AREA15 CEO to Speak at IAAPA Expo
When AREA15 opened in Las Vegas in September 2020, the venue billed itself as “the world’s first purpose built experiential art and entertainment complex.” Now, after more than a year in operation, the complex’s CEO, Winston Fisher, will present “Game Changer—From Spectator to Participant: The New Paradigm of Immersive Entertainment” at IAAPA Expo 2021 on Thursday, Nov. 18, 4-5:30 p.m. Funworld asked Fisher to talk about AREA15 and preview his presentation.
Funworld: Could you provide an overview of your talk regarding changes to immersive entertainment happening now and in the future?
Winston Fisher: I’d say the theme “from spectator to participant” is about what it means for storytelling and how it impacts the connection to the guest. Deep engagement is an enhancement to experiences and is where it becomes personal to the unique journey. So, my talk will be a little bit of “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report.” The hologram will always come down and talk to you—the personalization of the experience economy! You see that in the way theme parks are changing—the role of creativity and how storytelling layers into that.
FW: With all of the COVID-19 restrictions since its opening, have we truly been able to see what AREA15 could be?
WF: No, not really. It’s getting there, but not everything is open. Vegas gets strong, and then things shut down again. AREA15 is sort of like a burlesque. It’s all different shapes and sizes. We’re always trying to fill the void of what people want today. [The removal of restrictions] adds to the programming and the content, and getting concerts back is huge. It’s getting there.
FW: AREA15 is termed an “immersive art and entertainment complex,” but how do you address the challenge of merging art attractions with spine-tingling experiences like “Haley’s Comet”?
WF: So that’s the thing, there’s something for everybody. The two anchors are Meow Wolf and the Lost Spirits Distillery. You can go ax throwing in a barcade, but there are also other things to do. Our formula is curation of great content. It’s a place for active enjoyment, like on “Haley’s Comet” where you zoom by the Oddwood tree with 50,000 LED lights. It gives you something fun and unique to do. We’re not a mall and not an amusement park. We’re the space in between—an amusement park full of wonder.
FW: A long-running challenge in the attractions industry is whether to make venues like AREA15 a pay-one-price, all-access admission model or pay-as-you-go approach. What method do you think is best and why?
WF: We don’t own everything here, so it’s pay-as-you-go. We like that because it gives people repeatability. There’s the idea that they’re actually getting in for free. Then we have curated, high-end experiences they can choose from.
FW: Is a venue like AREA15 suitable for kids, or does it function best as adults-only?
WF: It’s very kid-friendly during the day and then R-rated at night. It’s maybe not for a 2-year-old, but 8-, 9-, and 15-year-olds think it’s great. If you build something really cool, people of all ages will come.
FW: How would you like to see AREA15 evolve in the next few years?
WF: We’re getting bigger in Vegas now, with a 320,000-square-foot campus. We’re an incubator for ideas, and we’re looking at other cities. As we get more locations, it will continually get bigger.
- Winston Fisher’s session “Game Changer—From Spectator to Participant: The New Paradigm of Immersive Entertainment” will take place at IAAPA Expo 2021 on Thursday, Nov. 18, 4-5:30 p.m. Learn more here.