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Derren Brown's Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon


Marc

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9 hours ago, Cornflakes said:

Long time no see! First visit to Thorpe since 2019 yesterday, have a few thoughts about everyone's favourite ride. Anyone from here who knows me irl (That's 4 or 5 people) knows that I'm a little bit of a Ghost Train apologist, post-2016 and pre-Covid I was generally visiting the park around once a year, and have been lucky enough to avoid some of the catastrophic experiences others on here have had. Obviously, the ride has its faults but I have quite a soft spot for it. 

 

Didn't get the new opening spiel that others have mentioned here. capacity was apparently reduced yesterday so this could've been a reason for this, or it could've just been cut entirely. Probably for the best tbh.

 

The first VR section is still good. I've always enjoyed this section, creepy and fun and generally gets people screaming during the big scare moment, however, the already dated in 2016 CG animation is looking especially ropey now, the dog looks like something out of an early generation PS3 game. Luckily a lot of this section is focused on real actors, so it makes it easier to overlook imo. 

 

Middle live section now. One thing jumped out to me here, the ride staff is absolutely giving it their all. This section has been cut down massively since 2017, but yesterday's ride was the first time since then where the staff was trying a more scripted sequence as opposed to a generic scare maze section. That being said, this section is still where the story begins to fall apart a bit. In 2016 and 17 this was the introduction of the demon to the storyline after having it foreshadowed by the dialogue in the first VR section, but since 2018 this section has focused more on the infected. Unfortunately, no amount of effort on the part of the team can make up for the fact that this section makes the following VR section kind of nonsensical. A real shame.

 

Second VR section now, still the same campy fun it's been since 2017, but like the first section, it's looking pretty dated. I feel like the good grace of it being significantly better than its 2016 incarnation has well and truly worn off by now, parts of it look really goofy. There's a real tonal imbalance between the first VR section and the 2nd. The first section is genuinely quite creepy, but the second descends into pure B-Movie Schlock, this was more palatable when the middle live-action section built up the demon as the real antagonist, but without this it makes it seem like two different stories colliding with each other.

 

Onto the fake shop - sigh... This section suffers from the demon costume no longer being a thing. Massive props to the actor for trying to make the infected jump scare work, but this makes the story of the ride more disjointed than ever. The plot is as follows - First VR section centres around the infected and does some light foreshadowing of there being something else going on, cool. Middle live-action section... focuses on the infected again, right, okay then. Second VR section now introduces the demon, but this feels like such a big jump from the infected stuff that came before. Now the shop scare is.. oh. It's the infected again. What exactly was the point of the demon then?

 

Don't get me wrong, the plot has been disjointed for longer than this year alone, but the demon scare in the fake shop would kind of help with this because it's reinforcing the idea that the demon is the real antagonist, this not being the case anymore really lets the experience down.

 

All in all, I enjoyed the ride as I always tend to and while this wasn't the worst experience I've had on this ride, it certainly made the least sense. 

 

I think this ride just makes me kind of sad. I know a lot of people on here are down on VR, but it's a seriously amazing technology when done well and has evolved so much in the last few years. I fundamentally disagree with the view of some people on here that the use of VR was a bad idea from the get-go, Merlin was the wrong company to attempt a ride based around VR as their reach always exceeds their grasp with things like this. Attempting a ride like this in 2016 was also a mistake, VR has evolved massively since 2016 and the current technology clearly can’t keep up with the demands of the experience. I genuinely believe that a team who cares with a decent budget could turn this into a world-class dark ride, but as it stands it’s just a bit of a mess, what a shame.

 

Brilliantly put and nice to hear what I’ve been saying since I first rode it from someone else’s mouth, lol. As someone who’s a massive fan of Derren Brown and genuinely believes in the ride and the ride system - even though I’ve always been let down by it, I will always ride on a visit to the park in the hopes that it’ll get better because I genuinely do like the ride.

 

The demon narrative is just downright silly at this point - like you said, he’s only seen for one VR section of the ride and never heard of again. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in a previous post and that’s that they need to either re-introduce the demon (the best course of action imo) or scrap the demon altogether and focus on just the infected.

