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even years ago, Tom Lionetti- Maguire was working as an actor – including being the face of Skyn ​​condoms in France – when he scored a role on a role-playing show , Heist, where the audience is lured to commit robbery.

The performance that changed his life: “I have seen with my own eyes that people are losing their minds to the kind of immersive, dynamic, instantaneous entertainment they have control over when it comes to narration – and the That, I was hooked.”

Lionetti-Maguire – whose parents are French-Italian and Irish – founded his own experiential events company, Little Lion. Its first show was Crystal Maze Live Experience, which debuted in 2016 and quickly sold out in 12 months.

Little lion

Established: 2016

Staff: 270

Revenue: £10 million

Head office: Soho

“I don’t know how I went from being an actor to being a producer, or a businessman, or whatever I’m doing now, I just do it,” laughs the 35-year-old. “I am calling the giant European corporation who owns the rights to Crystal Maze from my bedroom at my father’s house, pretending I am in an office. I’m just spreading the word about it. “It worked: he secured a rights option, then launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in 2016, raising £1m in two weeks.

Following the success of the London Crystal Maze show, Lionetti-Maguire has booked a second concert in Manchester – it is now the longest-running theatrical performance in that city – with the West End show now open attracting more than one million visitors to date. They include Adele, Cara Delevingne, Skepta, the English rugby team, Arsenal and Manchester United’s first team (not together), and Richard O’Brien. “We had a lot of very tumultuous meetings – never got to meet your heroes,” laughs Lionetti-Maguire.

The businessman now spends his days commuting between the company’s headquarters on Greece Street and its locations – Camden, which hosts the new Tomb Raider Live Experience, has now joined Shaftesbury Avenue and locations concert in Manchester, and another show opening in Dallas, Texas next year.

Little Lion plans its films and performances, but there are always surprises: “We’ve had guests get acid splashed and can’t get out of the festival grounds as they run around screaming ,” Lionetti-Maguire reported. “And two guests won an international TripAdvisor competition to stay overnight in the Aztecs, in the ‘Best Sleep Places in the World’ feature. But as soon as the staff left them… can you imagine… the thing is, the security cameras were still on, so they politely reminded that this is a family place, even at night. ”

Covid proved “tough”, admits Lionetti-Maguire: “We had seven years of blood, sweat and tears to build the business, then we were doomed. Furlough helped, but we got absolutely no help from [the Government’s] DCMS or Arts Council. We were told we were ‘culturally inappropriate’. Immersive Theater has been defamed and denied the existence of the Arts Council, and we plan to fight that in court. This is a huge industry, a powerful movement in the theater and wider entertainment, and it needs to be recognized, not cast aside.”

Tom Lionetti-Maguire now spends his days commuting between the company’s headquarters on Greek Street and its locations

/ Tom Lionetti-Maguire

As Little Lion locations reopen, the recovery is “astonishing,” added Lionetti-Maguire, with similar Crystal Maze sales now trading 140% above pre-pandemic numbers. . The company raised nearly £5 million from private inquiry backers in 2018 and 2020; it is also in the process of signing a new deal with a venture capital firm.

Success comes quickly, but Lionetti- Maguire insists he is never worried about competitors copying his ideas. “There are smaller imitators as well as much larger companies like Disney that are trying it on a large scale. But scale isn’t always your friend – when your goal is to ‘immerse’ in the experience, turning 40,000 people into Disney World is the exact antithesis of immersive experiences. “

Expansion is on the horizon. “For over 10 years, we’ve honed an engine for what direct experience could be and can now be fitted to any [intellectual property] or concepts from Grimm’s fairy tales to the latest video games or blockbusters. “

Little Lion has a new, music-based immersive experience coming to Camden later this year, as well as its first US tourist destination. “Six new shows are in development, and we’re talking to Hollywood studios, video game giants and popular novelists, and even cultivating ideas,” said Lionetti-Maguire. thought more appropriate. “We plan to open 10 more locations over the next four years. We are not just a horse. “

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