Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s (Sin City, Spy Kids) new movie Alita: Battle Angel— based on the popular Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita— is arriving in theaters next month from the soon-to-be-Disney-owned 20th Century Fox. But prior to seeing the film, fans have the opportunity to visit the post-apocalyptic world that serves as its setting in a new interactive immersive experience available now in three major U.S. cities.

“Passport to Iron City” is described as a “robust, two-hour experience” that invites participants to explore the bustling streets of Alita: Battle Angel, playing a variety of puzzle-oriented games in groups of six people and accumulating credits to become the winning team. This week I had the opportunity to check out the Downtown Los Angeles location of the event, and I can say it is an impressively-designed experience that delivers a gratifying amount of fun, even for someone like myself who is largely unfamiliar with the source material.

Watch Alita Battle Angel – Passport to Iron City teaser:

Stepping off the streets of L.A. into a large, completely overhauled warehouse space, guests at “Passport to Iron City” find themselves registering for an identification cards (that will keep track of their team’s accumulated credits throughout the game) and then ushered into a moody cyberpunk bar called Kansas. For an additional fee, you can try an exclusively crafted beer or sip some white wine while waiting for the next portion of the experience to begin.

I’d encourage attendees to spend as much time as possible in Kansas reading the provided guide map and digital readouts on the individual team tables, as they included some helpful clues about the activities that will follow. As the first hour progresses, characters from Iron City will begin making their way into into the bar and interacting with guests. It’s also advantageous to get more information out of these personalities, and (as tends to be the case with immersive events such as this) the more effort you put into the proceedings, the more enjoyment you will get out of the evening as a whole.

Eventually the entire group playing during your session will be shepherded into the next section of the venue, given a set of guidelines, and thrust into the lively thoroughfare of Iron City. The objective from this point forward is to perform a series of high-energy, puzzle-oriented tasks, in cooperation with your teammates and with the often questionable assistance of a collection of eccentric locals.

Examples of these minigames include music auditions (basically a rapid-fire Whack-a-Mole using synthesizer keyboards), surveillance (hunting for suspicious subjects on video monitors), exploring the marketplace using your senses of smell and touch, a scavenger hunt for some of the city’s hidden secrets, and an experiment in propaganda (this time a literal magnetic jigsaw puzzle). The competition culminates in an energetic gambling match at the Motorball Stadium facade in the center of the arena, where the victorious team is awarded a special prize.

Immersive activations like “Passport to Iron City” have become somewhat commonplace in marketing campaigns for specific big-budget genre films, though they are most often relegated to off-site happenings at geek-friendly meccas like San Diego Comic-Con International, where they are frequently free-to-access, but tend to be accompanied by very lengthy wait times. The Alita experience, on the other hand costs about $30 per person and takes a total of two hours to complete, from check-in to exit. That’s about double what you’d pay for an night out at your local movie theater, but for that price you get to see and feel a fully-realized physical world around you, get your heart rate up a little bit running around playing the games, and interact with a cast of very talented, convincing, and entertaining performers.

I am admittedly unfamiliar with Alita: Battle Angel as a story, but “Passport to Iron City” made me curious to learn more about the feature it’s designed to promote. If that isn’t a mark of success in the business of synergetic tie-ins, I don’t know what is. It’s accessible to non-fans of the franchise and immersive novices alike, though those with experience in both realms will likely get even more out of the event. But don’t take my word for it, ask the self-proclaimed King of the World (and writer/producer of the movie) himself.

Watch James Cameron Invite – Passport to Iron City:

“Passport to Iron City” is currently booking performances on select dates from now through Wednesday, February 13 in Los Angeles, New York, and Austin. No permanent closing date has yet been announced. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the event’s official website. Alita: Battle Angel opens in theaters nationwide on Thursday, February 14 from 20th Century Fox.

 

Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.

 

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