Special Effects Show Fires Up in U.S.

RIP Productions produces a new theater family show based on Hollywood magic

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: January 10, 2018

T-Rex looms over the audience in a sudden special effect moment in The Hollywood Special Effects Show.

On the heels of success with Champions of Magic in the U.S. market, U.K. producer Alex Jarrett is launching another family show for theaters – The Hollywood Special Effects Show.

The two-hour production, which features special effects stunts and tricks and features an animatronics dinosaur, debuts at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, N.J., on Jan. 31, and is booked for an initial two weeks of one night stands in the Northeast.

Paul Bongiorno at Grand Central Booking is booking the show.

Jarrett’s RIP Productions, which opened its U.S. office in El Segundo, Calif., in 2016 and its UK office in 2009, just came off a $1 million, eight-show, 18,000 attendance weekend in Cleveland with Champions of Magic, which is in its second tour of the states and has begun playing multiples rather than one-offs, Jarrett told VenuesNow. His goal is to move The Hollywood Special Effects Show into the weeklong runs where justified as soon as possible.

Venues buy the show outright, for a negotiated price of about $20,000 for one night, $70,000 for a week, and then keep any profits or losses. Ticket prices vary from a $10 low as part of a family show package to $40 for standalone bookings, he said.

HollywoodEFX600.jpgThe Hollywood Special Effects Show logo.

They are currently booking theaters of 2,000 or fewer seats. Other dates now on sale include Packard Music Hall, Warren, Ohio, Feb. 2; Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas, Va., Feb. 3; Pittsburgh (Ohio) Cultural Trust, Feb. 5; Community Arts, Williamsport, Pa., Feb. 7-8; Proctors, Schenectady, N.Y., Feb. 9; State Theatre, Easton, Pa., Feb. 10; and Clemens Performing Arts Center, Elmira, N.J., Feb. 11.

The Hollywood Special Effects Show has a similar background in the U.K. to Champions of Magic. Jarrett has produced three tours over two years in the U.K. “Bringing it to the U.S. is bringing it home in a sense,” he said. “It’s an Americanized show; it’s time to bring it over.”

Jarrett’s background is in special effects, which he did for TV and special events for 10 years. In the U.K., there are no Universal Studios or Disney theme park special effects themed shows, he noted, but, in the U.S., while they have the theme park versions, there is no live theater show revealing the secrets of special effects that go into movie making.

“It’s about those effects coming to life in front of people, Jarrett said. His favorite is the dinosaur, of course.

“It’s the biggest thing we tour for the shortest amount of time on stage,” Jarrett said of the dinosaur. “The one in the U.K. takes seven people to lift and you only see it for two and a half to three seconds. It’s off the end of the scale in terms of size and how we use it. It comes off the stage out over the audience out of a cloud of smoke. You don’t see it coming at all. The look on the kids’ faces in the front row as that looms off is beyond the 3-D movie; this is real for these kids in that moment.”

A new dinosaur, bigger, with full animatronics, was built for the U.S. show by Illusion Projects in Las Vegas. That group also helped adjust the set design to be more industrial looking. “No one has done these kind of movie special effects in the same way,” Jarrett said. “We had to find out how far we could push it, how big we could go.”

The show is facilitated by presenters (actors), who keep the energy going and involve the kids in the audience. “We didn’t want a family show to be a lecture. These are professional kids presenters, selling in an appropriate way to the audience. They play themselves. Our production team delivers the effects around them.”

The show runs two halves of 45 minutes with a 20-minute intermission. Load in starts at 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. show. Build time is five or six hours. The load out is two hours.

Merchandise, such as flash toys, a special effects makeup kit, T-shirts and the “usual things” are sold at each event. One of the skits in the show is a horror movie makeover on stage. Fans can then buy the kit at the merchandise stand or use all the ingredients they already have to do it at home. Those kits are sourced by RIP, but the print and apparel merchandise is produced by Merch in Motion out of Canada.

There are three cast, five crew plus two drivers, one bus and one truck on tour. “I’d love to have three trucks and luxury buses, but we want everyone to make money on it,” Jarrett said.

Hollywood Special Effects has already run for two years in the U.K., and just completed four days at Birmingham Arena, where it played to 16,000 people across six shows, Jarrett said.

Pyrotechnics are a big part of the show and requirements vary state by state in the U.S., he said. They provide each venue with full paperwork and product information, carry a pyro technician to fire the show each night and hire locally licensed technicians when necessary.

Besides Champions of Magic and Hollywood Special Effects Show, RIP Productions has an interest in Graeme of Thrones, which they founded in the U.K. in 2013 and toured in Australia. This year, Jarrett may revive it in the States as well as the U.K. Graeme of Thrones is a parody taken from 'Game of Thrones' in which Graeme tries to re-create his favorite fantasy saga on stage to disastrous results. “We may take it out again this year when the 'Game of Thrones' season builds up,” Jarrett said.

It’s a fun show to do, he said, as they all are. “We just love doing the shows."

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: January 10, 2018