Jonathan Linden, left, and company founder Stephen Shaw are Round Room Live co-presidents.
Company’s historical exhibits, kids fare prove popular
Round Room Live has been building momentum since its 2016 founding by former merch roadie Stephen Shaw, who had been president of Michael Cohl’s S2BN Entertainment in New York. He produced and promoted kids tours “Yo Gabba Gabba Live!,” and “Alvin and The Chipmunks Live” and was also tour promoter for “An Evening with Oprah Winfrey,” and “An Evening with Al Pacino.”
With a demonstrated knack for turning intellectual properties like Peppa Pig and Baby Shark to live touring productions, Shaw and his Round Room Co-President Jonathan Linden, who hails from Live Nation, have three immersive exhibitions on the road, including “Wake Me When I’m Free: Tupac Shakur,” which is in downtown Los Angeles; “Mandela: The Official Exhibition,” which ran through this month at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland; and Jurassic World, which is headed to Denver after a run in the Dallas area.
And then there’s “Peppa Pig Live” and “Blippi the Musical,” which both are on the road for shows at arenas, performing arts centers and theaters.
Shaw and Linden spoke with VenuesNow about Round Room’s current affairs and what lies ahead.
VENUESNOW: How has the Tupac exhibit been received since it opened?
STEPHEN SHAW: Very well. Sales are incredibly strong. We’ve already started to talk about what that end date looks like. We want to maybe push through this summer. We’re very pleased with the reaction. From our side it is sort of coming at a much deeper level. People are truly experiencing this show and what we tried to do is to create something where people were emotionally challenged and to walk out and to feel a sense of purpose and to experience something deeper and I think they are truly doing that. We’re watching people with with tears and people having this connection to the artist, but connection to the revolution, and through that, word of mouth gets quite strong and momentum is building and every day we see sales growing. Our social media is going crazy and so we’re very pleased with the reaction. We’re pleased with the show itself that we produced, but more so that it’s having the profound effect that we thought it would when creating it.
It seems like LA is the perfect place to open a show like that and the timing seems very good as well with the Super Bowl and activities going on downtown.
JONATHAN LINDEN: Super Bowl is great (but) I think we’re all a little bit fortunate that the pandemic seems to be trending in the right direction. You remember when this opened, things were a little bit different, and people were certainly cautious. Obviously, the other thing is, it’s right next to where the Grammys was supposed to be (at Crypto.com Arena on Jan. 31), and so the expectation was that would give it a great lift, but and this is probably a question for today, of the nature of the pandemic landscape, you have to sort of adapt and move with what the conditions are and try to do your best which certainly this exhibition has been doing.
What kind of space does do you need for that exhibit? Is it a pretty tight footprint?
SS: It’s quite big. It’s 20,000 square feet, so what we’ve done is we rented out a site, a lot essentially, from AEG and the L.A. live campus. We’re at Georgia (Street) and Olympic (Boulevard); a 60,000-square-foot site. We’ve erected a 20,000-square-foot structure, a big black imposing box that sort of sits there and looks beautiful and then we have all our production that surrounds it, in the back, back offices all sorts of technical stuff, but then this show fits into that box and will run for the foreseeable future.
What are the plans going forward? Is it going to move around the country?
SS: We want it to. These exhibitions are tough to plan because obviously you want it to sit in LA where it can capture the largest amount of audience and be there for a long period of time, but yeah, the goal will be to take it out of LA at some point this calendar year, midsummer to late summer and tour across the country and have six- to eight-month stops in in major markets, but markets that Tupac had influence in. So, obviously the Bay Area is big and and Baltimore, DC is big and Atlanta and obviously New York. We’ve got the next three years planned out for that show.
Jurassic World the Exhibit seems to be getting positive feedback. What can you tell me about how it’s done since it launched?