 

The whole story is just totally disjointed at this point and it really does make me sad because I can see the potential that this ride has and to see it not being executed in the right way is really, really sad. It’s pretty clear that Merlin have just cut their losses with it since 2017’s Rise of the Demon expansion. They need to do another one of those to properly iron out the kinks, then I genuinely think it could be a world-class ride. It just falls so, so short in it’s current iteration.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, well, well. Deary deary me.

 

I think this was possibly my second (maybe third?) visit to Thorpe Park this year and of course I always have to have my obligatory ride on DBGT. In fact, the ride was a walk-on at about half 12 (the person on the gate wasn't even checking tickets, so I just walked straight though even though I hadn't actually booked!).

 

I rode DBGT at the start of the season, and they had implemented some changes to the second-preshow that I thought were absolutely fantastic. A little more backstory, tying together all of the plotholes and having a member of the infected burst into the room warning people not to ride. Now... I'm not sure if this is just because I visited during the extreme off-peak days... however this second-preshow was skipped in its entirety. Instead, we were directed straight through onto the train after the talk from Derren at the start.

 

Onto the VR section now. I know lots of people have had issues with the VR headsets on here before and I assume I have just gotten lucky until now... however my headset today was absolutely awful. Constantly drifting, sometimes just locking the camera into place so I couldn't even look around (which, might I add, was absolutely horrendous and triggered immense motion sickness every time I tried to look around). I sat down after being directed onto the train and immediately put on a headset where the audio wasn't coming through one of the headphones... so immediately got up and found somewhere else.

 

Other than the technical issues, the first VR section was exactly as normal.

 

Then we de-board the train as normal, and get hurried along into the big train room. Now, as we skipped the second pre-show... we obviously didn't have any 'codes' or anything to give to the actors in this room, which made the entire situation totally pointless. We were taken off the train, directed into a large room where people were just pacing up and down freaking out, the infected come out, and then we get directed straight back onto the train again. No participation from the audience, just straight back onto the train.

 

Look, I totally understand that there's probably a potential lack of staffing... but the whole 'remembering the code to get out of the room with the infected' bit is kind of the entire motif of the ride. Without that, you're basically just watching VR.

 

Anyway, back onto the train for the second and final VR section. Again, VR and audio issues galore. We had the super-extended VR part two (I assume there was some sort of technical issue and hence we were held up), but aside from all of the VR and audio issues... I actually really liked the extended VR section. It's a real shame they don't let this play out in its entirety all of the time. I really don't jump at the jumpscares on DBGT anymore, but some of the jumpscares in the extended VR Part 2 section really got me (and I couldn't even look around because my VR was stuck again!). For part two I had to change my headset three different times during the actual VR segment and had members of staff asking me what the problem was - pretty sure after they got me settled again they radioed in about all of the issues as I could hear people talking on the radio about them... so other people must've had the same problems as me.

 

And then... the grand finale.

*sigh* 

 

This, for me, has always been the highlight of DBGT... but not today. Nobody made any attempt to direct people's attention to the ouija board and the audio was so low in the fake shop that nobody even knew what was going on. It was just me and my friend observing the ouija board and even when the infected person came out... nobody even looked! 😂 Which brings me on to my biggest pet peeve about DBGT which I've always been very vocal about - the demon costume.

 

It needs to make a return. I don't care how much it costs. Bring it back.

Having no mention of a demon in the first VR section, no mention of a demon in the large train room section, and oh! Suddenly there's a demon thing that nobody has talked about walking around the train in the third VR section!... oh and it's gone again.

 

The storyline is totally discombobulated. Either stick with the demon storyline or abandon it altogether. 'Rise Of The Demon' my arse. More like 'The Demon? What Demon? Oh, There He Is! Oh No, Gone Again!'

 

It truly gets worse every single ride.

 

Also... I mentioned it earlier in the year but it's even more apparent now - the Ghost Train shop is virtually completely empty now. Which I can't help but wonder why? Are they just not ordering new stock to the shop because they're planning on closing it soon or do they just not see the point of restocking because it doesn't get a lot of footfall?

