AMC Upfront 2013
April 2013. New York, NY, 69th Regiment Armory,New York
AMC hosted its first-ever Upfront event at the 69th Regiment Armory in a format that was anything but ordinary. As a reflection of the newly-launched tagline “Something More,” AMC and Empire collaborated to create something much more than a typical upfront experience. Opting for an immersive, interactive experience, rather than a typical presentation format, the network and Empire created an environment that literally transported guests inside the worlds of its groundbreaking shows.
A forest full of Walking Dead-like zombies, a functioning meth lab akin to Breaking Bad, and a Venice Beach freak show full of the sword-swallowing, fire-breathing stars of Freak Show were just a few of the experiences within the labyrinthine event. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with champagne and walked down a meandering hallway of illuminated show posters displaying AMC’s extensive slate of original programming. At the end of the hallway, fog rolled out from a draped doorway, and guests stepped into a chilling nighttime forest scene - on one side an overrun campsite, on the other, a rattling shack full of moaning “walkers.” Hunting parties of disheveled survivors would run by suggesting guests go left or right to safety helping to determine the pathway of their experience. Stepping through the next draped opening, guests found themselves in a tent town on a vast prairie, a space designed to echo the 1867 setting of the series Hell on Wheels. To the left, three surly men played a round of poker, while prostitutes in a tent across the way cat-called at passersby. Sounds of blowing wind, and the occasional train whistle along with smells of whiskey, hay, and dirt rounded out the experience.Through another palate cleanser, and another draped entryway, guests walked into a local talent competition set in a YourTown, USA theater. Here, variety acts performed all manner of humorous and inspiring acts, demonstrating the look and feel of AMC’s new unscripted show, “Showville,” where small towns hold local talent competitions and award the winner $10,000 prizes.
Continuing on, guests found themselves walking down a long hallway with fluorescent overhead light and ceiling tiles. Reminiscent of the hallways of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price from Mad Men, advertisements from the late 1950s and 60s adorned the walls, and every so often, a secretary dressed in period attire would rush down the hall warning “Mr. Swanson is in a terrible mood today!” Around the corner, guests found themselves in the bustling creative office of a 1967 advertising agency. Creative Directors dressed in period attire stood smoking, brainstorming period campaigns and offering guests whiskey from the bar cart. Continuing on, around the next corner, guests entered into a carnival-esque room, wrapped in red velvet drape and topped with a striped black and white ceiling. Large banners adorned the walls, warning of the “Great Spider Woman,” “Gorilla Girl,” and “Voodoo Mysteries.” From a drum stage, actual cast members of “Freak Show” performed phenomenal acts of sword swallowing, fire breathing, and contortion, while America’s tallest man, George Bell, who is 7’8” tall stood by to meet and greet attendees.
The final stop through the AMC network brought guests in to a “functioning” meth lab, where workers in yellow Tyvek suits prepared the drugs on an industrial scale and then smashed up and bagged blue “meth” rock candy for guests to take home with them. In between each space, guests were served cocktails and hors d’eouvres, and had the opportunity to enter the main, central party space to mix and mingle. Here, the message was simple: AMC, Something More. Tufted black leather couches with gold detailing, black carpet, and 100’ high ceilings with dramatic uplight set the tone of the affair. An abundance of food stations from steak carving to dim sum offered guests a multitude of delicious culinary options. In this main space, AMC President and General Manager, Charlie Collier led a brief presentation stating: “We just have two goals in mind—celebrate (our) brand and thanking you with a real AMC experience.” Following the presentation, the stars of each show descended upon the crowd to converse with guests and partake in numerous photo ops.
As guests left smiling, it was clear that AMC had succeeded in its mission to present the AMC brand in an original and unexpected manner. An industry veteran, working in events for 10 years stated: “Hands down, this is the coolest event I have ever seen!” Empire worked closely with the AMC Ad Sales Marketing and Communications teams as well as executive management for over six months to develop and refine this ground-breaking upfront concept. Empire was responsible for details including venue acquisition, layout and room design, design and décor for each of the spaces, staging, sound, lighting, furnishings, carpet, catering, technical production, casting, costuming, script development and the curating of each space to accurately reflect each series represented.
Empire is a leading producer of innovative Upfronts and other critical business-to-business events.