JL: It (originally) launched in North America a few years ago and only did a couple of locations and did quite well. It was a very large exhibition, but obviously had a lot of brand recognition and the Jurassic brand as a film franchise is obviously gigantic and children and dinosaurs have a long history of having a great relationship. It moved to Europe and Asia for a number of years and then we helped bring it back to North America. So, Dallas, which opened in mid-June, was the first North American engagement for a number of years and it responded really well. We put it in a spot in Dallas at The Colony and an event like that hadn’t been there before. It’s a fantastic exhibition. It’s more than 20,000 square feet. It’s got animatronic dinosaurs that move around, it’s got the the authentic Jurassic Park gates that you’ve got to go through and so because it’s such a magical movie for so many kids and families the opportunity to experience it in a dynamic way like that has done really well, and it’s been a really successful event.
And now it heads to Denver?
SS: March 4 we launch in Denver (at the National Western Center).
Please tell me about the Nelson Mandela exhibition which seems particularly well timed to things that are going on in the world these days.
SS: We have a long history in sort of the educational and academic side of the museum exhibition world. We were original producers and promoters of Bodies: The Exhibition. We saw that true demand for that type of content and so we launched this show in 2018 in London, played two dates, London and Berlin. It’s the first artifact based touring exhibition of its size. It’s based on obviously the life of, the roots, the work, the legacy of Nelson Mandela but where we saw the true demand was in North America and in museums that were looking for strong content that they could offer their memberships and their subscribers. It’s an incredibly authentic exhibition. We have all these archival documents and media and pieces of wardrobes. I mean we even have his pots and pans that that he used to cook on Robben Island (the) prison where he where he lived for almost 20 years. So, it’s a phenomenal show, great for the entire family, great for school groups and students and people who are looking to learn that part of history. What we’ve seen by bringing it to North America as I said is a lot of interest from these museums. We’re booked for the next four years with that show and that will just continue to do three-, four-, five-month runs in institutions and in museums around the country.
And these exhibitions are aside from Peppa Pig, Baby Shark Live. Some pretty serious brands for anyone with children that’s for sure. Round Room Live has grown into one of the stronger players in the production of live family entertainment, is that a fair assessment?
JL: I think that’s right. We had a vision in relation to how we wanted to build out the company. You’ve asked us about the different immersive experiences and we’ve got a few others of those in development. That’s a business we’ve been in for a long time. It’s sort of evolved from what was the exhibition business into immersive experiences and so we’re excited about that and as you said on the on the kids and family touring side that’s a business we have long history in and so Peppa Pig Live, Baby Shark Live, Blippi the Musical, PJ Masks Live Little Baby Bum — we have a nice portfolio of kids and family shows. It’s allowed us to become a significant player in that space which has been beneficial in relation to the the size and scope and sort of some of the changes you can make as a business as you get a little larger and sort out some of the deals that you can make with venues, partners and everybody else. It’s a little bit more interesting as you become a little larger. As you say, they’re great brands so we obviously take it as a compliment that some of these IP holders and their billion-dollar brands are trusting us as great custodians of their brands and that we’re able to tell the story of the brands on the stage in a way that they’re happy with.
How do you guys come up with ideas, whether it’s an IP that you want to take to a new level, to new places or original ideas?
SS: We’re very methodical in our approach. Everything we do involves a lot of analysis and we receive and do a lot of research and review the data and so when we see brands starting to trend, we’re quick to it. We engage quickly with the IP owner and make sure that they know there’s this incredible sector of the entertainment business that as Jonathan said we can be your custodian, we can be your producer for your piece of IP and it’s a great way to build and have another arm of building that brand. Now what we do is then acquire the rights and we put together a top team that that includes creatives, writers, directors, choreographers and scenic and all the different elements that go into these tours or these exhibitions. We put together a sort of world best to create those live experiences, those live shows and today I feel like we’ve done quite well. We’ve produced some phenomenal pieces of content, some phenomenal shows and we talk about the Round Room kids division, the one thing to also mention is the Round Room kids division is growing. We’re building, we’re acquiring more IP, we’re getting in front of a bigger sort of licensor’s that have marquee animated kids shows or marquee artists that want to sort of deliver that IP to the live entertainment stage.