 

I can't imagine it being the latter, because DBGT can get very, very busy at times! I'd be interested to hear what everyone else thinks.

 

Sorry for the long one, folks! 😂

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7 hours ago, coasterverse said:

Also... I mentioned it earlier in the year but it's even more apparent now - the Ghost Train shop is virtually completely empty now. Which I can't help but wonder why? Are they just not ordering new stock to the shop because they're planning on closing it soon or do they just not see the point of restocking because it doesn't get a lot of footfall?

 

That shop is HUGE too -almost as if they thought DBGTROTD was the future of theme parks 👀

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I know I risk a fate of sounding like a broken record continuously going on about DBGT, however following my most recent trip to the park and witnessing virtually everything inside the attraction being painfully downsized and even the Ghost Train shop being all but entirely void of merchandise begs the question as to what the fate of Derren Brown's Ghost Train: Rise Of The Demon will be.

 

What is everyone's predictions?

A re-theme? Demolishment of the current building and replacing with a coaster? Something else?

 

I'd love to know what everyone thinks could be the potential path to the future with this attraction!

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It's an awkward one, and I'm not really sure what they can do.

 

I think the ride clearly hasn't been a rip-roaring success (or at very least, a rip-roaring success to the degree that the park were hoping for), seeing as it's still on entry via timed tickets as far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong there...), which would indicate that it isn't the most popular ride. It also doesn't appear to be seen as a headline attraction in the same way as the likes of the coasters, from what I can tell, which isn't too good given its age and the money that was spent on it (£30m, supposedly).

 

The problem is, though; I think it was too expensive for them to just leave or do anything overly drastic to it. To abandon a £30m ride (the most expensive ever built in the UK) after only 6 years in operation would be a huge loss of money. So I'm not really sure they can do anything to it without losing a huge amount of money.

 

In an ideal world, I would get rid of it and put a new family thrill dark ride in there that has wider appeal. Perhaps an Oceaneering system, like Jumanji at Gardaland, would work well?

 

Personally, I feel that its appeal was too niche for such a major headline attraction. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with parks building horror dark rides, and I admire Thorpe's nerve for doing DBGT in the first place, but I think there is a reason why not too many horror dark rides with scare maze-type elements akin to DBGT exist, and the ones that do exist are mostly lower budget support attractions within their respective parks rather than bank-breaking headliners like DBGT. That reason is that the appeal of that type of attraction (horror, with scare actors and many scare maze type elements) is quite limited in the sphere of the wider theme park visiting populace, and there's only so much reward you can get from horror fans, hence it's not usually worth spending tons on that type of attraction. I'm a young adult who likes a good thrill; I would consider myself a thrillseeker who isn't scared by much hardware-wise, so I'm right in the park's target market. However... I have not done DBGT because horror attractions are not my thing at all (I know this makes me sound like a coward, but I'm not keen on forced participation, and I have a slight phobia of costumed characters/scare actors... I haven't done TWD:TR since it was rethemed for the same reason), and I know that I'm not alone in feeling this. Something like DBGT will naturally be a lot more polarising than something like a roller coaster or a more traditional dark ride, and I think that's part of why it hasn't been a greater success.

 

Ultimately, I think that it was a huge, huge gamble. It was a pretty admirable gamble; it had a really admirable degree of ambition behind it, and its uniqueness is in many ways quite stunning, but it was a gamble that ultimately backfired quite spectacularly. Overall, I think the ride was almost a bit too ambitious in many ways, with the experimental technology seemingly being quite problematic, and its appeal was arguably too limited for a ride of its scale.

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I have no idea what's going to happen to it. The contract with Derren has got to end at some point soon, unless its already ended and has been renewed? 

 

I'd love for them to just rip out the ride system and start with something completely different. Its an operational nightmare, its the only ride on park which doesn't open at 10 (and never did even when it was meant to) and requires timed tickets. Its unreliable. Its expensive to run.

 

But knowing merlin and them not having the budget to do so, I think the more likely option would be them try and make something work with what they've currently got. 

