Right on the heels of the first season finale of Netflix’s Arcane, the animated adaptation of the global videogame phenomenon League of Legends, Los Angeles fans of that world can partake in the seedy underbelly of Zaun for the next four weeks at the Arcane Immersive Experience.
What does “immersive experience” mean, exactly? Secret Cinema started as a tiny cult upstart in London that staged small live interactive events. Today it’s grown into a global enabler of fandom, staging large environments within all kinds of IP from Stranger Things to Star Wars. When you buy a ticket, it’s like signing up to be an extra within the world of your favorite film or television show. Working officially with the license holder, the Secret Cinema team create original storylines designed for all levels of audience participation, from just observing with slight interactions, to working with characters in the story to reveal or discover elements of the evening’s main goals.
For Arcane’s Immersive Experience, you’re signing up to go into the neglected Undercity which is run by criminal overlord and architect of an independent Nation of Zaun, Silco, and his enforcer daughter, Jinx. When you buy your tickets, a bespoke character in the city is generated for you to use during the two-hour experience when you’re addressed by Zaun residents or Piltover’s Enforcers patrolling the event space. You can wear what you want, but the steam punk, vigilante aesthetic looks great amongst the production design you’ll be wandering around. There are no cameras allowed inside the venue, which encourages just being in the moment. It’s a great vibe. Also note, it gets warm once capacity is achieved so dress in layers, and wear comfortable shoes as sitting isn’t part of the evening.
There are two tiers of tickets: general admission and VIP. Both operate the same way, except VIP tickets get you a Zaun pin to get special access to Silco’s lair, a drink and food token, and early entrance that places you inside Zaun before the rest of the attendees are ushered in about 10 minutes later. Experientially afterwards, it’s mostly the same.
Everyone starts the evening with an intro from Piltover’s Sheriff Marcus from the series, who warns that masks are required the whole time (as well as your checked vaccination status) to protect you from the “noxious” fumes in Zaun, which is clever world-building for our times. A tunnel with video wall projections gives audiences an introductory synopsis of Arcane Act I, with a real life Vi and Powder reenactment to set the stage for the dominant storyline of the night: the reunion of estranged sisters Vi and Powder/Jinx.
Everyone is then welcomed into Zaun and the centerpiece bar, The Last Drop. A multi-level set welcomes the attendees to free-range roam and interact with actors playing characters from the series. If you want to really dig into everything the night can offer, your assigned team color and group will get herded into corners to go on missions like acquiring shimmer, or even distributing it throughout the set to aid Silco’s goals, which contribute to a unique climax to the story that changes based on the participants each night. Characters like Vi, Jinx, Sevika, Marcus and random Enforcers will wander and conscript those interested in side missions.
If you’re a wallflower, there’s still a lot to get out of the production design and finding the secret rooms to explore (there are two) and the puzzles which are scattered around in plain sight. If you’re a joiner, The Last Drop has a bar with bespoke drinks and pool tables. Sevika will pull you into card games, or you can follow your team guide to get new missions or things to explore the whole evening. The entire experience is 90 minutes and in the last 30 minutes, there are several collecting points in the center of the set to watch the main characters spar, interact and instigate events that help build to a climax that involves Vi, Jinx and Silco. Everything mirrors what happens in the television series, so if you haven’t finished your binge watch, expect to be spoiled.
Because of the beauty and uniqueness of the world, Arcane lovers won’t be disappointed. The storyline, ambiance and authenticity of the production design make for a fun immersion. If you’re shy, you may find jumping into the action a little intimidating. But the actors are always vigilant to softly bring you into the story if you so desire. But you can also just drink, eat and people watch if that’s your comfort zone too. A bit of a pricey ticket, this is definitely made for those who want a first-hand experience inside the lore of the show. And it felt like a safe night of almost normality, getting close to people again and participating in something that is cumulatively appreciated. There’s even an impromptu mini dance party that made everyone extremely happy. It doesn’t get better than that.
Photo by Paul Terry
Photo by Al Overdrive
Photo by Al Overdrive
Photo by Annie Lesser
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe and The Story of Marvel Studios in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.