The Irresistible Convergence of Imagination and History at Falcon’s Beyond

August 5, 2021

The Irresistible Convergence of Imagination and History at Falcon’s Beyond

Last week, as I began my new job as CFO at Falcon’s Beyond, a friend asked me why I had decided to “sign on to the vision.”

“Because it’s an extraordinary vision,” I replied without hesitation.

But of course, there’s far more to the story. After all, as anyone will tell you, here in the entertainment industry you can find an extraordinary vision around every corner.

Few of these visions, however, come with a long-range rollout plan, solid financial backing, seasoned leadership, world-class industry partners, a proven IP—and direct access to real estate in prime tourist destinations. I’ve been around the block a few times now, and I can tell you—to have these opportunities come together in one company is incredibly rare. I found it irresistible:

Entertainment has plenty of storytellers. Not many have the resources and know-how to physically build out their stories.

Three Big Kinds of Convergence

For myself and many others in our rapidly-evolving industry, the bigger story behind the “extraordinary vision” of the Falcon’s Beyond team might be called convergence.

When I first met Cecil Magpuri, Scott Demerau, and others at Falcon’s Beyond, I immediately saw not just the convergence of potent forces on an extraordinary and possible vision, but the way that vision corresponded with three overarching themes in the entertainment industry…and beyond.

I want to lay out those three themes, which are all top-of-mind for me.

1. Entertainment Is Converging with Hospitality

For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been working not just in entertainment, but at the nexus of entertainment and hospitality—two industries which have only just begun to converge fully, in the way they must over time.

I’ve seen first-hand how major hoteliers around the globe have come to the same realization: in order to continue developing their guest experience, topline properties need to up their game with more than just great amenities and service—they need to integrate experiential entertainment directly within their offerings.

Let me put it in stronger terms: It had better be world-class experiential entertainment. This is especially true for the next generation of guests, whose expectations continue to rise.

When I looked at Falcon’s Beyond and its unique joint venture with Meliá Hotels International, I immediately saw a company at the forefront of this convergence. Starting with the proof-of-concept at Sol Katmandu Park & Resort in Mallorca, Meliá and Falcon’s Beyond began to rethink the model of an integrated beach resort by flipping it from “rooms with entertainment” to “entertainment with rooms”—a terrific way of looking at the experience.

Along with the gateless “Big-Experience, Small Footprint” theme park, it was a brilliant, even revolutionary idea in the industry.

2. Convergent Launch of an IP in Every Media

The second big convergence comes in the realm of intellectual property. Anyone who follows entertainment knows that expansive franchised “universes” of characters and stories have become critical to audiences worldwide. Few, however, are aware of the practical difficulties in expanding those universes across what has come to be called the “transmedia spectrum” (to use the current buzzword).

It’s one thing to launch a movie, quite another to launch a related video series, yet another to create related consumer merchandise—and trust me, it’s a very, very different challenge to create a brick-and-mortar experience for that universe in a theme park or resort. Not to mention operating that theme park over time! Like every Orlando resident, I could tell plenty of cautionary tales.

Nevertheless, the convergence of all these media expressions is precisely what audiences crave. They truly want to immerse themselves in imagined universes.

The convergence of all these necessary disciplines with talent and technology is fundamental to Falcon’s Beyond, and a big part of what led me here. At this amazing place, we can launch an IP into media, merchandise, parks, hotels, rides, attractions, games, and more simultaneously.

The number of IP activations (if you can forgive me using another buzzword!) and revenue streams that can be rolled out by this one single company within a short time frame is simply incredible.

Everyone in entertainment talks transmedia, but I’m positive no one has put transmedia together like this before.

3. This Moment in History

Finally, I think practically everyone in our industry can see a third, and genuinely historic, convergence happening right now. Around the world, we’re witnessing a special set of human emotions converging as we begin to exit the pandemic. Nearly everyone on earth has pent-up desires for travel, for new experiences, and to gather together. When many of us were locked in our homes, we also found a new desire to use technology to its best advantage, and yes, to explore imagined worlds more fully.

Here at Falcon’s Beyond, I feel I’ve moved to the center of this macro convergence as well. Not only are we building immersive experiences and imaginary worlds, but we will be unleashing new technologies to connect people together within those worlds.

During the pandemic, some companies simply went into hibernation. Others, like the people I’ve met here, took the opportunity to rethink, retool, and re-imagine. With everything shut down, they saw a chance to go into visionary high gear while maintaining a solid financial base.

When I met Scott, Cecil, and the other visionaries at Falcon’s Beyond, I not only liked them as individuals, I loved the energy they had generated over a whole year-and-a-half of forward thinking—lining up resources, establishing the right agreements, and preparing for this moment.

I am honored and humbled to join an amazing journey at an amazing time, as we “turn imagined worlds into reality”—all around the globe.


Meet the Author:

Jo Merrill
Chief Financial Officer

As Chief Financial Officer, Jo Merrill will oversee the company’s rapidly expanding capital structure and corporate financials. She brings deep experience in both entertainment and hospitality from her four years as CFO at global entertainment services company, Entertainment Technology Partners (ETP); her previous ten years as VP of Finance at Hard Rock International; and eleven years of senior roles at PwC.