Live Like The Aristocracy At The ArcLight's Downton Abbey Experience
Downton Abbey was one of PBS's biggest hits ever, turning a lot of viewers into Anglophiles with its emotional depiction of the end of an era for British aristocrats. Now's your chance to jump into that world, at least for cocktails, thanks to ArcLight Hollywood's Downton Abbey Experience — we went to a preview.
The experience begins as you walk into the ArcLight, with costumes from the new reunion film on display in the lobby (and yes, this is at least partly a tool to help promote the new movie). You're invited upstairs, but instead of heading left toward the theaters, you turn to what's usually their bar area.
You'll be greeted with a room worthy of the lady of the house, with a lady's maid offering you the chance to get your photo taken. Your choices include a shot at the lady's fancy dressing table, or in an old-fashioned chair to the side. Despite what the photographers may say, you don't actually need to remain ultra still for a full 30 seconds, but it's fun if you want to. The characters throughout are clearly inspired by various characters from the show, but with everyone putting their own spin on the originals.
Go through the curtains and find yourself in Downton Abbey's kitchen, with a slew of characters ready to engage with you. You can grab a cocktail from one of the footmen scurrying about, hors d'oeuvres, or perhaps some bread with butter and jam.
In the kitchen, you get the cooks hurriedly trying to prepare for the evening, and ready to dispense rumors that the king and queen may be visiting that evening. (Here's your requisite tie-in with the movie's plot.)
Step into the next room and you'll find a chance to sign Lord Grantham's guestbook — when we went to sign, one of the footmen snidely remarked that we could leave Lord Grantham something to fall asleep to. Well then.
You'll find plenty of catty footmen, with rivalries inspired by the style of characters like the show's Thomas, ready to tell each other off as they try to prove why they should be elevated in the politics of the house's help. We also caught one trying to teach another a proper gait, much to the delight of the Abbey-obsessed fans in attendance.
In that room, the walls are covered with old-fashioned art, including a number of pieces that appeared on the show itself. But the one that seemed to get people most excited was a portrait of the film's cast of characters.
All through your experience, you'll hear some live music from a violin player tucked in the corner. It's mostly classical, but listen long enough and you'll catch the Downton Abbey theme occasionally being tucked in.
Here's also where you'll find the two non-help characters, including one lady who is more than happy to gossip with you about the news of Mae West's obscenity arrest in America. You may end up hearing some of the characters cycling through their dialogue options on occasion, dispensing the same facts to another nearby guest, but the actors seemed prepped and deeply committed. (We almost had one trip up about what year it was, but it's hard enough for us to remember the year ourselves when we're thinking about what year it actually is, so who can blame them?)
You can also step out onto the balcony, for a chance to take at least a bit of the break from the Downton universe. You'll find a big backdrop of the Abbey itself to take photos in front of, and while the footmen still circulate a bit with drinks and to clean up, you're less likely to be forced into a conversation about how your modern shoes must be from France or how the former kitchen maid thinks your cocktail looks lovely and how she dreams of having one someday. (Our hearts broke when we heard that too.)
Finally, the improv version of butler Mr. Carson sounds a gong and everyone is ushered in to see the film. No major spoilers, but get ready for a time jump forward as we all find out what Downton Abbey is like in 1927.
So get your best Downton cosplay ready and see if you can get in to this exclusive event. Only a handful of tickets were left at press time, running 65 dollars each — and while additional tickets were released, they don't plan to add any more showtimes.
Watch the trailer for the Downton Abbey movie — oh wait, we forgot, it's Downton — we mean motion picture:
This story has been updated.