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Britney Spears pop-up The Zone is like stepping back into the TRL era

Britney Spears pop-up The Zone is like stepping back into the TRL era
Photograph: Michael Juliano

When the phone rang at the back of a faux plane cabin interior, flashing various shades of hot pink and blaring “Toxic,” there was only one thing I was hoping would be on the other end. I picked up the receiver and a familiar, breathy voice said, “It’s Britney, bitch.” Click. Well, I’m sold. 

The Zone, a Britney Spears-sanctioned series of rooms inspired by her music videos, opens this Friday across from the Original Farmers Market. It’s exceptionally late to the tired engineered-for-Instagram trend of pop-ups, and at $60 to $65 a ticket, it’s double the price of other experiences, which were already wildly expensive to begin with.

And yet, the Zone is astonishingly amusing, especially for anybody raised on an after-school diet of TRL. For starters, it’s massive; it occupies 30,000 square feet of a former Kmart that’s been painted pink, including the lines for the parking spots. And whereas most Insta rooms coast by giving you a less enjoyable version of a thing you love (Look at this mural of an avocado! Yummm?), the Zone takes the music videos you obsessed over as a teenager and lets you actually do all of the things you pined for when you first watch them.

You can step inside Britney Spears’s music videos at this pop-up

You can take a nostalgic trip back to the TRL era at this Britney Spears pop-up. http://bit.ly/36HNmvL

Posted by Time Out Los Angeles on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Shimmy down a hall of lockers and pout in the gym as “…Baby One More Time” blasts in the background? Yep. Dance on a silver chair in a black room à la “Stronger”? Yes, and you can stare at yourself in a starry mirror while you do it. Visit the Mars stations from “Oops… I Did it Again”? You sure can, and you can even splay out on that weird white star and meet an astronaut who offers you the necklace the old lady threw into the ocean at the end (he’ll fart out a bit of fog when you press the jewel).

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

To aid you in your quest for that perfect selfie, you’ll be given an RFID wristband (familiar to any music festival attendee) that you can tap at various photo ops throughout the experience. So in the damp “I’m a Slave 4 U” rainforest, you can wrap a plush snake around your shoulders and you’ll have a sparkly Boomerang emailed back to you (it’ll pop up in the official app, as well, which also includes a Britney playlist and merch store).

Photograph: Michael Juliano

We were virtually by ourselves during our preview of the Zone, so we can’t really judge how well the crowds will flow through the experience. Most visitors will enter in a group of up to a dozen people at a time, starting in a classroom with an intro video that features the jazz hands principal from the “…Baby One More Time” video. From there, you’re welcome to spend as much time in the experience as you’d like (organizers estimate about 60 to 90 minutes), though you can only move forward, not backward to rooms you’ve already visited. Timed tickets are available in 15-minute intervals, and each room has enough going on to keep a couple of people busy at a time. All of that should help keep things moving, and the pop-up organizers seem to have account for the biggest bottlenecks (a split-room photo op for “Me Against the Music” and a bill pit for “Circus” both have dedicated queues—though we can see quite a backup forming to pose with the drink cart on the “Toxic” plane).

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

All in all, it’s a surprisingly polished piece of wish fulfillment with something to see, touch and snap in each room, with a car-stereo-on-max-volume assault of Britney tunes throughout. But unless you’re an enlistee in the Britney Army, it’s a tough price point to stomach; $60 can get you an excellent dinner or halfway to a Disneyland ticket. So… you want to visit the Zone? You want to be able to afford a ticket? You better work bitch (and yep, you can get a hat with that on it).

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

The women’s bathroom is inspired by THAT denim dress.Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Photograph: Michael Juliano

The Zone is located at 6310 West 3rd Street. It’s open every day except Tuesday from 10am to 10pm, with tickets available in 15-minute intervals. Admission starts at $59.50 and ticks up to $64.60 during “peak hours.” The large store in the front is open to the general public for free, though a smaller store at the end of the experience with exclusive merch is only open to ticket holders.

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