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Micro-Amusement Park To Open In LA Arts District

A new kind of circus is coming to the Arts District in Los Angeles. 

“We call it a micro-amusement park,” Two Bit Circus co-founder and CEO Brent Bushnell said during a media preview. Bushnell founded the company with co-founder Eric Gradman.

Two Bit Circus CEO and co-founder Brent Bushnell and Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Eric Gradman

A one-eyed robot bartender will serve drinks to guests.  

Rows of virtual reality games with black VR goggles hanging down from each station dominate one side of the converted warehouse.

Another area has a story room — better known as escape rooms — that range in themes from space missions to a lost city with skeletons and coffins decorating the room.

A midway showcases multi-person, interactive arcade and carnival games from throwing colored balls on a screen to pumping a handle to get an electronic train racing against others.

What did you expect from a place created by two professionally trained clowns?

“It’s like a small Disneyland for a retail complex,” Bushnell said.

It is not quite Disneyland. There are no rides. But the place is all fun and games and highlights the evolution of family entertainment centers.

Nearly 283,000 visitors a year visit family entertainment centers, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, an organization that represents more than 5,300 members worldwide. 

Visitors on average stay two-and-a-half hours, spend $24 a visit and visit the venue up to three times a year, the IAAPA reported.

In a news release, Two Bit Circus officials said they are expecting visitors to spend about $50 a visit, about half for food and beverage and the other half for entertainment and games.

Two Bit Circus at the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles

The entertainment company is opening the first of its micro-amusement parks in a former 50K SF warehouse at 634 Mateo St. in the heart of LA's Arts District. The micro-amusement park is slated to open at 4 p.m. Sept. 7. 

The company, which has raised a little more than $20M in funding, signed a 15-year lease to convert the old warehouse into a place where people can gather and “have a social experience, rub elbow-to-elbow and meet people outside of their social network,” Two Bit Circus President Kim Schaefer said.

Schaefer said the company is targeting millennials, families and a new generation of fun-seekers who are craving unique experiences and social interactions.

"We want this to be an immersive experience," Schaefer said. "We want them to be part of the story."

For example, Club 01 is a new type of interactive social club created by Gradman. Up to 100 people can dine at tables with a pair of touch screens and compete in a variety of entertainment and games. There is a stage and a live scoreboard that tracks scores.

"We can host stand-up comedy, bar trivia, a wine tasting ... to organizing a large-scale escape room," Gradman said. "We want to bring people up to the stage to be part of the show." 

Robot bar inside Two Bit Circus at the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles

Admission is free. The games will range from $1 to $3 for arcade and carnival games to $10 to $15 for the escape rooms and a physical maze. 

There is food and beverage and a second-floor lounge that can fit about 100 people. Parking is scarce — only 57 spots — but Two Bit officials said they expect many customers to use ride-sharing services.

All ages are welcome earlier in the day, but starting at 9 p.m. the place is for those 21 and over.

Downtown Center Business Improvement District Senior Vice President of Economic Development Nick Griffin said the micro-amusement park is a significant development, especially in downtown Los Angeles.

The micro-amusement park not only embodies the Arts District because of its cultural artistic nature but also gives the growing residential and family population a family-friendly place to visit. To experience quality amusement park entertainment, many local residents have to drive outside the area to places such as Anaheim, Buena Park or Universal City.

"This place is absolutely the embodiment of innovation and creativity," said Griffin, who attended the media preview. "It is the intersection of technology, media, entertainment and community."

"This has a lot of broad appeal," Griffin said. "They are hitting their market and at the end of the day, quality always wins."