Attractions Expo Builds Theater on Show Floor for Receptions, Award Ceremonies

By Mitra Sorrells November 14, 2012, 1:18 PM EST

Freeman used extensive rigging, carpeting, and drapes to turn a corner of the trade show floor into a multipurpose event space known as the I.A.A.P.A. Theatre. Organizers are using the space for four different events: the kickoff program, a cocktail reception, a breakfast, and an awards program. For each event they created custom videos to show on the 306-foot-long wall of screens and drapes.

Photo: Claire Pacelli for BizBash

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is trying something new at its Attractions Expo, taking place through Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center. In a corner of the show floor, organizers created a 2,000-seat, multipurpose event space, dubbed the I.A.A.P.A. Theatre, that will host four different events during the course of the convention. In past years, these events were held in nearby hotel ballrooms or elsewhere in the convention hall.

“It’s created a lot of buzz and excitement. It puts the action right on the trade show floor. You don’t have to walk to a ballroom,“ said I.A.A.P.A. president and C.E.O Chip Cleary. “Exhibitors can meet up with potential clients at these events and then say, ‘Why don’t you take a walk over to my booth and I can show you the product.’ It creates this energy on that floor that we haven’t seen before,”

Show contractor Freeman created the theater in a 40,000-square-foot corner of the hall that in past years was used to store exhibitors’ shipping crates. The entire area is draped and to help attendees find the theater in the 500,000-square-foot expo hall, blue carpet on the show floor provides a path to the entrance. Attendees walk through an L-shaped aisle before entering the main event space, an oval-shaped area with a 2,400-square-foot stage. Spanning the length of the room behind the stage are three large screens flanked by 28-foot-tall drapes, creating a projection surface that spans 306 feet wide.

Expo guests got their first look at the theater Tuesday morning during the kickoff ceremony, which included the latest news on the global attractions industry and a video presentation displayed on the screens. Once that ended, organizers began swapping the theater seating for cocktail tables in preparation for the opening reception Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning, the area was set with round tables for a plated breakfast and keynote presentation for about 1,000 people. The final event will be this evening for the organization’s awards program.

With more than 1,100 exhibitors, organizers say this is the largest Attractions Expo in four years. Buyers from around the world walk the show floor shopping for rides, games, inflatables, concessions, and administrative systems for amusement parks and entertainment centers.

Cleary said they will evaluate the success of the theater when the show ends. “The show has been growing every year, so what we are trying to do is develop a bag of tools so some years we can do these events on the trade show floor, some years do them at the Peabody hotel, and maybe we’ll do something bigger for our 100th anniversary in a few years.”

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