British "Immersive Cinema" Banner Taking 'Casino Royale' Production to China

Credit: Luke Dyson
Secret Cinema's 'Casino Royale' production in London

U.K. phenomenon Secret Cinema has teamed with Shanghai Media Group for its first international production, and CEO Max Alexander says a U.S. launch is set for 2020.

Secret Cinema, the British "immersive cinema" phenomenon that has been running sell-out shows across London since 2007, is making its first foray outside the U.K.. 

The company — which lifted the lid on its global growth strategy at the Zurich Summit last October — has now teamed with China's Shanghai Media Group to move a version of its current production of Casino Royale to Shanghai on Nov. 23.

The show, in which audiences are assigned characters and step into an interactive world from the James Bond film especially constructed within a giant warehouse, before watching a special screening, launched in London earlier this year and has drawn crowds in excess of 120,000, making it Secret Cinema's largest production to date. 

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Secret Cinema CEO Max Alexander — who had previously worked with the Shanghai Media Group during his time at Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group — said that he expected Casino Royale, to be set in a secret three-story location in central Shanghai with capacity for 1,200 guests per night, to be the start of a long-running relationship with the Chinese producers. 

Alexander also indicated that Secret Cinema's much-discussed launch in the U.S., which had been discussed by founder Fabien Riggall as far back as 2015, was just over the horizon. 

"It got put on ice for a bit, but the reason why we're doing China ahead of America — and it's only little bit ahead of America — is because we already had a very good relationship with the Shanghai Media Group and they found a building and we had a title that they wanted to do," he said. "But we will definitely have a show in the U.S. next year, in partnership with a U.S. producer."

Alexander said that they were currently assessing opportunities in both Los Angeles and New York and are expecting to make an announcement in the "next couple of months."

First established by Riggall 12 years ago, Secret Cinema has since put on more 70 productions in London, from secret screenings of smaller independent films to large-scale productions of major classics, including Moulin Rouge, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Back to the Future, and become a significant force in the U.K. box office.

Its production of Blade Runner in 2018, which recreated the dystopian future world of Ridley Scott's 1982 original, ran for four months in East London, taking in more than $6 million and putting a 35-year-old film in the top 10 of the U.K. charts for 11 weeks, while Park Chan-wook's erotic drama The Handmaiden, which screened as a Secret Cinema preview before its official release in the U.K., grossed a phenomenal $1.8 million for distributor Curzon Artificial Eye, the best result for a foreign-language film in Britain in the last five years.

"I created Secret Cinema in 2007 to reinvent the cinema experience allowing participants to live inside the movies," said Riggall. "It’s always been my dream to bring it to other parts of the world, and now with the support of an amazing team we are able to make this happen. China is the largest film market in the world with a rich cinematic heritage with some of my favorite films, Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."