 

I personally can't see it get to a point where its just SBNO with it being in the middle of the park but who knows. Interested to hear others thoughts on this one.

 

 

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1 hour ago, ThorpeAddict said:

I have no idea what's going to happen to it. The contract with Derren has got to end at some point soon, unless its already ended and has been renewed? 

 

I'd love for them to just rip out the ride system and start with something completely different. Its an operational nightmare, its the only ride on park which doesn't open at 10 (and never did even when it was meant to) and requires timed tickets. Its unreliable. Its expensive to run.

 

But knowing merlin and them not having the budget to do so, I think the more likely option would be them try and make something work with what they've currently got. 

 

I personally can't see it get to a point where its just SBNO with it being in the middle of the park but who knows. Interested to hear others thoughts on this one.

 

 

 

With it being an awkward period of time since opening (6 years now!!), I would imagine that the contract would have somehow been renewed a year ago (although, to be perfectly honest I don't think Derren would be interested in renewing it at all - I've heard he was extremely unhappy with Simworx for the way the ride turned out and has never even entertained talking about it since it opened, really) or the initial contract length discussed was 10 years. This seems like an incredible amount of time to negotiate a contract length for, however they were hyping this attraction up as being the "future of theme park technology" or something along those lines, so maybe they were a little ambitious in the licensing and went for 10 years.

 

I don't know, I think the latter option is probably more realistic - I think Merlin would've been interested to renew the contract last year because as @Matt N said, the £30m budget is a hell of a lot of money to spend on any attraction and I can't see them admitting failure and closing it this early on their own accord, but I really don't think that Derren would be interested at all as all it does is put a dampener on his name (unless Merlin are paying him incredible sums of money to renew the license, in which case maybe his attention was swayed!).

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To be honest I think they should cut their losses and abandon it now.

 

Does it really draw anyone in to the park?

Ultimately does it sell tickets and make any money for them?

I very much doubt it - it must actually cost a fortune to run and staff.

 

it doesn’t even really feature on any of the marketing material any more, which suggests it isn’t a draw at all.

 

I don’t think it matters how much money they wasted on the experiment, it hasn’t worked, and it needs to make way for something that WILL attract a crowd and (what all businesses ultimately want) make them money.

 

A great shame that the huge budget and project opportunity was wasted - but it’s in the past, so time to look to the future.

 

Most companies have the occasional colossal mistake - Look at Windows 8 or even Apple’s home pod. Disasters - but instead of ploughing on regardless they moved on and all is now well.

 

With Exodus coming soon, I suppose there wouldn’t be the budget to replace DBGT yet, but I think it should be considered as a spot for the next big thing. Perhaps closing in Exodus’ 2nd year to save money? Not many will even notice it’s gone.

 

Good riddance to it I say - it’s an embarrassing ENORMOUS white elephant, and has no place in the middle of such a small park.

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With regards to the contract length for Derren as an IP... 

I believe it is due to expire soon. It was a longer contract than most IPs that Merlin have gone for, but presumably still has the standard options for extensions. 

 

If there's an "automatic extension trigger" clause, then Thorpe could well activate it just so they don't lose an attraction from their line up / don't have to do any work to it. After all, it's easier and cheaper to just do that than get something new as a replacement. 

 

Obviously there's arguments about whether it's worthwhile even having the ride. But if it's getting some riders and getting not awful KPI scores internally, they'll presumably keep it for now. 

 

It seems clear that Derren himself is unenthusiastic about the ride, for whatever reason. He rarely (if ever) has talked about it since the Rise of the Demon addition. It's not promoted at his shows in his programmes, which seems like a sure fire thing you'd do? But at the same time, if he gets say £50k a year from it for doing literally nothing, and it doesn't affect his brand, does he really care? 

 

I genuinely would not be surprised at any given year to not see it return. But equally, I can see it just ticking along. 

 

The majorly ironic thing is that in the current Thorpe set up, an arena space would have been much more suitable for the park than the ride itself. A big stage space, seating, space for other entertainment and also something that could be used at Fright Nights. Seems perfect now, no?

