IV. Empty space for immersive experiences

The Immersive Revolution:
How Immersive Entertainment is Driving the new Experience Economy

by Peter Tullin – Co-Founder, REMIX Summits


  1. Introduction – The Immersive Revolution

  2. What is driving the growth of immersive experiences?

  3. How is technology enabling new possibilities for immersive experiences?

  4. Empty space for immersive experiences

  5. Clusters of immersive experiences: London

  6. How are immersive experiences reshaping the arts and cultural sector?

  7. What’s next for immersive experiences?

  8. Acknowledgements & Further Resources

A series of extended articles produced with support from the British Council

The Pandemic’s Legacy

The COVID-19 pandemic was merely a pause in the growth of the experience economy and has arguably even accelerated the trend

A global lockdown obviously curtailed this growth but as outlined earlier, the trends were evident pre-pandemic. Audiences have come back hungrier than ever before for immersive experiences after so many restrictions judging by some of the attendances for individual organisations that are documented in this report.

There is no doubt that this is a fast moving and dynamic space. Difficult moments like those that we have lived through over the last few years have often spurred new innovation historically and seen others fall by the wayside more quickly than they might have done. The palpable consumer demand for unique experiences is clear particularly as we seek out the things this missed during the multiple lockdowns.

One of the biggest opportunities stemming from the global pandemic for the immersive sector may come from the reduced demand for retail and office space in cities.

The rise of ecommerce and the failure of bricks and mortar retail brands

In the retail sector, the pandemic is not to blame alone but it has fast-tracked underlying trends including the shift towards ecommerce and changing consumer tastes from goods to demand for experiences. Traditional ‘Bricks & Mortar’ retailers have faced significant challenges over the last few years as they compete with internet players (with many failing the test). This has led to the bankruptcy (or vastly reduced footprints) for many famous retail brands (including Macy’s, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Staples, Barneys and JCPenney). This impact is now being felt through increasing vacancies in urban centres and in shopping malls. These spaces will require adaptive reuse and re-purposing and the same forces will also impact the shape of new developments and future public space planning.

The future of work is here and it is changing cities forever

In the office sector it is also clear that despite the gradual shift to flexible working prior to the pandemic, many employers were still behind the curve on this trend (trailblazers in this space such as the tech sector had been doing this for many years). The enforced changes brought about by the global pandemic could change the office sector in cities forever.

Research published in the AFR (CultureAmp) reveals workers feel the same way with 88% of workers saying they have the resources and equipment to keep working from home and 84% believing they are as effective at home as from the office. Survey data can shift over time of course but only 2% say they wanted to go back to the office 5-days a week. If the knock on is that employers require less permanent office space then both landlords and city planners will need to adapt to this change. If we need to find new ways to attract people into the city then the booming experience economy combined with the boundless ideas of creative entrepreneurs could unleash an avalanche of immersive experiences to fill these gaps (some good and some not so good as we traverse the early days of the immersive revolution).

To make the point, Meow Wolf (something of a powerhouse in the immersive industry) have benefitted from investment and expertise from property developers such as the Fisher Brothers and their latest site, The Real Unreal will open in a vacant retail space in the Grapevine Mills mall, Texas. It is not just the once dominant Shopping Malls so synonymous with the American Dream that are on the hunt for new tenants but also out of town retail parks that were once home to Big Box retailers. Immersive experiences including Electric Playhouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Otherworld in Columbus, Ohio have rescued these abandoned spaces setting up shop in a former Staples and Sports Authority respectively.

Other types of spaces are also being adapted for immersive experiences as they offer a higher return for landlords or they benefit from lower rents because they draw in visitors that benefit other tenants. The LUME (developed by Grande Experiences) converted 3000 sqm of space inside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). It features immersive projections of various artists and art forms from world-famous painters such as Van Gogh and Monet as well as contemporary Digital Art experiences.

The LUME Melbourne
The LUME Melbourne

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