Superfly Productions, working with the sitcom’s producer Warner Brothers Television, tapped the powerhouse firm Jack Rouse Associates (JRA) to collaborate on the design of the experience. Chicago Scenic was chosen as the fabrication partner to bring the pop-up to life.
And what a life the pop-up is having so far—the first venue opened for a limited run in New York in early Fall 2019 to glowing reviews and a phenomenal fan response. Tickets sold out in three hours and the attraction welcomed 50,000 visitors during its month-long run.
FRIENDS 25 Pop-Up is perfect for fans toting selfie sticks and living large in the Instagram age. Visitors can literally experience the show firsthand by walking through, posing in, and lounging around an eight-room installation of FRIENDS set re-creations and memorable props.
The Chicago Scenic team had its work cut out for it—pun perhaps intended—in fabricating the experience that includes the park-sized fountain from the show’s opening credit scene (complete with umbrellas), Chandler & Joey’s apartment, Central Perk with its orange couch, and other scenic elements such as the girls’ purple apartment door.
“Our fabrication challenge was considerable because the recreated elements are experienced ‘up close’ and intimately, not from a distance as they would be in a theater venue or other settings,” said Doug Peer, Chicago Scenic’s project manager. “Our research was extensive—and included watching all episodes of FRIENDS to analyze and capture every nuance and detail,” Peer added.
Artists sculpting the iconic fountain worked with video screen shots in front of them so they could perfectly recreate the fish that are an integral part of the fountain’s design. Recreating the purple door, a prominent element in the girls’ apartment scenes, posed its own challenge: door hardware has changed dramatically since the show first aired 25 years ago. “Our team tapped many sources before they found the right match,” Peer said.
“Even our props assistant, searching for authentic-era clothes, visited many different thrift stores, looking for clothes that Joey would have worn,” Peer added. Since each pop-up room offered social media photo opportunities, every detail became significant.
FRIENDS 25 Pop-Up traveled to Boston after New York—running to wide acclaim in Bean Town from late November through early January 2020. The overwhelming success in both cities has led to lots
of speculation around future locations—stay tuned for more!