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Harry Potter Exhibition Bringing 45K SF Wizarding World Experience To Atlanta

Atlanta Retail

A new immersive experiential concept is Slytherin into 45K SF in Downtown Atlanta.

One of the rooms in Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which recently debuted in Philadelphia.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition, a traveling themed experience from Warner Brothers Themed Entertainment and Atlanta firm Imagine Exhibitions, is making its second-ever stop at 200 Peachtree St., starting Oct. 21, Bisnow has learned.

Imagine, a local firm that stages immersive, theatrical-designed exhibitions around the world, signed a short-term lease at the 593K SF, six-story landmark former Macy's department store building downtown.

The exhibition features memorabilia from the original series of books and movies, as well as genuine costumes and set pieces from the Fantastic Beasts film series and other Harry Potter-universe spinoffs. Its first location is in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute, which launched in February and runs until Sept. 18.

“It is an immersive walk-through experience that celebrates Harry Potter and Wizarding World franchise in all its aspects,” Imagine Exhibitions CEO Tom Zaller told Bisnow in an interview. “We have hundreds of props and costumes that are from the movie. If you're a Harry Potter fan, it's spectacular. You're gonna love it."

The Harry Potter deal at 200 Peachtree runs through December, but it could be extended, Zaller said. 

Skyline Seven Vice President and partner Chris Bowman represented the owner of the building, 180 Peachtree Retail LLC, in the deal. The entity is run by a group of local investors who also operate the Southern Exchange Ballrooms in the historic building, which opened in 1927 as a Davison's, according to a flyer for the property. 

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is set up as a series of tech-infused, walk-through rooms that will be designed into key scenes and events from the movies, books and expanded universe, Zaller said, including the Sorting Hat, a Defense Against Dark Arts classroom, Divination room, Herbology, the Great Hall, an interactive Port Key and Professor Dolores Umbridge's office, Zaller said.

200 Peachtree St. in Downtown Atlanta was developed in 1927, and served as a department store — first Davison's, then Macy's — until 2003.

Imagine is set to do multiple touring versions of the Harry Potter exhibition, including in South America, Asia and Europe — it has previously operated shows built around the Titanic, Jurassic World and the Hunger Games.

It largely brings the shows to venues with short-term leases, an arrangement that commercial real estate landlords generally don't prefer over long-term deals.

But Zaller — a 25-year veteran of traveling shows and exhibitions who founded Imagine in 2009 — said the trade-off is the foot traffic that the properties experience while the exhibits are on display.

“We drive massive incremental business,” he said. "Not only do we drive traffic, but we often spend far more than our rent in marketing dollars to their property."

Harry Potter's debut at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia this year was visited by hundreds of thousands of fans, “ranking as one of the most-visited exhibitions in the history of the museum,” Warner Brothers said in a press release.

So far this year, Imagine Exhibitions has put on a dinosaur safari at North Point Mall in Alpharetta, an exhibit for the British historical drama Downton Abbey at Perimeter Pointe in Central Perimeter and the Imagine Picasso Atlanta: Immersive Art Exhibit at Pullman Yards.

Prior to starting Imagine Exhibitions, Zaller worked for other event production companies, working on tours for guitarist Joe Walsh and The Grateful Dead, he said. He also previously worked for another local company, R.M.S. Titanic, which was recovering relics from the famed shipwreck and displaying them in exhibits across the country.

Imagine Exhibition is a big player in the growing immersive, experiential trend, which see large-scale reconstructions based on popular movies, television, art and other cultural content, including The Friends Experience, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience and Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience.

Netflix plans to open a temporary Stranger Things: The Experience at Pullman Yards later this year, another interactive show that features key moments from the popular science fiction series, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week. It replaces another Netflix traveling show: The Bridgerton Experience.

These are part of a larger experiential retail and "eatertainment" trend in the U.S. with the influx of pickleball facilities, axe throwing venues, escape rooms and other indoor experiences that also offer high-end food and beverages.

“It ties into the experience economy," Zaller said. "People want to participate, people want to engage. They don’t want to just be passive. And they also want to consume the brand in some way."

Zaller said he's been doing these installations a long time, but Atlanta has only recently become a stop on the map for these types of events.

“I think it's a city that has been overlooked in the past few years, and now people are starting to recognize that Atlanta is a real place,” Zaller said. "I know some of the other shows have had good success here as well."

The Harry Potter exhibition's Downtown Atlanta location makes it accessible to locals and tourists, and he expects the show to draw people from other markets.

“I like to be in a place where there's a local market for sure, but there's also a tourist market," Zaller said. "Atlanta is not New York City, but people come to Atlanta. You can take a flight to Atlanta, hop on a MARTA and be a block away from our door.”