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You knew it would be a disaster when instant it opened Derren Brown did zero marketing stuff regarding it.

 

Still not done it. Don't really care about it. It's not getting me to visit Thorpe and even if I did visit would I waste time on it?

 

Just bin it. Even an empty building would presumably get better KPI scores.

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Part of me genuinely always wondered what Derren Brown would say if you bought him to a pub, offered him a good ole drink and asked him his actual thoughts on that ride.

 

But seriously, the best thing Thorpe/Merlin can do with DBGT at this point is to just say "enough is enough" and throw in the towel.

 

Once the budget allows, I am fairly certain the space could be used to do either a more reliable and with that cost effective dark ride or some other form of indoor entertainment that would be better received than Ghost Train has been.

 

I don't think anyone with a shrink of sanity in them would argue the fact that for the money spent on it, DBGT has been nothing short of a disaster. It costs an arm and leg to maintain it and staff it, it hardly ever works fully and from what I can see its reception is mixed AT THE VERY BEST!!

 

So I'd say its time to put the big White Elephant to sleep and start thinking of what new thing can be done with the space.

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22 hours ago, Martin Doyle said:

Part of me genuinely always wondered what Derren Brown would say if you bought him to a pub, offered him a good ole drink and asked him his actual thoughts on that ride.

 

This would never happen this way. You'd bring him to a pub, you THINK you offered him a drink but in fact you've just signed over your house, life savings and cat to him and you'd be none the wiser.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Double post cos I rode the Dezza Train on Friday.

 

Preshow still the same.

Pointless numbers and questions about phobias (iS AnYONe ScAReD oF SPiDerS) in preshow 2 now gone, you just wait and are guided on to the train.

VR 1 worked fine for me (though my friends - not so much due to broken headphones - lots of headsets in bags again)
Live action bit inbetween was actually really good, an actor was hidden underneath the fake train which genuinely made me jump - lots of interaction with the actors and Tulley-esque tongue clicking noises

VR 2 all good - until we got the interruption to your service message - which I genuinely thought was part of the experience/add on due to the fact it was themed... screens told us to take headsets off. Staff said put headsets back on. Much fun.

VR then continued for the demony grabby trainy throw bit.

You're back in the room.

And then hastily exited out - completely bypassing the fake shop and long disappeared Demon (he who has risen and is the whole point of the ride)

 

Shop looking really really empty now in terms of Dezza merch... what on earth are they going to do with this thing? Who's Ghost Train is it? Nothing to do with me bruv.

 

Was suggesting - in my mind, the only way they can really sort of save it once the Dezza IP goes, is to run as some sort of upcharge Ghost Train with live actors etc - something Dungeons-esque? That Underground station theming is second to none as I've said so many times. A scare attraction in there could be amazing - and if it's upcharge, it's only moving around and costing money when there's people paying to be on it. Would the maths work? Will the IP be renewed? Is it the future of theme parks? Who knows.

 

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On 10/10/2022 at 10:13 AM, MattyMoo said:

Was suggesting - in my mind, the only way they can really sort of save it once the Dezza IP goes, is to run as some sort of upcharge Ghost Train with live actors etc - something Dungeons-esque? That Underground station theming is second to none as I've said so many times. A scare attraction in there could be amazing - and if it's upcharge, it's only moving around and costing money when there's people paying to be on it. Would the maths work? Will the IP be renewed? Is it the future of theme parks? Who knows.

 

 

As an attraction that's not overly popular, this has always baffled me too. You run a scare event at a theme park which houses a year-round scare attraction - a ghost train that already houses live actors as part of the attraction itself - and yet they don't do anything with it?

 

Imagine how much more hype that would bring to the attraction if every year they adapted the ride in some way to have a different narrative - hell - fill that place with scare actors and make it a Fright Nights attraction! Such a massive space with so much unfulfilled potential. SURELY there's gotta be something that MMM/Thorpe management could do with it.

