until a few years ago Tom Lionetti-Maguire was in office actor – including becoming Skyn’s condom face France – when he played a role in an exciting show, Heist, where the audience was forced to commit robbery.
Shaw changed his life: “I saw firsthand that people lost their minds from such an immediate, active, interesting entertainment in which they had the opportunity to narrate – and all, I admired. “
Lionette-Maguire – his French parents-Italian and The Irish – created its own empirical company Little Lion. His first show was Crystal Maze Live Experience, which was launched in 2016 and quickly sold out in 12 months.
“I have no idea how I turned from an actor into a producer, or a businessman, or what I’m doing now, I just did it,” laughs the 35-year-old. “I called the giant European conglomerate, which owned the rights to Crystal Maze, from my bedroom at my father’s house, pretending to be in the office. I just complained about it. ” It worked: he got the option on the rights and then launched the crowdfunding campaign Indiegogo in 2016, which raised £ 1 million in two weeks.
Following the success of the London Crystal Maze show, Lionette-Maguire has booked a second venue for him in Manchester – where it is now the longest theater show in the city – now the show in the West End is receiving more than a million visitors. Among them are Adele, Kara Delevin, Skepta, the England rugby team, the first teams of Arsenal and Manchester United (not together) and Richard O’Brien. “We’ve had a lot of volatile encounters – never meet your heroes,” laughs Lionette-Maguire.
Now the entrepreneur spends his days moving between the company’s headquarters on Gretskaya Street and its sites – Camden, where the new Tomb Raider Live Experience has now joined the Shaftesbury Avenue and Manchester venues, and another show is set to open in Dallas, Texas, next year.
Little Lion plans its scenery and performances, but there are always surprises: “We had guests who came on acid and could not get out of the medieval zone, running with a shout,” – said Lionette-Maguire. “And two guests won the international TripAdvisor contest to stay overnight in the Aztec zone for the ‘Greatest Night in the World’ feature.” But as soon as the staff left them … well, you can imagine … the problem was that the security cameras were still on, so they were politely reminded that it was a family place, even at night ”.
Covid was “heavy,” admits Lionette-Maguire: “We had seven years of blood, sweat and tears that created the business, and then we were destroyed. Vacation helped, but we didn’t get any help [the Government’s] DCMS or Art Council. We were told that we were “irrelevant to culture.” Immersion theater has been denigrated and denied the existence of the Art Council, and we intend to combat this in court. It’s a huge industry, a powerful movement in the theater and wider species, and it needs to be recognized, not rejected. “
When Little Lion’s venues reopened, the rebound was “incredible,” Lionetti-Maguire adds, and Crystal Maze’s current sales are up 140% from pre-pandemic figures. The firm raised nearly £ 5 million from private inquiries in 2018 and 2020; it is also in the process of concluding a new venture capital deal.
Success was quick, but Lionette-Maguire claims he never worried that competitors would copy his idea. “There are smaller imitators as well as much larger companies like Disney that are trying this on a massive scale. But scale – it’s not always your friend – if your goal is to “immerse” yourself in the experience, turning 40,000 people into a Disney world is the exact opposite of an exciting experience ”.
Expansion on the horizon. “Over the last 10 years, we have honed the engine for what can be a living experience, and now it can be installed on any [intellectual property] or a concept from Grimm’s fairy tales to the latest video game or blockbuster. “
Later this year Little Lion has a new, music-based, exciting experience that will arrive in Camden later this year, as well as its first American attraction. “Six new shows are under development and we’re talking to Hollywood studios, video game giants and famous novelists and even cultivating more niche ideas,” says Lianetti-Maguire. “In the next four years we plan to open 10 more sites. We’re not just a pony with one trick. “