empson follows Senbla’s recent acquisition of two festivals, Strawberries and Creem and The Cambridge Club, and news it will be bringing performances by Michael Bublé and Olly Murs to new outdoor venues, including the 15,000-capacity Royal Crescent Bath and 15,000-cap. Chewton Glen in Hampshire, in 2021.

In other company news, 2021 will also see Senbla enter the US market through a strategic alliance with artist manager Jonathan Shank’s Terrapin Entertainment, which was last month acquired by Senbla parent company Sony Masterworks. The alliance will see Terrapin and Senbla develop and produce IP-driven live entertainment productions.

Rosenblatt was also instrumental in the recently announced Sony Music Masterworks 50% acquisition of Seaview Productions, the Broadway producer, which will collaborate with Senbla on specific projects.

“Although clearly 2020 has thrown up enormous challenges, what is clear is that this has given everyone a moment to reflect,” Rosenblatt continues. “The Senbla family has always been one of diverse productions, creative ideas and a huge appetite to grow. To develop and expand you have to be slightly uncomfortable. Therefore, more than ever, we have to be inventive, broad and bold, pushing beyond what we consider to be the norm. The audience expects more from a live experience.

“Next year also sees our new venues come into play: the Royal Crescent is set to become one of the crown jewels in the touring circuit, particularly for international artists, with its absolutely exquisite and quintessentially English backdrop, as does Chewton Glen in the most stunning of settings next to the New Forest. Our foray into the US with Jonathan Shank is very special;  he is someone I have known and admired for a number of years. The prospect of working together in a more cohesive way has always been something that has excited me, so I am truly delighted we made this happen and for us to now formally be in business together.”

 


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ILMC speaker spotlight: Christoph Scholz, Semmel Concerts

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is now less than a month away and, as more and more chairs and panellists are announced, IQ catches up with some key speakers to hear what they hope to get out of this year’s conference.

First up is Christoph Scholz of SC Exhibitions, a division of German promoter Semmel Concerts and the company behind Los Angeles conference the Experience Economy Meeting (TEEM) – formerly the Touring Exhibitions Meeting.

Scholz will appear alongside Kilimanjaro Live’s Lucy Levitt to co-chair ILMC’s Touring Entertainment: Game For a Show panel – which this year moves to a bigger room to satisfy demand – to discuss why family shows, touring exhibitions and other kinds of immersive, alternative content are piquing the interest of promoters and fans alike.

Joining the chairs are Harlem Globetrotters’ Arnold Bernard, Secret Cinema’s Amy Farrant, Hartshorn-Hook Enterprises/Immersive Everywhere’s Brian Hook, Nicolás Renna from Proactiv and Alex Homfray of Alex Homfray Cultural Destinations.

 


IQ: What do you expect to be the main talking points at your panel?

CS: My co-chair, Lucy Levitt, and I are expecting some exciting guests this year. We will ask Arnold Bernard from Harlem Globetrotters how they have managed to keep such an iconic sports entertainment troupe relevant for so many years.

Amy Farrant, the marketing director of [immersive cinema experience specialist] Secret Cinema, is also joining the panel. Secret Cinema has just signed a deal with Disney and is expanding globally – this will deliver us plenty of talking points. Brian Hook from [theatre experience company] Immersive Everywhere also be there to will tell us everything about the forthcoming Doctor Who Experience in London.

“Our aim is to explore the key developments across touring exhibitions, pop culture and family shows”

You’ve moved up to a bigger room for 2020. How do you expect the session to compare to previous years?

We are hosting a special double-panel event this spring, which provides a great opportunity for our colleagues in the experience and live entertainment fields.

The first will be at ILMC on 5 March in London. Then, on the first weekend of May, we will also have a panel at The Experience Economy Meeting (TEEM) in Los Angeles. The second panel will pick up on the themes discussed in London, creating a fantastic intercontinental partnership of ILMC in London and TEEM Los Angeles.

Our aim with both panels is to explore the key developments and brightest new spectacles across touring exhibitions, pop culture and family shows.

“Touring exhibitions are benefiting from globalisation much in the same way as live touring is”

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing coming through in the family/touring/alternative entertainment world?

Looking at the classic staples in this non-traditional touring sector – which includes everything that is not rock, pop or another musical genre – touring exhibitions, family shows and events such as comic conventions are benefiting from globalisation much in the same way as live touring is.

There are more venues, more markets opening up and more opportunities. I am personally fascinated by the likes of The Haus of Gaga in Las Vegas or The Zone: Britney Spears in Los Angeles.

Are we seeing new forms of fan worlds here?

To find out the answer to this question and more, come along to ILMC’s Touring Entertainment panel at 5 p.m. on Thursday 5 March.

 


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