For one day, fans walked in the shoes of the enigmatic assassins of the John Wick film series.
In honor of the release of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate immersed participants in the world of the action-thriller franchise. The studio transformed an event space in Brooklyn, New York, into the Continental Hotel, the meeting place for seedy assassins. "The Continental Experience" began outside of the building, as an in-character doorman welcomed everyone "back," immediately placing attendees in the role of frequent guests.
Inside was a bustling space teeming with activities. Music pounded from above as a dancer gracefully performed in the balcony, her shadow gliding along the walls. Her appearance alludes to the plot of John Wick: Chapter 3, which takes place partly in an underground Russian ballet academy. The first stop was at the concierge, who sternly reminded the group of the Continental's top rule: No blood gets spilled.
He then ushered the group to the Continental's switchboard, a treasure trove of Easter eggs from the franchise. A series of no-nonsense switchboard operators registered the attendees, taking down their name, alias, height, place of origin and any noticeable features. Behind them was a chalkboard grid of assassins and their respective bounties, with Keanu Reeves' John Wick naturally at the top. When not gathering personal information, the operators kept busy, walking between rotary phones, archaic computer monitors, and shelves of mysteriously marked boxes.
Once past the switchboard, attendees had their photos taken for their case files, officially confirming their new identity. From there, the experience took on a looser format. The new assassins could walk to a pop-up suit shop, where the owner fit them for a suit, and demonstrated some of the more defensive capabilities of the garments. They could cash in gold coins they received during registration to receive merchandise like a John Wick comic, a commemorative tote bag and an "excommunicado" hat. A side wing showcased a gallery of art from all three films.
What's most notable about this experience, however, is the atmosphere. Every step evoked modern noir elements that have made the John Wick series so popular. Additionally, costumed denizens of the Continental milled around the space, ready to perform a scene at a moment's notice. Assassins skulked in all black, occasionally getting nose to nose as they toed the line in breaking the Continental's first rule. One ballet routine was interrupted by a curt woman dressed in red. She processed around the room, holding everyone's attention as she spoke in a thick Russian accent about the constant attention and discipline involved in each dance movement.
One line stuck out particularly from this strict instructor's monologue: "The resonance of the room speaks to you if you listen." Similarly, the resonance of the Continental Experience sang out with every word spoken, glance exchanged, and step taken. It served as an excellent way to bring John Wick fans back underground in preparation for the latest chapter.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum stars Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas, Lance Reddick and Anjelica Huston. The film opens Friday nationwide.