London-based immersive cinema experience company Secret Cinema has been sold to US mobile ticketing platform TodayTix Group for a reported GBP £88 million (USD $100 million). The sale is set to enable the operation to expand internationally with permanent bases in London and Los Angeles. The deal will also result in a windfall payment for British tax payers.
Secret Cinema organizes location-based immersive experiences, based on well known film and television IP, in which the audiences dress up and interact with an environment and actors as if part of the film. Such elaborate shows cost up to USD $10 million to stage, with tickets costing GBP £35 to GBP £130 (USD $38 to USD $142) and additional revenue from food and beverage sales and sponsorships. Over 70 events have been held based on intellectual property such as “Stranger Things,” “Casino Royale,” “Blade Runner,” “Bridgerton,” “Back to the Future” and “Star Wars.” The events are such a success that a single film shown can result in that title appearing in the UK box office top ten on account of the ticket price, as happened with “The Empire Strikes Back” event in London in 2015.
Over one million tickets have been sold to events to-date. As well as the many London-based events, Secret Cinema has held a “Casino Royale” event in Shanghai and a “Stranger Things” experience in Los Angeles. The company has a multi-year and multi-title deal with Walt Disney, with a current “Guardians of the Galaxy” event on in London. Past partners have included Marvel, Universal, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Netflix and Eon Productions.
“This company has been a leader in the field and what makes them especially unique is in their relationship to the studios. They are entrusted to build transformative experience by some of the top entertainment companies in the world. For us, this was a transformative acquisition in that it allows TodayTix to leverage its data and millions of customers and its frictionless technology to marry with Secret Cinemas game-changing approach to IP presentation.Brian Fenty, co-founder and CEO of TodayTix Group (Variety)
TodayTix, which specializes in tickets for West End (London) and Broadway (New York) stage productions, plans to expand Secret Cinema as a continued stand-alone operation. This includes a United States tour starting in May 2023 that will conclude in Los Angeles, where Secret Cinema will have a permanent base. A permanent base will also be established in London, where Secret Cinema has previously rented different locations in the east of the city. Secret Cinema will thus have opened-ended theatrical runs in both cities, rather than time-limited engagements. TodayTix has been on an acquisition spree recently, buying companies such as Goldstar (live events ticketing), Show-Score (Rotten Tomatoes for live theater), Encore (London-based ticketer), and Broadway Roulette (stage performance booking service).
Secret Cinema’s founder Fabien Riggall sold a majority stake to UK-based private equity firm Active Partners in 2016, though he retains a share. United Kingdom tax payers will also benefit from the sale, as the UK government provided COVID emergency loans through Future Fund, which was managed by UK state-owned British Business Bank, that invested GBP £4 million. These loans were then converted to shares. Riggall, Activa and Future Business will be paid over the next three years based on future financial goals. There were questions raised over the GBP £1 million “bail-out” of Secret Cinema by the Art Council of England in late 2020, though the issue seems to have faded and the funds will effectively be paid back through the sale.