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Netflix to open 2 massive venues with experiences, shops themed to its shows

Originally Published: 18 JUN 24 16:05 ET

Updated: 18 JUN 24 17:16 ET

By Erika Tulfo, CNN

(CNN) — Netflix is opening massive entertainment venues in two cities that it says will allow fans to immerse themselves in the worlds of their favorite shows.

The “experiential” complexes, called Netflix Houses, will include elaborate events, themed gift shops and restaurants. In a repurposing of empty retail space, the houses will occupy former department store locations at Dallas Galleria and King of Prussia mall (near Philadelphia). Both will span more than 100,000 square feet and are set to open in 2025, according to the streaming giant.

It’s Netflix’s TV tweak on a theme park. For fans of its “Squid Game” dark drama and related reality show, for example, Netflix promises to recreate the program’s Glass Bridge challenge. Competitors walk or jump across clear panels that shatter — and drop them — if they stand on the wrong one.

It’s a risky move. Critics of the expansion note that attracting repeat business will be challenging. “One of the keys to success will be to keep the offer refreshed, so that it keeps people coming back to what’s new,” said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst at GlobalData.

Netflix has already had considerable success with elaborate touring productions and events tied to some of its higher-profile programming. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is currently hosting a tour of “Bridgerton” High Tea; Toronto has a “Knives Out” dinner party; and São Paulo, Brazil offers an immersive “Stranger Things” experience.

Risks and rewards

All this is not a new idea, though. “Disney has monetized its content for years and has a very successful retail business through licensing, its own stores, and shop-in-shop concepts,” said Saunders.

For Netflix, it’s just the latest move in a series of efforts to broaden its profile and income beyond standard streaming— even though the bulk of its profits have come from its core business. These new initiatives come at a time profits in the streaming industry are getting squeezed.

So the company has cut back on creating original programming but has expanded its video game offerings, rolling out mobile-friendly games from the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. In a brand extension, It also partnered with Williams Sonoma on a line of “Bridgerton”-themed dinnerware, paper goods, foods and linens.

TikTok influencer, product reviewer and “Bridgerton” fan Carrie Berk, who has twice attended “The Queen’s Ball” said she thinks Netflix’s new venture will be met with success. (She was not compensated by Netflix or given tickets to the events.) “I think that it’s brilliant that Netflix is bringing that magic IRL!” she said. (IRL stands for “in real life.”)

For years, “The Queen’s Ball” has been staged in various cities two or three times daily. Fans could enjoy dances and watch performances by violin players and acrobats dressed in historically accurate garb under chandelier lighting. In keeping with the show’s plot, the Queen named a “Diamond of the Season” at each performance. Social media influencers were invited to write a letter and make their case for why they should be chosen, illustrating Netflix’s keen interest in the social media world.

Now, “Netflix House represents the next generation of our distinctive offerings,” said Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Marian Lee, in a statement. “The venues will bring our beloved stories to life in new ever-changing, and unexpected ways.”

Berk agreed and told CNN of her experience, “It really made me feel like I stepped into the world of the show.”

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