Moviegoers have been eagerly awaiting today’s opening for the Barbie movie and while the much anticipated film is likely to be a boon for the movie business, Barbie-mania has already boosted Downtown Santa Monica through the World of Barbie exhibit at Santa Monica Place.
World of Barbie is an immersive experience akin to an interactive museum that offers guests a chance to become part of the Barbie World. Inside the facility, visitors can explore a life size dreamhouse complete with a patio and pool, and walk-in closets filled with garments from decades of iconic Barbie fashion history, jump in the drivers’ seat of a DreamCamper, pose inside human-sized Barbie boxes, become a news anchor on the Barbie network, board a Barbie Interstellar Rocket or try on new looks in the salon.
After opening in May, the experience proved so popular, it was extended at the Mall through Sept. 4.
That success has not gone unnoticed by local officials who say the concept is good for the city on its own and has some knock-on benefits for neighbors.
“So while we haven’t received actual sales tax figures yet, we are hearing that the world of Barbie is performing extremely well,” said Santa Monica’s economic development director Jennifer Taylor. “They’re both in terms of ticket sales and also related merchandise sales, which is both helping Santa Monica Place, Downtown Santa Monica and the city overall. It will be generating sales tax revenue to support our city and essential services, which is great.”
Taylor said visitors are expanding their Barbie visit into a whole trip that includes meals at restaurants or spending in other downtown businesses. She said nearby retailers have also added lines of Barbie merchandise to their existing inventory to capitalize on the Barbie visitors.
“So those are the things that I think we really love, as when we see the synergies between pop-up, pop-up retailers and pop up experiences, but Barbie is like a really cool experiential destination for families and children and obviously, the synergistic relations with other local retailers where they’re stocking up on Barbie inventory at this particular pop-up is great because it also ties into Mattel and how LA based Barbie is and how this is Barbie’s home,” she said. “So it’s nice to see the synergy between the entertainment industry and the playmaking industry that originated in the Los Angeles area.”
Misti Kerns, CEO of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism, said the popup is drawing visitors to the city.
“We count ourselves lucky that Santa Monica is a top choice for these fun, nostalgic, interactive activities that create fond memories,” she said. “The experiences draw tourists and locals and really create a lively buzz, especially when they’re only around for a limited time. In Santa Monica, we’re proud to say we’re the first location for World of Barbie in the States, and the pop-up has done so well here that they’ve decided to extend it through Labor Day. Given the early success, it’ll be great to see what the response is like once the movie premieres this weekend.”
Both Taylor and Kerns said the experience is notable for drawing entire families to the mall.
“The playful spirit of Barbie fosters imagination and promises a fun and friendly experience for all ages,” said Kerns. “We’ve seen families, celebrities, and even lifelong fans come out and relive childhood dreams. It’s incredible how the resurgence of an icon brings generations together.”
Recent visitors to the exhibit included families who traveled specifically for the show.
“It is really unique how in the World of Barbie women are the faces of all these different careers, it’s also really fun because I am here with my kids and my mom but it really shows how the icon of Barbie brings generations of Women together,” said Gina Tiangco. “It’s giving both my mom and I a lot of nostalgia but creating exciting memories with my kids. We came all the way from San Francisco so it was definitely worth it.”
Ukrainian tourist, Anastasiia Tykhonoca was particularly fond of the fashion elements.
“It’s a cool way to express yourself to wear pink, because usually people don’t wear it every day. And I think it’s really cool to dress like a Barbie, because every girl is a Barbie in their own ways,” she said.
Taylor said World of Barbie may be a harbinger of things to come. The Promenade previously hosted a similar exhibit tied to the popular band BTS and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie will open an exhibit this week.
“World of Barbie is kind of a longer, prolonged experience. It’s not just here for a month,” she said. “Yeah, it’s also helping to show that these types of operations are really viable and that people are using this, it’s in demand and people want to come to them. So hopefully, she is paving the way for more cool things like this, especially for downtown.”
Tickets for the Los Angeles engagement, including the extended dates now on sale, range from $34 for adults and $26 for children with special discounts available for military, students, first responders and seniors. Hours of operation are: Wednesday and Thursday (12 – 6 p.m.); Friday (12 – 8 p.m.); and Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. – 8 p.m.). To purchase tickets visit theworldofbarbie.com.
SMDP Intern Arabella Joaquin is a co-author of this story.