Earlier this year, two new attractions called National Enquirer Live! were announced for locations in Branson and Pigeon Forge. Following the opening of the Tennessee location earlier this summer, and several weeks ahead of the Branson opening, ownership has decided to re-brand, now going by Beyond the Lens.
“We’ve obviously gone through a re-branding, and we’re extremely happy with the new direction, and we’re getting great results out of Pigeon Forge,” General Manager Renee Johnson said. “We are the proud owners of 30,000 square feet of pure fun called Beyond the Lens. Of course, you see the giant camera entrance, and everybody who comes in is going to enter through the lens, and when they do, it’s an incredible American, pop culture, fun and interactive experience.”
According to Johnson, the re-brand came about due to a “disconnect” between perception and reality, as far as what is actually located beyond said lens.
“We originally based this concept on a very rich, 80-year history of one of America’s favorite tabloids,” Johnson said. “It seemed to be a stumbling point for some of our guests, and it was a misrepresentation of what was actually inside the attraction, so it was creating a disconnect between what they were expecting, and what we were delivering.
“We feel like Beyond the Lens is much more indicative of what they’re going to find when they come inside.”
According to Johnson, Beyond the Lens is loaded with several “pop culture experiences,” as well as virtual reality games, interactive touch screens for gaming and drawing, lots of “incredible photo ops” and more. Johnson also said the attraction would still feature “cool stuff,” like exhibits centering around some of the biggest conspiracy theories of all time.
“There’s things on Ted Bundy, JonBenét Ramsey, OJ Simpson and other ‘whodunits,’” she said. “Plus lots of other thought-provoking things like one on NASA, if it was real and how much would it have cost to fake, and things like that, which are all very interesting.
“You know, some of the most popular shows on TV are the detective and true crime shows, and these exhibits are all about the conspiracy theories, the questions and curiosities. We kept a lot of the integral, curious, fun and thought-provoking stuff, so that’s all still here, we’ve simply re-branded.”
The attractions are owned by FrontPage Attractions, which includes Robin Turner and partners Bill Sims and Steve Nichols. All three have long histories in the Orlando, Branson, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach tourism markets.
Turner is co-founder of WonderWorks, Nichols started his career with Disney Entertainment and Sims is a former Chairman of the Board of the most prestigious and largest trade association in the world, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
The original press release stated the two new attractions represented a $25 million combined investment in Pigeon Forge and Branson, and is set to create more than 100 new jobs (50 at each location.)
In an area that has seen a spike in new attraction openings throughout the past few years, Johnson said they feel confident in the product.
“What we’re going to have here is unique,” Johnson said. “What you’re going to find here, you won’t find in any other attraction in town. The virtual reality alone, there are lines at the Pigeon Forge location and they’re loving it. We’re bringing in lots of cutting edge stuff ... I mean, we have conspiracies, aliens and Bigfoot (laughs).”
According to Johnson, the re-brand, remodel and construction are “coming along nicely,” so Johnson said they hope to be open by mid to late August.
Visit beyondthelens.com for information on specific exhibits.