If you missed Britney Spears over the course of her four-year Vegas residency, the good news is that she’s finally returned home to Los Angeles…well, sort of. “The Zone,” a pop-up experience and retail shop dedicated to celebrating the career of the pop star just opened in the Fairfax District across from the Grove, in a former Kmart. Featuring 10 interactive rooms, including photo and video activations, “The Zone” is not to be missed for fans of Britney, pop culture and ’90s/2000s nostalgia.
Thanks to social media, it seems like these selfie-ready pop-ups are a trend that’s here to stay. But at 30,000 square-feet (literally the size of a Kmart), “The Zone” feels bigger and grander than most. The experience was co-created by longtime Britney fans Jeff Delson and Shannon Ramirez, with the star’s support and input, of course. Spears herself has not yet been to the pop-up in person, but we’re told she plans to go in the near future. In the meantime, many of her celebrity friends as well as some of her former dancers have already visited.
So what exactly do fans see in “The Zone?” (If you plan to attend and want to be surprised, here’s your spoiler warning.)
The building’s facade has been painted purple and pink, highlighted by painter Rob Prior’s mural of Spear. The main entrance is a huge Britney retail shop that’s free and open to the public, whether you have tickets to the experience or not. Some of the star’s older costumes are on display, including the iconic blue flight attendant outfit from the “Toxic” video, as well as her dress from when she was a young contestant on Star Search.
Ticket holders are given a wristband that’s similar to the ones given at Coachella. It’s linked to an app where you can download the photos and videos taken during the activations. Of course for ticket holders, the actual experience begins in class, with Spears’ former “…Baby One More Time” teacher (and one-time assistant) Felicia Culotta giving attendees a hilarious (but informative) informational video about what’s ahead.
From there we see the rest of Britney’s high school, which includes lockers filled with school items and a few special lockers where fans can drop in notes they wrote to Britney (some of which may appear on her social media). From there we go to the next era of Britney’s career, spotlighting her second album and single, “Oops!… I Did It Again,” which features the pop-up’s first photo activation and a fun way to interact with the astronaut from the video. (“Aww, you shouldn’t have!”)
Fans who are dance enthusiasts will be happy in the next room, dedicated to Britney’s video for “Stronger.” They’re encouraged to do their best chair routine in front of an amazing backdrop that looks a little like a Star Wars ship going into lightspeed. Mega-fans may notice that after this room, the order of the remaining ones are not chronological, but designed for the best flow of people and activity. Therefore, from “Stronger,” fans walk through a blacklit, graffiti-filled room before entering the world of “Me Against the Music,” Spears’ collaboration with her longtime idol and former kissing partner Madonna. Fans can recreate the Madonna and Britney interaction from the music video in a room that looks just like it and make a video dancing with Spears.
After a stop to say hi to Madonna, we really get In the Zone, boarding Britney Air and stepping into the “Toxic” video from her 2003 album. Between the lights, music and props to play with, such as a beverage cart and a flight attendant hat, this one really feels like fans are stepping into the actual music video. And no details are left unaccounted for — the “safety instructions” inside the seat pockets show how to “resuscitate” a man or drink your in-flight beverage, and of course the barf bags say “Toxic.”
From “Toxic” it’s on to the world of Britney’s “Circus,” where fans can see the real jacket and bicycle she used on the tour that supported it. The centerpiece of the room is a balance beam (or tight rope walk) across a giant ball pit. Fans can take pictures on the balance beam or inside the (surprisingly deep) pit. After, fans take a step slightly back in time to the world of Britney’s fan-favorite album, 2007’s Blackout, entering a dark cathedral filled with candles, where they can kneel and say a prayer next to one of the interactive stained glass windows. Some marriage proposals have already taken place in the room, with some more likely to come. Next, we enter one of the most popular rooms, celebrating Britney’s hit “I’m A Slave 4 U” from 2001’s Britney. Fans can get up close and personal to a giant (fake) python, and then put a long, stuffed one around their shoulders (like Spears did) for a Boomerang activation. Spears’ performance of the song at the MTV Video Music Awards is projected onto fog and fills the room with its infectious beat.
For the grand finale, fans get to experience what it’s like for Spears to be stalked by paparazzi in the “Piece of Me” room, with fake magazine cover photos in the room’s activation which can then be scanned on their wristbands to have the cover blown up life-sized. There’s also a giant neon sign that reads, “You wanna piece of me” and a newsstand filled with Britney’s famous 1999 Rolling Stone cover, for photo ops.
The room exits into a retail space only available to those who did the experience, filled with some exclusive merch from “The Zone” (or guests can return to the main, public retail store for some more options). It’s important to note that currently “The Zone” only spotlights the first decade of Britney’s illustrious 20-year career. Delson says that they have plans to add a few more rooms in the near future, though. Fingers crossed for 2011’s Femme Fatale, 2013’s Britney Jean and 2016’s Glory to be shown some love, even if they’re maybe not quite as iconic as the albums and hits from 1999-2008.
While pop-up experiences like “The Zone” may be somewhat new, hopefully the novelty doesn’t wear off anytime soon. It’s always fun to celebrate the pop culture we loved from our childhood in new, fun and interactive ways, especially for those of us who continue to love and live for it into adulthood. We haven’t had any new music from Spears in four years, but “The Zone” is a perfect way to experience her past hits and an outlet that allows them to celebrate her, her music, and all the strength and joy that she’s inspired us with for the last 20 years.
The Zone, 6310 W. 3rd St., Mid-Wilshire; Wed.-Mon., 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., through April 26; for tickets and more information, please visit britneythezone.com.