How Immersive Experiences Like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Push Entertainment Limits

How Immersive Experiences Like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Push Entertainment Limits

Niche interactive activations are now more mainstream than ever before—and the result is an uphill battle of art vs. profit. Things don’t always work out in the long run, as seen with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, but still create some of the most incredible forms of art you’ll ever be able to experience and be a part of.

Immersive theater is not just a buzzword or Band-Aid to stick on a failed experiment in a field that’s existed as performance art for generations, and that has, for over 10 years, been attempted to be cracked by independent creators, genre lovers in the horror theater space, and major IP holders like Blumhouse and Disney. They more often than not come and go, but having been able to get in on the wave makes them hallmarks of the art form in the discourse of what works and doesn’t.

For the most part, the majority of immersive entertainment thrives during spooky season, perhaps because it’s more sustainable during seasonal runs when horror themed events are sought after to celebrate Halloween. By its very nature it lends itself to audiences wanting the next best thing in being scared through the visceral communal opportunity that levels up from jump scare haunts. That and the rest of the year may not attract as many folks and prove to be why all-year events just aren’t financially feasible to be lucrative, though there’s hope with Meow Wolf’s presence on the scene. Leaving out escape rooms, jump-scare haunted houses, social media content inspired pop-up walk-throughs, and VR—here are the most remarkable runs past and present of immersive theater.

Sleep No More – New York City (Closing 2024)

Sleep No More is the original immersive theater breakout with a run that began in 2011. As part of a story based on Shakespeare’s Scottish play, guests venture into the McKittrick Hotel (also not a real hotel, so don’t get big mad) that’s been transformed into levels of sets that take you into forests, nightclubs, small towns, and an estate where a murder most foul takes place. You are able to follow the various storylines of the ensemble around in silence like you’ve summoned the ghosts that haunt the scenes of the crimes committed. It’s haunting, sexy, and obviously the blueprint of everything that came after. If you’re in NYC any time soon, be sure to check it out as the production will be wrapping this year.

Delusion – Los Angeles (Limited Engagements)


Delusion: Nocturnes & Nightmares Trailer

The West Coast’s prime interactive theater company Delusion, founded by filmmaker Jon Braver, has for about 10 years put on annual plays that transport guests into their own horror films—with ghosts, vampires, time travel, cults, and monster encounters galore. Recently LA’s hottest ticket was absorbed into 13th Floor productions for Braver to seemingly take a step back; last year’s show felt like a greatest hits bow, and plans for this year have not been unveiled.

Then She Fell – NYC (Closed)

Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, this surreal theater experience took groups of 15 into a hospital ward to spin out into the fantasy realms of Wonderland. The beloved interactive production closed in 2020.

Blackout – NYC/LA (Limited Engagements)


2019 Halloween BLACKOUT

Blackout is the most extreme of original immersive experiences—a solo venture where you role-play kidnapping and violent horror scenarios. It originated in NYC and began a chapter in LA for those bold enough to try; io9 did a few years back and be warned our review is intense and NSFW, with simulated asphyxiation, gore, and nudity. The hardcore experience is not for the faint of heart and has not come back since the pandemic began.

Meow Wolf – Various Locations

Meow Wolf may be more of a sandbox of pick your own adventure than a theater, but its creators’ dedicated passion to creating fantastical spaces edges them into being the top in interactive immersion. Originally an art collective based in New Mexico and funded by Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin, the group has expanded its otherworldly portals to Denver, Las Vegas, and Grapevine, Texas, with Houston and Los Angeles on the way.

These attractions work because of their open exploration nature that doesn’t rely on their storylines—though there are still storylines, for immersive nerds— and really feel welcoming to anyone of any age. They have spaces that feel more Star Wars than Galactic Starcruiser did,and others that feel like you’re in your own Blade Runner film or an anime adventure that make it fun to just let loose. There’s some light acting from the guides who can play along as characters in whatever realms you find yourself in. Despite opening more locations and cultivating artists from within each community, Meow Wolf has had some leadership changes and layoffs as it has become more mainstream. Hitting the market in Los Angeles may determine its longevity in the wobbly field of immersive theater.

The Tension Experience – Los Angeles (Closed)

Filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw series) took his mind off the screen and put it into an immersive theater cult with The Tension Experience and its offshoot shows. Based in Los Angeles, these events pushed the envelope of participatory horror kinks and stories for a few years and even had a pandemic-era show before wrapping their run in 2021. Bouseman has since worked on a number of films and returns to the interactive horror space this year with Exiled: Crooked Rose Woods, joining forces with Kansas City’s top haunted house for a Halloween experience collab.

