Bound to cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions, consumers today are enmeshed in a world where their minds are active but their bodies are not. Escape room chain 5 Wits saw this as an opportunity — the name refers to a Medieval concept that describes the role wit, fantasy, imagination, escapism and memory play in the inner lives of mankind.
5 Wits founder and CEO Matthew DuPlessie opened the first location in Boston in 2004. The second location opened in 2011; today, there are six locations averaging 11,000-13,000 square feet, including three opened within the last year.
A childhood lover of video adventure games and action movies, DuPlessie “wanted to not just watch games and movies,” says John Pandiscio, director of marketing and advertising for 5 Wits. “He wanted to be the hero of those movies and games. So he decided to create a store where the average person could be the hero or heroine of an adventure.”
5 Wits, which are in mall locations on the East Coast, have large lobbies where tickets, souvenirs, drinks and snacks are sold. At the far end of each lobby are theme doors with colorful graphics that describe the adventures they open into: Tomb, Drago’s Castle, Deep Space, Espionage and 20,000 Leagues.
The games challenge people to solve puzzles and develop resources to overcome adversity, within an hour. Guests move through the adventures in groups that often include strangers as well as families and friends.
“Retail entertainment has become a new way to attract people,” Pandiscio says. “People are watching lots of entertainment on the screen. We think it’s important for people to have an option for a different kind of entertainment where they are not just watching, but are really involved, physically interacting with the entertainment, mentally interacting, solving puzzles, solving challenges, working as a team.”
Founder and CEO: Matthew DuPlessie
Liz Parks is a Union City, N.J.-based writer with extensive experience reporting on retail, pharmacy and technology issues.