After several months working at a breakneck pace remodeling and re-purposing the old Starlite Theatre, and even re-branding the business itself, the folks at Branson’s newest attraction, Beyond the Lens!, officially opened its doors Friday afternoon.
The attraction, which is being billed as “30,000 square feet of pure fun” that goes from “vintage reality to virtual reality,” has been the subject of much discussion since it was announced late last year.
“We want to invite everyone to come out to the all new Beyond the Lens! this weekend,” General Manager Renee Johnson said. “Especially since it is something that no one seems to know anything about, yet everyone is curious to discover what it is. The most important thing we want people to know is this is truly a place where you can bring four generations of a family, and everybody in that group will find fascinating, fun things to see and do, and we really do love that about this.”
According to Johnson, Beyond the Lens! is loaded with “pop culture experiences,” as well as virtual reality games, interactive touch screens for gaming and drawing, a human kaleidoscope, “incredible photo ops” with things such as millions of dollars in cash, and more.
“Of course, you see the giant camera entrance, and everybody who comes in is going to enter through the lens, and when they do, they’re transported to an incredible American, pop culture, fun and interactive experience,” she said. “We’ve got the hunt for Bigfoot that never ends going on within our walls, we’ve got all sorts of games, from vintage to VR, we’ve got augmented reality games, and we’ve even got alien eggs from somewhere in outer space, which leads to a dip in our alien ball pit.”
In addition to the “fun and interactive” games and screens sprinkled throughout the museum, Beyond the Lens! also features “cool stuff,” like exhibits centering around some of the biggest conspiracy theories of all time, as well as a celebrity “Wall of Shame.”
“There’s things on Ted Bundy, JonBenét Ramsey, OJ Simpson and other ‘whodunits,’” Johnson 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.”
Beyond the Lens! in Branson, as well as in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, are owned by FrontPage Attractions, which includes Robin Turner and partners Bill Sims and Steve Nichols. Turner is co-founder of WonderWorks, Nichols started his career with Disney Entertainment and Sims is a former Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
“We like to think we’re bringing something extraordinarily fresh to the area,” Johnson said. “This has never been done before, and the people who created this also created WonderWorks, which was extremely new and cutting edge when it came out, so we have purposely brought in a very eclectic mix of really fun and thought-provoking things that will make you say ‘wow,’ or ‘oh my gosh.’ Things that will make you think, and want to start conversations. Plus, everyone needs to make sure their phones and cameras are charged and ready because we have created so many incredible selfie opportunities.”
“We have created things here we can guarantee people won’t get anywhere else, and we’re going to surprise them.”
Guests visiting Beyond the Lens! are also encouraged to download the museum’s app, which will help augment the experience, according to Johnson.
“It would be a shame to go through this without the app because it puts you into some of the newest software elements we have to offer,” she said.
Even though Branson’s Beyond the Lens! has barely been open for a day, Johnson already teased a major announcement for the future.
“The museum really is amazing, but it’s only Phase One,” Johnson teased. “Phase Two, which will be unveiled next summer, will be monumental for us. It should be up and running by next summer. We’re going to have some big announcements coming, but that one will be big.”
The attraction will be open 365 days a year. Visit beyondthelens.com.