The Great Horror Campout – Los Angeles (Closed)


The Great Horror Campout 2015

From the original creators of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride came one of immersive theater’s first attempts at an overnight experience (before Starcruiser’s themed galactic bunks). In The Great Horror Campout, horror fans roughed it out in the wilderness of LA (hahaha), living out their Crystal Lake (but not) summer nightmares. Among roaming slasher killers, monsters, and ghosts that would literally drag you to offshoot experiences like being trapped in a coffin, participants did camp activities, watched horror films, and did mini-haunts at their own risk. Even if you hid in your tent, the monsters were allowed to pull you out of them in the middle of the night (waivers signed before, of course). After a few years and despite having a legion of dedicated camp goers, The Great Horror Campout closed and is missed!

CreepLA – Los Angeles (Limited Engagements)

JFI productions has risen in the immersive theater scene as a favorite in LA with two productions, CreepLA and The Willows, as well as special shows put on for films like Halloween and Nope, featuring its acting troupe and production company. CreepLA is more of a traditional haunt but elevated with a story that guests unfold with actors, other participants, and ghosts. It’s the gateway production to The Willows, which is more story-driven and intense (more on that in the next slide); with CreepLA there’s more of a horror anthology feel as you traverse areas that tap into different sub-genres and tropes in a story that ends up tying together. Tickets are usually less than $US100 for experiences lasting about an hour or so. Unlike other production companies, JFI seems to have found the sauce to keep going and either puts this or The Willows on annually in Los Angeles.

The Willows – Los Angeles (Limited Engagements)

The Willows is a Los Angeles staple of interactive theater put on by JFI productions but it’s a pricey one, at $US185 a pop for an evening’s show. The production generally follows the tale of a rich family with secrets that invites guests in for a dinner party that spins out from a mystery into a full-blown horror story. Guests participate in activities in the guise of party games to get comfortable improvising for the latter half of the story, where they become unsuspecting participants fighting for their lives under beds, trapped in small spaces, and more. JFI hopes to tour this concept around the country; it’s not annual as it often alternates with CreepLA.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – Disney World Orlando (Closed)

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is the biggest example of immersive theater gone mainstream. The experience took you into your own Star Wars story aboard a Halcyon ship; while the Resistance made moves under the nose of the First Order, you encountered new characters and familiar ones from the saga’s recent era in a heavily participatory experiment.

While Galatic Starcruiser’s price grabbed a lot of headlines—a room (that could fit six people) for the two-day, two-night experience cost about $US6,000—the bang for your buck varied depending on many factors. That included your own participatory initiative, which depended on how familiar you were with immersive theater experiences. You also had to be okay with actors tasked to engage with as many people as they had the bandwidth to (they should have been paid extra to deal with guests as camp counselors); doing phone puzzles on your “data pad” (read: your cell phone, on your own battery life); visiting sparsely themed exclusive spaces; and venturing into a tourist filled theme park to visit Galaxy’s Edge. Despite the Starcruiser’s many opening year limitations—the biggest of which was getting general audiences (often families) game for a theater camp on steroids as part of a Star Wars production role play—it received the highest guest scores of any Disney experience for its ambitious storytelling adventure. Unfortunately, it closed last year with a lot of untapped potential.

Angel of Light – Los Angeles (Limited Engagements)

Angel of Light is new on the scene of immersive theater in Los Angeles. Last year’s debut was a noted favorite in the haunt community and fantastic gateway experience for newbies. It featured a haunted Old Hollywood theater brought to life by a satanic cult with music and scares aplenty. No word yet it if it will return for an encore or new story.

Blumhouse Immersive Experiences – Los Angeles (Limited Engagements)


The Purge: Breakout Live Experience

Blumhouse put on a couple of interactive theater shows before moving its advertising into Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights houses. First was the Blackout-inspired (but milder!) Purge: Breakout Live, where visitors got captured on Purge night by gangs that like to have fun with their prey. Second was an old school horror theater story in the Blumhouse universe. After these runs, Blumhouse did move on that partnership with Universal Studios, mounting traditional houses during HHN, but that might pivot back to interactive theater in the vein of The Purge experience when Universal opens its year-round horror experiences in Las Vegas. More on that below!

Universal Halloween Horror Nights Year Round Immersive – Las Vegas (Coming 2026)

Opening in Las Vegas in 2026 is Universal Horror Unleashed, Universal Studios’ year-round Halloween Horror Nights experience at AREA15—Sin City’s hub of interactive installations that’s next to Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart. The plan is to have rotating immersive offerings inspired by Universal Pictures IP which has been teased to include Blumhouse horror titles and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw films, in addition to classic monsters and original HNN properties from the studio’s annual haunted house events.

Need more entertainment? Pedestrian Television has launched on 9Now where you can cult classic movies and homegrown content like Eternal Family and Rostered On. Watch all that and more for free, 24/7 on 9Now

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.