If you truly love a movie, there are countless ways to extend your experience beyond the theater, ranging from merchandise to theme parks. And now, fans of the worldwide hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” can enjoy possibly the most immersive encounter imaginable: an escape room.
The past five years have seen a huge rise in the popularity of such rooms, in which a group of people are locked in a space and must figure out puzzles and clues within a certain amount of time to get out. One of the first and most popular escape room companies is 60out, originally Escape Key Entertainment, which boasts seven locations, mainly in Los Angeles, and 20 rooms with a wide variety of themes and difficulty levels.
In collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind “Jumanji,” the company has just launched its “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” escape room at its Melrose Avenue location. Written by Damian Cole Bosiacki, Pavel Zorin and Vladimir Zakhozha, the story for the room cleverly incorporates elements from the Dwayne Johnson-Kevin Hart hit. Bosiacki, director of operations at 60out, calls it an exciting time for the escape room industry and sees growth in the business. “We hope our experience creates more opportunities for other escape room companies and producers of immersive entertainment to establish partnerships with major players in the entertainment world,” he says.
Bosiacki says the idea with “Jumanji” was to extend the narrative within the movies’ world. “The whole process, from development to production, is very similar to film and TV,” he says. “Except the beta-testing part, where you’re working out all the kinks. I guess that would be considered post-production.”
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To come up with ideas, the writers pored over the script for the sequel and watched its 1995 predecessor. “We made a list of every possible little thing you could manipulate to be a puzzle,” Bosiacki notes, adding that all the puzzles should feel organic to the premise. “The most important thing is making sure when someone sees an object in the room they don’t say, ‘Why is this here?’ You don’t want them to disengage from the world.”
A lack of ideas wasn’t a problem, Bosiacki says. Actually, he notes, the writers got too excited. “We made too many puzzles; we had to cut down. But that’s OK — you can always remove layers.” In fact, the room is going to be a hybrid experience with an easy and a hard difficulty level. “We want families and children to be able to enjoy the game as well,” he explains. The “Jumanji” films seem a natural fit for an escape room because, as Bosiacki notes, they’re “a game at heart.” An important theme is teamwork. “You have to rely on yourself and your chosen role to solve some puzzles, but others require the whole team working together,” he adds.
With the “Jumanji” sequel nearing a billion dollars at the box office, the appeal is obvious. “There are special works of art that create worlds people love and want to live in,” says Bosiacki. “Those are the types of films, TV shows and video games we want to create puzzles for. It’s the most intimate you can be with a piece of content too. You’ll never interact with IP like you do in an escape room.”