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I rode Derren with @MattyMoo last Friday and echo many of his comments from that experience. I wasn't overly big on Scene 2 with the actors (the lining up against the wall seemed a bit awkward), but did fully appreciate the actor appearing out of nowhere after hiding under the train. That was cool.

 

For all my sins, I rode this again yesterday. The fake shop ending was running! So seems it's not been totally cut. It's a shame it doesn't have the demon costume, but it does seem to get some people. It doesn't quite have the grandeur it should / did have though.

 

The thing that stuck in my mind from my last two experiences, particularly yesterday, is the state of the headsets. My previous visit was awkward as I had to physically hold the headset in place, but others' seemed fine. This time, it seemed like every headset/headphone combo was not well aligned. They were all effectively falling apart. To make my resemble anything that could be called wearable, I had to fully unstrap the headphones, but the straps through the holes they should be going through, and then go through a few other adjustments. Many others did similar levels of faffing. Not a good look.

 

Another bugbear of mine lately is staff having the radios on loud volumes. When the ride opened, I'm sure they had earpieces. Now they do not, meaning you have loud walkie talkie talk going on over you (and also staff talking loudly into them). Just another immersion breaker.

 

If the park decide to keep this in any way, shape or form next year, they need to put some money into the headsets, to make sure they're actually wearable. And just in general making sure the finer details of the experience are thought about again. And making things a bit more reliable. Though maybe it's time to give up the ghost (train) with it?

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  • 2 weeks later...

What do we make of this? Found on the Merlin Passholders group on Facebook (not my photo), but supposedly the old PicSolve corner in the DBGT shop has been boarded up now… 🤔 Wonder what’s going on and if something new is potentially coming?!

 

DERREN BROWN’S GHOST TRAIN: RISE OF THE DEMON (AGAIN) CONFIRMED!!!!!11!!!1

C1281241-6A22-494F-9494-3F1AD515E25E.jpeg

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8 hours ago, ThorpeAddict said:

I don't think it means much as the photos in the queue haven't been used in a good 2-3 years so would make sense to remove it all

 

Not wrong, but iirc all of the actual PicSolve bits are already long gone and the area currently only houses arcade bits (could be wrong on that front though so don’t hold me to it). Just surprised that they’ve even bothered to put construction walls up for it considering the very little footfall that Ghost Train shop garners - most people exiting the ride from it probably wouldn’t even notice it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, isn't this a sorry state of affairs!
New post on Theme Park Guide showing the sorry state of the DBGT shop on the last day of the season this year...

 

endoftheline-16.jpg?itok=CiZDCiuz

 

endoftheline-13.jpg?itok=948XBG4Q

 

The covered up theming pieces combined with the construction wall (posted above) is really not painting a very positive future for DBGT... could this really be the end of the line?

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When people take photos of something and sit on it until a few weeks late always makes me think there’s some insider info going on…

 

Anyway, will be interesting to see as Thorpe seem to be getting some investment now like the rest of the parks. Considering it’s indoors, I don’t think planning applications are needed and there’s nothing thematic wise on the outside which would need to change regarless of theme. It will be interesting to see what happens as personally there’s not a lot of movement. Yeah ok you could overlay soemthing more generic but all that is doing; is delaying the end of the ride further. Stumbling on

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If anything happens, don't expect changes to the ride system. The standard winter maintenance on the ride has already commenced, which means that the ride system will return.

 

I am under the impression that the Derren IP was originally 6 years long, which would mean it would expire this year. There were some unknowns there, with the ride having opened late in 2016, and not opening at all in 2020. But I imagine its in both parties interests to just wrap things up with it and move on. 

 

The thing with Ghost Train is it would be very easy to remove Derren from it. Replace the pre show and edit his voice out of the start / end of the VR. Stick a different video in the finale, if they even keep that, and boom, done. Just drop the 'Derren Brown's' part of the name. Very easy, very cheap.

 

Given the state of the VR headsets and the general mess they are though, it would make sense for them to attempt to do more. New VR. The long-suggested have screens in the windows instead. Have it as a completely actor led experience, turning it into a more Dungeons-esque experience. There's lots of more costly options there if they choose to do anything substantial to it.

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