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Exclusive: How the attractions sector is bouncing back

Valeria Rizzo, business development director at Red Raion looks at the attractions sector

The pandemic has undoubtedly had an effect on the attractions industry and the AV technology providers that serves it, as many parks and leisure venues were forced to suspend their activity which included the installation of new media-driven attractions.

From our point of view, as a CGI studio creating AV media for in-person installations, there was of course a knock-on effect on small and medium theme park and attractions operators who have been reticent to invest or spend money on new content to renew their media-based attractions.

This was exacerbated by governments opening and closing attractions and parks, but as we come out of the other side of what’s been a hard time it’s important that attractions operators invest in new AV content because, more than ever, audiences want to immerse themselves in different worlds, creating huge demand for in-person attractions and parks.

One of the markers of the attraction industry’s recovery and resilience from the effects of the pandemic was the return of IAAPA Expos in Europe in September and in the United States in November 2021. This was the first time that the event had taken place since 2019 and it was so great to see the exhibition floor so busy with companies from content producers to AV technology providers.

As the industry goes from strength to strength following the effects of the pandemic, we’ll certainly see a few technologies become increasingly important over the next year or so. These include flying theatres and the use of intellectual property for themed venues.

Installing experiences that are going to engage and excite audiences is key for theme park operators looking to recover as quickly as possible from the pandemic. One of the best ways to do this is to acquire intellectual property (IPs) and use it in themed venues. The IP doesn’t need necessarily be a blockbuster name, theme park owners also have the ability to create their own, giving their venues or attractions their own recognisable face, identity or mascot.

IPs have remained popular despite the difficult period presented by the global pandemic. In the last ten years, visitors are increasingly expecting top-level immersive experiences in both top destinations and smaller regional parks. This is due to the rising level of quality on offer and the ever-improving audio visual technologies which are making the most immersive experiences for guests in their favourite worlds. As the industry expands and consumer demand grows, operators are now investing in themed attractions that meet audience demands. This may be by using current strong brands such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, or they may invest on a smaller budget by creating the park’s own IP.

This is such an effective strategy because people want to establish a deeper connection with their favourite worlds – especially after a long period of being stuck at home. Doing that within a theme park or in an attraction is what will see the biggest boost for the attractions industry.

Around the World in 80 Days – Journey of Wonders: CGI movie coming in 2022. Available for licensing in flying theatre format (also in 5D, VR, and Dome formats)

In the past couple of years, there has been an exponential rise in the popularity and number of flying theatres around the world. This growth in popularity is the result of the constantly advancing audio visual technology allowing for easier, and more effective installation of both large- and small-scale flying attractions. The Walt Disney Company was one of the first to introduce this attraction in their venues with the opening of Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure and its success led to other attractions following suit, giving rise to a trend that is set to continue for the foreseeable.

One of the main advantages of flying theatres is the possibility to easily update the media content that audiences experience. It can be localised for the attraction, showcasing local sights or experiences to each market, or to narrate a custom story based on the theme of the venue or on fictional plot and IPs in a whole new way.

This has led to the rise in licensable movies available for easy installation into flying theatres. Before the pandemic the majority of content seen in flying theatres was custom-made but now operators are looking for licensed content too, which can be changed more easily to keep attractions fresh and exciting for audiences visiting attractions over and over.

It’s an important moment for an industry that’s been so affected by this ongoing global pandemic. As we come out of the other side, where in-person experiences can more safely operate, we have to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success. And that means looking ahead at how we can create and install the newest experiences that allow guests who are longing for immersing themselves in other worlds. There’s so much technology and creativity that allows that to happen and I’m really looking forward to seeing the innovation that will continue to help the industry bounce back.