Pop-up experiences based on TV shows are wildly popular as pandemic eases

Four months after The Friends Experience opened its doors on East 23rd Street, fans are still lining up and shelling out to take their pictures on a replica of the sitcom's famous orange couch, and order a coffee from a re-created "Central Perk."

In fact, the experience has proved so popular, while it started as a pop-up, it will not be a permanent ticketed exhibition.

"It was amazing," said fan Oznur Temel, who planned her trip to New York City from Gainesville, Virginia based around the experience.  "I loved it! It was really realistic - all the props and everything, they were really spot on."

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But while Friends may have been among the first to offer fans a real-life experience when it opened its original pop-up in 2019, theres' now plenty of competition.

Next spring, Netflix's Stranger Things Experience, which previously sold out in Los Angeles, will hit New York. Ahead of ticket sales going live last week, 100,000 people had signed up for the waitlist, a Netflix rep said.

Another Netflix hit, Money Heist, will offer a limited pop-up in New York in December, and in the UK, fans will be able to experience a "Bridgerton Ball" later this year.

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"I think it is driven by, surprise, surprise: money," said Mark DiMassimo, founder and Creative Chief of DiMassimo Goldstein said.

The real-life TV experiences are paying off for the streaming services and their event partners.

Stranger Things tickets start at $54, Money Heist is about $50 a pop, and The Friends Experience costs $45 a person, not including the Central Perk iced coffees and souvenir t-shirts.

The Friends Experience on East 23rd Street in Manhattan.

The Friends Experience on East 23rd Street in Manhattan. 

While the experiential pop-up is not new, DiMassimo says the time for them is ripe.

"It's sort of the perfect moment for taking something out of the screen and into a real-life experience," he said. "Because right now people are coming out from their pandemic shells."

Superfan Temel couldn't agree more: "Especially after the pandemic a lot of people are looking forward to having something exciting," she said.