With a background in management, strategy consulting, and finance, Baba Uppal holds extensive experience in start-ups and institutional entertainment companies. He most recently served as SVP of Strategy & Business Development for two-time Emmy® Award-winning content and technology studio, Secret Location – twice acquired by Entertainment One (eOne) and subsequently by Hasbro, Inc. His expertise in responding to market demands and trends has been crucial to identifying and seizing upon untapped opportunities within the immersive entertainment industry.
For the past several years, I’ve maintained the thesis that theme parks of the future will be more affordable, geographically accessible and will leverage immersive technologies once only made available to Disney Imagineers. The result being more compelling immersive experiences than movie theaters and traditional amusement operators offer today in local towns and cities. As the recent Head of Strategy & Business Development for immersive content studio, Secret Location, I’ve had my pulse on a confluence of factors that have informed my belief: we’re in the early innings of a massively transformative opportunity for the location-based entertainment (LBE) industry.
Simply, consumers are demanding more from location-based entertainment.
You don’t have to be an entertainment industry insider to know what’s going on with movie theaters today; in short, they’re dying, and their demise is leaving behind a vacuum in an out-of-home entertainment category. With this trend accelerated due to the pandemic, the rise of alternative experiences including escape rooms, immersive theater and exhibitions began to fill in the void. In addition to empty theaters, the retail industry at large is still wrangling with how to compete with Amazon and other digitally native brands. Mall operators are increasingly looking to experiences and other entertainment draws to attract more foot traffic and increase dwell time. Lastly, consumer demand for out-of-home social experiences continues to increase as we further relax pandemic related social restrictions. Taken together, these factors offer a compelling market opportunity for innovation in the location-based entertainment market.
Technology advancements are pushing the boundaries of the location-based entertainment.
Many out-of-home entertainment experiences to-date have been broadcasted, pre-programmed, and more passive in nature. However younger generations who’ve grown up with mobile devices have greater expectations for interactivity and immersion with entertainment, both in and out-of home. Technological advancements supporting the location-based entertainment industry including VR, AR, AI, LED, Unreal Engine 5, projection mapping and others have unlocked new formats for immersive experiences that aim to meet these evolving consumer demands. Innovation in Web3 infrastructure and metarverse ambitions for reimagined at-home experiences will only accelerate the need for LBE stakeholders to leverage these technologies and offer commensurate immersion and benefits out-of-home. It’s no longer enough to broadcast passive entertainment – two-way interactive, collaborative and shared experiences will be table stakes going forward.
As with any new format, we have early winners; think FarmVille on Facebook, Angry Birds on mobile, Beat Saber in VR, etc. Some of the early entrant winners across the LBE spectrum delivering innovative, immersive experiences include Meow Wolf, Lighthouse Immersive with Immersive Van Gogh and event ticketing & marketing company Fever with the Netflix partnered Stranger Things experience.
Now comes the hard part of repeating success and developing the capability to scale predictably. Seizing the opportunity to engage consumers with immersive experiences will require more than just creative innovation. Studios, brands and venues will need to evaluate innovative business models that may incur more upfront risk yet promise to delight and invite new generations of fans to the experiences of tomorrow.
The Lonzo Law Perspective on the Location-Based Entertainment Industry
It is true. The entertainment industry, and specifically the location-based entertainment industry is changing rapidly. It’s difficult to say what the final landscape will look like as consumer demands change and technology evolves. One thing we are confident in is that the LBE world will be vastly different in ten years, if not sooner, and as the landscape of the industry shifts so do the legal needs and requirements surrounding the industry.
It is important to have a lawyer you trust and who knows your industry. If you are seeking a legal partner who will be proactive with your family entertainment business and changing industry trends, contact us today to set up an introductory meeting.