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Mercury Tower Flying Motion Theatre Ride | Malta

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By David Whitworth

The landscape of Malta as a visitor attraction is about to change thanks to a revolutionary flying theatre motion ride. 

Located at the newly built Mercury Towers in St Julians, the thrilling attraction will bring the history and beauty of Malta to life through a combination of a dark walk attraction, interactive exhibition, and a flying theatre ride. The cutting-edge project is overseen by leading international experiential design and production experts, Sarner International, and delivered by leading entertainment attractions supplier, Simtec Systems.

The Mercury Towers flagship entertainment attraction will take visitors on an immersive and informative journey through the past and present of the beautiful islands of Malta, bringing to life the history and heritage through a delightful fusion between entertainment and education. It is situated inside Mercury Towers, the iconic new development designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which is one of Hadid’s last designs before her passing in 2016. The tower officially opened on 10 November 2023, showcasing its contemporary twisted architectural design. The first phase of opening includes a three-level shopping mall, a square, and soon, its new flying theatre ride, scheduled to open in the second quarter of this year.

The building has an interesting history – it is a reimagining of the Grade 2 listed Mercury House that dates from 1903. Fast forward to the present day and Mercury Tower is Malta’s tallest structure, standing pretty at 121-metres (397ft) tall and soaring to 33 floors. The tower is made up of residential and hotel space courtesy of the luxury ME Hotel by Meliá as well as a new quarter of retail, public spaces, restaurants, bars, cafes and entertainment.

Once fully operational, Mercury Towers aspires to become a new entertainment, retail and cultural hub in St Julians. The attraction itself is the fruition of a multi-million-pound investment by Mercury, which begins with a multi-show dark walk experience that encompasses the flavour of Malta: from the oldest man made structures in the world to the battles that occurred throughout Europe. Visitors will also learn the story of Mercury House, the site of the attraction and previously an underground control centre – a vital communication hub during WWII – before experiencing a multi-projector show that celebrates Malta in the present day. From a tourist perspective, the attraction will appeal to both local and international audiences, opening with eight language options.

The visit will culminate with a ride on board a custom-built flying theatre designed by Simtec Systems. The flying theatre simulator ride features impressive footage and fascinating on-board elements as riders move on a six-degrees-of-freedom motion platform taking visitors on a flight around the islands. A fully immersive multisensory experience, the attraction lasts for 60 minutes in all, featuring advanced effects that include projection mapping, 3D multi-channel sound, smoke and water effects. “Throughout the creation process, Sarner has collaborated closely with Heritage Malta to ensure the highest level of authenticity,” said a spokesperson for Mercury Tower. “This historical accuracy is reflected in the storytelling, the incredible physical scenic recreations, and in the film content which harnesses Mercury’s commitment to innovation and technology, by blending live action and Hollywood-level CG visual effects.”

Filming took place throughout the Maltese islands and includes aerial footage and filmed reenactment in ultra-high definition 8K. The ride brings together immersive storytelling and informative scene-setting shows thanks to a historical story-led flying theatre ride and immersive special effects to create an attraction that is both educational and entertaining and fully fits into the new generational ‘edutainment’ sector.

The attraction carries a strong sense of pride and cultural belonging, which Marcel Bonnici, CEO, Mercury Towers echoes: “We are honoured to partner with global leaders Sarner International and Simtec Systems to bring Malta’s history to life through this truly unique concept. This groundbreaking attraction embodies our commitment to creating unforgettable moments that cannot be experienced elsewhere – in this case, through a fully immersive cultural attraction, which provides thrilling entertainment while serving as an enriching educational experience. Using immersive storytelling and cutting-edge innovation and technology, this unique concept for Europe is set to stimulate the senses and provide a one-of-a-kind journey through time. The attraction is just one initiative in which Mercury aims to celebrate Malta’s heritage and take it into the future.” 

Meanwhile, Ross Magri, Managing Director, Sarner International, commented: “We are thrilled to be able to bring the rich history, sights, and beautiful nature of Malta to life in this unique attraction, a first for the Maltese islands. This will be a special experience for every visitor. Sarner’s expertise shines through this innovative blend of heritage authenticity, theme park entertainment, and engineering brilliance. The attraction serves as the ultimate destination for those seeking an unparalleled multisensory experience that marries historic storytelling with cutting-edge motion and effects. This project underscores Sarner’s position as the go-to partner for clients looking to create a truly distinctive and industry-defying attraction.” 

InterPark also spoke exclusively with Andreas Stickel, Director Business Development, Simtec Systems, at the IAAPA Expo Europe held in Vienna. Stickel has worked with the manufacturer since 2014 and gave his thoughts on the Maltese project.

InterPark: What are your overriding emotions of creating this flying theatre?

Andreas Stickel: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work together with Sarner on this wonderful project at Mercury Tower. This is our first mini flying theatre in Europe, and we are very proud to have it installed in Malta!

IP: A ride within a tower must have been a difficult build?

AS: “It was a challenge for both Sarner and Simtec to include such an immersive attraction within the constraints of the available space in the building added to the challenge of building an attraction within the height of Mercury Tower. Therefore, we developed a small flying theatre with our HEXaFLITEmini, built especially for small spaces and small ceilings, and catering for these certain circumstances of condensed physical dimensions. As the main feature on the ride is our big tilting function, we had to find a way to decrease its size to fit into the tower. Therefore, we started discussions with Sarner International to look at the possibilities to integrate a 20-seater flying theatre into the venue in Malta. It was quite a challenge to come up with a viable solution for that very tight space, however our 10-seater HEXaFLITEmini model fitted perfectly for this project.

“When I first saw the plot of the flying theatre there was a big column in the middle of the area and I asked if there was a possibility to move it. Everybody started laughing and then I understood it was one of the four main columns of the new tower they were building that is right in the middle of the theatre space where our motion attraction would be based! So that was an additional challenge to work out the solution of that space with that big column being there. So, we created two levels where, on each level, one of our HEXaFLITEmini models could be placed. I believe that we managed to meet this challenge quite well and we are looking forward to installing it and taking it into operation and seeing what the reaction of the guests will be.

IP: What other venues does the HEXaFLITEmini cater for?

AS: “With our HEXaFLITEmini Flying Theatre, its compact characteristics are ideally suited for a mall venue which is looking for more and more entertainment to entice people to come to. What was important when we developed the model was that it is still based on the six-degrees-of-freedom motion platform of our bigger HEXaFLITE version while displaying the roots of the company towards flight simulation. It was essential for us to have an experience as close to the real feeling of flying as possible so our HEXaFLITEmini is also based on the six-degree dynamic motion system.

IP: What is your role in Simtec Systems?

AS: “I am responsible for the area of business development for any new market approaches, our products and taking care of our subsidiary in Shanghai and the new subsidiary that we founded last year in Orlando for the North American market.

IP: Tell us about the ethos of Simtec Systems

AS: “Simtec Systems is a German manufacturer which produces first-class, high-end entertainment motion systems of dark rides and interactive theatres such as our HEXaFLITE Flying Theatre, a very successful ride which has nearly 20 sales. We also produce open and closed FUNRIDE motion-based systems. We have been in the industry for more than 30 years.

Images: Simtec System

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Mercury Tower Flying Motion Theatre Ride | Malta

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