They say if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere. That’s where the The Hunger Games: The Exhibition has taken its first steps as the temporary exhibition begins its tour of the US with a debut at Discovery Times Square.
With a collection of props and costumes used in the movies, as well as a host of interactive experiences, the exhibition offers something akin to the successful Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter (see Attractions Management Issue 2 2015, p80) – telling the story of The Hunger Games and what went into production behind the scenes.
Operating on a smaller scale than the Harry Potter attraction – both are designed by the Thinkwell Group – the Hunger Games exhibition starts in similar style, with the timed-ticket experience putting consumers in a room for an initial reveal.
The pre-show theatre – designed to look like the Hall of Justice – airs a film delving into the history of The Hunger Games and sets the tone for the exhibit, also introducing major themes for someone less familiar with the franchise. Once seated, the entire front wall turns into a projection where a life-sized Effie Trinket welcomes you, before transforming into Elizabeth Banks, the actress who portrays the character. Banks takes visitors over the key moments of the film series before the centre doors swing open to reveal the exhibition and the first area – District 12.
This area is relatively small, but doesn’t feel crowded, thanks to the timed ticketing. In it guests can look at a number of props and costumes, notably the Mockingjay pin which is an important symbol in the film.
Heroine Katniss Everdeen and her best friend Gale Hawthorne’s hunting outfits are also displayed, while nearby interactives show more details of District 12.
The hands-on exhibition includes an interactive touchscreen map of the world of Panem, profiling each of the 13 districts.
RIDING A CHARIOT
From there, visitors follow the story of the franchise in chronological order, moving on to the Tribute Train area. More costumes are on display here and the experience includes several photo opportunities, the first allowing guests to pose for a photo in an area set up to look like the banquette area at the back of the train.
One of the film’s iconic scenes features Katniss riding a chariot at the opening of the Games. In the next area – representing the Capitol – you can see the chariot from the film set up with the costumes and flames in tow. Opposite is the balcony where President Snow welcomes the victors during the tribute parade. Guests are taken to Snow’s mansion and have the chance to visit Cinna’s design studio, complete with the Girl on Fire dress, arguably the most famous of the costumes seen in The Hunger Games.
Guests also have the chance to be “interviewed” by Caesar Flickerman.
THE GAMEMAKERS’ TABLE
From the Capitol, guests move to the next area, Making The Games, a high-tech section dedicated the actual event of the Hunger Games. This area contains iconic props, a weapons cabinet and costumes, with a range of interactive features.
As they enter, visitors have the chance to try their hand at a range of challenges, such as tying knots. Beyond that, interactive games teach stunt choreography using Kinect technology.
The big highlight of the area is the Gamemakers’ table, an interactive touchscreen table where visitors can explore the technology behind the Games. The area also features models of some of the creatures seen in the film, such as the tracker jacker and the jabberjay.
Visitors then move to District 13 – the secret rebel setting of the films. They visit President Coin’s balcony, before moving to Beetee’s lab, which has a range of weapons and the chance for visitors to create their own propaganda film. The area looks at the science behind the underground bunker, with a deleted scene from the film showing how technology allowed District 13 to grow plants underground.
The next area shows a collection of Katniss’s costumes, as well as the iconic Mockingjay armour. Footage airs of the character’s most heroic moments, to triumphant, ceremonious music.
A fan gallery is also included in the tour, showcasing works of art drawn and painted by the general public. Visitors are given Hunger Games garments and the tour ends with an interactive green screen experience by Picsolve, during which they can play out the chariot scene from the movie with instruction from staff. The video can then be purchased, along with a selection of still photos.
Discovery Times Square is located just off Times Square. Among the array of signs and advertising boards there are directions to the Hunger Games attraction. Once on the street, it’s clearly signposted and easy to find thanks to its prominent location in the heart of New York.
Guests exit through a gift shop created by Event Network. Products on offer are on the whole exclusive to the tour and range from low-cost to high-end, with the most expensive item – a diamond mockingjay – retailing at $7,500. Merchandise is also available via the exhibition’s online store.
With so many things to see, the additional $7 Acoustiguide audio tour, adds a lot to the experience. Using the modified iPhones and a specially designed app, guests can take photos of the exhibition – which are later emailed to them – and then, using beacon technology, they listen to audio clips explaining what they see in front of them. While the tour isn’t lacking without the guide, it certainly adds to the experience, particularly if the visitor isn’t familiar with The Hunger Games.
Located in the bowels of Discovery Times Square, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of New York just outside. With no windows upon entry, the tour offers a good level of immersion and suspension of disbelief. Thinkwell has done a great job with the design.
The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is aimed at the teenage market, but that’s not to say adults can’t also enjoy it. While I was there, the majority of visitors appeared to be between 14 and 18, so the hands-on interactive approach is definitely one that appeals to this age group.
With the entire experience taking 1 to 1.5 hours, its location just seconds away from Times Square is very good, as this isn’t something that will take an entire day – rather something visitors would incorporate into a full day experience of the area.
Staff interaction throughout most of the exhibition is minimal, though they are friendly when interacting for the photo opportunities and green screen experience. The exhibition itself is very clean and well maintained, though the queue line for entry is very clearly a waiting area with little or no themeing, which – when compared to similar attractions – is lacking the wonderment you might experience elsewhere. That said, this aspect could also be put down to the dark overtone of The Hunger Games storylines.
All in all the production lives up to the standard you’d expect from Lionsgate and Thinkwell. If it can maintain that standard as it tours the US, The Hunger Games: The Exhibition should excite and entertain an audience of young adults in the run-up to the launch of the film later this year.