In the run up to the release of The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015) a proliferation of attractions and interactive screenings emerged around the Star Wars franchise. This article primarily explores participant responses to one of these events, Secret Cinema’s staging of The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980), which ran from June to September 2015 in London. Alongside this, discussions of the Star Wars at Madame Tussauds exhibition are also considered, as a different kind of immersive attraction that a number of the research participants visited during the same period. Using original qualitative data, the article examines audience experiences of these events in three key ways. Firstly, it explores responses to both the formal and informal participatory elements of the immersive experience, such as interactive sets, personalised address, audience performance and cosplay. Secondly, the article considers issues of ‘liveness’ and exclusivity, analysing the relationship between the contemporary immersive experience and its cultural forerunner, the cult film screening. Finally, it explores responses to branding strategies and the commercial culture surrounding the attractions, interrogating the ways in which these heighten, inhibit or otherwise effect audience participation and enjoyment of them.
|Publication status||Published - 31 May 2016|