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Sending the preshow to history

Over the years there’s been some good and some half-hearted attempts to engage audiences within queue lines. I’ve heard many say they need to entertain the guests in these spaces so that they don’t get bored and complain about their wait.
Written by
Mark Eady
Published on
19th March, 2024

To entertain the guests in queue lines they bung a TV screen up on the wall as a hopeful distraction or a looped audio track that just makes the wait seem longer.

I’m glad to say that many of the preshows of attractions today are sophisticated and clever.

They need to be because there’s a lot riding on the success of the main event, pun intended.

We know that we must manage the movement of people through a number of queuing options, onboard them with safety messaging, strap them into their ride vehicle or other starting point to experience the main event. So, let’s move into a more creative space.

The experiential objective of the preshow has always been to build the anticipation and ultimate experience of the main show. The main show may only last a couple of minutes, so time spent in the preshow environment presents a tremendous opportunity to engage and immerse the audience into a spatial narrative to introduce the theme and story and to be fully prepared for an amazing experience.

You know when you get that right because you blur the line between the preshow and the main attraction. Guests will think of the attraction as one complete experience, not two. We must strive for that and make the good old preshow a thing of the past.

At the time of writing this article, Pico Play is currently creating Axtion City in Hong Kong where in one attraction we have nine so-called preshow spaces in one twenty-two-room attraction. Cyber Chase is a time-based challenge attraction so in every challenge room players enter, they need to know what to do otherwise the attraction won’t deliver successful outcomes. While each room delivers storytelling information and informs players of crucial gameplay objectives, the spaces also set the theme and environment through authentic show sets and props. This provides suspense, anticipation, and a sense of urgency via emotive sound scapes, lighting and subtle effects. The audience is constantly inside the game and at no time should they feel they are heading into a briefing room but rather active agents within the story. Add to that experience our show control capability to deliver all content in one of three languages, measure their success and you have a multi-faceted story driven preshow and main show experience that is intertwined as a singular immersive experience.

That brings me to my next point. Queue lines should be a place of innovation. Bringing together a combination of robust technologies will enable you to deliver your ideas, storytelling and operational content while tracking the guests inside the attraction. Get this balance right and you can achieve more with less staff.  

An important thing to remember when engaging technology, the creative objective of any part of your attraction needs to be delivered by utilising and merging technical capabilities to suit your needs. Your creative outcomes should NOT be determined by what a piece of technical equipment can do, otherwise the guest experience can quickly become fragmented, disjointed, and miss the mark.

Of course, not every preshow space is enclosed within a light and sound controlled building and quite often budget has not been either considered or allocated to create the experience that you’d like. In these cases where you are unable to control what your guests can look at or listen to, I tend to lean towards visual items, large and small, that tells your story for you and a sprinkling of site gags that deliver humorous moments.  All linked to the main story and theme of the attraction.

In many situations, your most valuable asset to your show experience is your staff. They can support your theme by what they wear, who they represent within the story, what they say and how they interact with your guests giving your show purpose and momentum.

Think beyond the ride. Broaden horizons and expand the experience. Deepen the connection and forge the memories. Let’s blur the line and create a single consolidated journey of exploration and fun that begins at the first touch point of the attraction.

Let’s send the good old standalone preshow to history.

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Mark Eady Creative Director

Mark Eady is an experienced theatre worker with over 40 years of live show experience performing as an actor and live action stunts. Mark brings his knowledge of shows and entertainment and how to engage audiences to Pico Play as the Creative Director of Experiences and Entertainment.

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