UPCOMING PEPPA PIG LIVE TOUR DATES:
Friday, Mar. 18 – Texas Trust CU Theater – Grand Prairie, TX
Saturday, Mar. 19 – Mahalia Jackson Theater – New Orleans, LA
Sunday, Mar. 20 – Fox Theater – Atlanta, GA
Tuesday, Mar. 22 – Ovens Auditorium – Charlotte, NC
Wednesday, Mar. 23 – Saenger Theatre – Pensacola, FL
Thursday, Mar. 24 – Steinmetz Hall – Orlando, FL
Friday, Mar. 25 – Hertz Arena – Estero, FL
Saturday, Mar. 26 – AuRene Theater at Broward Center – Fort Lauderdale, FL
Sunday, Mar. 27 – Ruth Ekerd Hall – Clearwater, FL
Tuesday, Mar. 29 – Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Theatre – Richmond, VA
Wednesday, Mar. 30 – NJPAC – Newark, NJ
Friday, Apr. 1 – Capital One Hall – Tysons, VA
Saturday, Apr. 2 – Lyric Theater – Baltimore, MD
Sunday, Apr. 3 – State Theater – New Brunswick, NJ
Friday, Apr. 8 – Fox Theater – Detroit, MI
Saturday, Apr. 9 – Rialto Square Theater – Joliet, IL
Sunday, Apr. 10 – Miller High Life Theater – Milwaukee, WI
Wednesday, Apr. 13 – Count Basie Center – Red Bank, NJ
Thursday, Apr. 14 – FM Kirby Center – Wilkes Barre, PA
Saturday, Apr. 16 – Lowell Memorial Auditorium – Lowell, MA
Tuesday, Apr. 19 – Akron Civic Center – Akron, OH
Wednesday, Apr. 20 – Municipal Auditorium – Charleston, WV
Thursday, Apr. 21 – Veterans Memorial Auditorium – Providence, RI
Saturday, Apr. 23 – Byham Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday, Apr. 24 – American Music Theater – Lancaster, PA
Thursday, Apr. 28 – Kodak Center – Rochester, NY
Saturday, Apr. 30 – Symphony Hall – Springfield, MA
Sunday, May 1 – Emerson Colonial Hall – Boston, MA
Thursday, May 5 – The Family Arena – St. Charles, MO
Friday, May 6 – Von Braun Center – Huntsville, AL
Saturday, May 7 – Alabama Theatre – Birmingham, AL
Sunday, May 8 – City Hall Live – Brandon, MS
Friday, May 13 – Capitol Theatre – Wheeling, WV
Saturday, May 14 – DPAC – Durham, NC
Sunday, May 15 – Bell Auditorium – Augusta, GA
Wednesday, May 18 – Andrew Jackson Hall – Nashville, TN
Thursday, May 19 – Clowes Memorial Hall – Indianapolis, IN
Saturday, May 21 – Paramount Theatre – Rutland, VT
UPCOMING BLIPPI THE MUSICAL TOUR DATES:
Friday, Feb. 18 – John Paul Jones Arena – Charlottesville, VA
Saturday, Feb. 19 – Thomas Wolfe Civic Auditorium – Asheville, NC
Sunday, Feb. 20 – Macon City Auditorium – Macon, GA
Tuesday, Feb. 22 – SKyPAC – Bowling Green, KY
Wednesday, Feb. 23 – Old National Center Events Plaza – Theater – Evansville, IN
Thursday, Feb. 24 – Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY
Friday, Feb. 25 – Rialto Square Theatre – Joliet, IL
Saturday, Feb. 26 – Fisher Theatre – Detroit, MI
Sunday, Feb. 27 – Carson Center – Paducah, KY
Tuesday, Mar. 1 – Landmark Theater – Syracuse, NY
Wednesday, Mar. 2 – Mid-Hudson Civic Center – Poughkeepsie, NY
Thursday, Mar. 3 – Hershey Theatre – Hershey, PA
Friday, Mar. 4 – The Palace Theatre – Stamford, CT
Saturday, Mar. 5 – Kings Theatre – Brooklyn, NY
Sunday, Mar. 6 – Flynn Center for the Performing Arts – Burlington, VT
Tuesday, Mar. 8 – Mohegan Sun Arena – Wilkes-Barre, PA
Wednesday, Mar. 9 – Forum Theatre – Binghamton, NY
Thursday, Mar. 10 – Kodak Center – Rochester, NY
Friday, Mar. 11 – Embassy Theatre – Fort Wayne, IN
Saturday, Mar. 12 – Miller High Life Theatre – Milwaukee, WI
Tuesday, Mar. 15 – Duluth Symphony Hall – Duluth, MN
Wednesday, Mar. 16 – State Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
Thursday, Mar. 17 – Chester Fritz Auditorium – Grand Forks, ND
Friday, Mar. 18 – Washington Pavilion – Sioux Falls, SD
Saturday, Mar. 19 – Five Flags Event Center – Dubuque, IA
Tuesday, Mar. 22 – Hartman Arena – Wichita, KS
Wednesday, Mar. 23 – Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts – Colorado Springs, CO
Thursday, Mar. 24 – Fine Arts Theatre – Rapid City, SD
Friday, Mar. 25 – Heartland Events Center – Grand Island, NE
Saturday, Mar. 26 – Cheyenne Civic Center – Cheyenne, WY
Sunday, Mar. 27 – Theater at the Brick – Bozeman, MT
Tuesday, Mar. 29 – The Lincoln Center – Fort Collins, CO
Wednesday, Mar. 30 – Ford Wyoming Center – Casper, WY
Thursday, Mar. 31 – Eccles Theatre – Salt Lake City, UT
Friday, Apr. 1 – Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts – Reno, NV
Saturday, Apr. 2 – Paramount Theatre – Oakland, CA
Sunday, Apr. 3 – The Grove – Anaheim, CA
Tuesday, Apr. 5 – Fox Performing Arts Center – Riverside, CA
Wednesday, Apr. 6 – Civic Theatre – San Diego, CA
Thursday, Apr. 7 – Save Mart Center – Fresno, CA
Friday, Apr. 8 – Bob Hope Theatre – Stockton, CA
Saturday, Apr. 9 – Bank of America Performing Arts Center – Thousand Oaks, CA
Tuesday, Apr. 12 – Ford Idaho Center – Nampa, ID
Wednesday, Apr. 13 – Adams Center – Missoula, MT
Thursday, Apr. 14 – First Interstate Center for the Arts – Spokane, WA
Friday, Apr. 15 – Pantages Theater – Tacoma, WA
Saturday, Apr. 16 – Angel of the Winds Arena – Everett, WA
Monday, Apr. 18 – Yakima SunDome – Yakima, WA
Tuesday, Apr. 19 – Toyota Center – Kennewick, WA
Thursday, Apr. 21 – Civic Theatre – San Jose, CA
Friday, Apr. 22 – Redding Civic Auditorium – Redding, CA
Saturday, Apr. 23 – Mechanics Bank Theater – Bakersfield, CA
Sunday, Apr. 24 – Orleans Arena – Las Vegas, NV
Tuesday, Apr. 26 – SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center – Sacramento, CA
Wednesday, Apr. 27 – Hult Center for the Performing Arts – Eugene, OR
Sunday, May 1 – Terrace Theater – Long Beach, CA
Tuesday, May 3 – Arizona Federal Theater – Phoenix, AZ
Thursday, May 5 – Rio Rancho Events Center – Rio Rancho, NM
Friday, May 6 – Abraham Chavez Theatre – El Paso, TX
Saturday, May 7 – Amarillo Civic Center Auditorium – Amarillo, TX
Sunday, May 8 – Bellco Theatre – Denver, CO
Monday, May 9 – Buddy Holly Hall – Lubbock, TX
Friday, May 13 – Bayou Music Center – Houston, TX
Saturday, May 14 – Will Rogers Auditorium – Fort Worth, TX