Larger than life: Selfie studio to open at Ocean City with oversized shoes, thrones, other props
Ocean City tourists will have another method this summer to remember their beach trips in addition to key-chain telescope photos and waterfront family portraits.
Selfie Fantasy, an interactive venue where visitors can pose for selfies with props amid whimsical scenery, is expected to open near the boardwalk in time to welcome summer tourists.
The space is preparing to debut in May in the former Ocean City Screams building at 14 Worcester St.
“We’re changing it from a haunted house into a fantasy,” said Jason Tillman, a partner in the business.
Tillman is partnering with wife-and-husband team Stacey and Mark Warner to open Selfie Fantasy. The space is under construction.
Tillman said the venue will be decked out with “backgrounds and scenery and [an] atmosphere that’s like a fantasy. You would not be able to find those in normal life.”
One room, an “upside-down room,” will be decorated with furniture and props on the walls. Other rooms will house over-sized shoes, thrones or sea creatures.
“We have giant everything,” Tillman said.
In homage to the top spot where selfies are taken, one room will be decorated as a bathroom scene.
Visitors will be able to pay $20 (with discounted rates for children) to spend 60 to 90 minutes making their way through each room and taking as many selfies as they can manage.
Tillman, a driving school owner, also owns Rage Room of Maryland in Glen Burnie, where visitors can pay to smash glassware, office appliances and other items.
“I like to have interesting businesses and something that’s unique,” Tillman said. “It sounded like a really fun idea and something that is geared toward the millennial.”
Selfie Fantasy bills itself as “Ocean City’s first interactive Instagram-worthy experience,” but the interactive photo studio concept is not new to the beach town. Flashback Old Time Photos, which has two locations in Ocean City, has for years allowed customers to dress in historic costumes and pose with props for portraits.
But those photos are not selfies.
Selfie Fantasy is aiming to open on weekends beginning the third weekend in May, with daily hours starting the second week of June.
Pics or it didn’t happen.
Selfie Fantasy’s interactive, Instagram-worthy experience to open in May
The exterior walls of 14 Worcester Street won’t be deep sea-blue and decorated with spine-chilling underwater monsters for much longer. After three seasons of operation in Ocean City, the OC Screams haunted house has moved out, and a much brighter, cheerier attraction is taking its place: the immersive, Instagram-worthy, front camera-friendly, Selfie Fantasy.
Though the inside of the building now looks like an empty warehouse and the outside will need several coats of fresh paint, Selfie Fantasy’s owners — husband and wife duo Stacey and Mark Warner and their partner, Jason Tillman — hope to open their doors by Memorial Day weekend, after a soft opening the first weekend in May.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for guests to come in and take selfies, take pictures with their friends, just have fun,” Stacey said.
She described the attraction as “an Instagrammer’s dream come true.”
The concept is simple: Different selfie sections, similar to photo booths but larger and open-concept, line the walls of the first floor. The sections, of varying themes and sizes, form a U-shape that will direct the flow of traffic as guests stop in each spot to take silly photos with their family and friends.
There’s no limit to how much time guests can spend exploring Selfie Fantasy as long as they’re courteous to others and keep the flow of traffic moving along, but guests will likely spend at least an hour inside, Mark said.
After they weave through the first floor, guests will eventually make their way upstairs, where they’ll be greeted by the attraction’s finale: a 20,000-ball ballpit, the final photo-op before they exit from the second floor.
The idea will definitely appeal to a specific (i.e. teenage) demographic, Stacey said, but there will be stations for the younger audience, too. Each section will be decorated differently — some with giant high heel props, or sharks, or thrones for a king and queen — but the only theme tying anything together, Stacey said, is “silly.”
“It’s going to be really colorful and playful down here, but upstairs it’s going to be a little darker, a little urban, edgier but still family-friendly,” she said. “Since we want to appeal to a lot of different people, we’re kind of a hodgepodge of different opportunities for people to have fun.”
A variety of themed selfie-friendly pop-up shops, from Candytopia in Atlanta to the Color Factory in New York City, have been gaining popularity and making headlines in recent years; they inspired Selfie Fantasy’s co-owner Jason Tillman, who first came to Stacey and Mark with the idea last summer.
No one wants to experience Fear of Missing Out on vacation, after all. That may be why Austin, Texas’ FOMO Factory has done so well. Like Selfie Fantasy, The FOMO Factory uses immersive art, or three-dimensional, site-specific installations, to engage customers and provide the ultimate selfie experience.
However, unlike Selfie Fantasy, The FOMO Factory was a temporary pop-up that opened in September 2018 and closed the following January, its next pop-up location TBA.
Ocean City’s seasonality makes the destination perfect for a pop-up museum, providing Selfie Fantasy with about 120 days in-season to make their mark on the town. But, as long as their first season goes well, they’ll re-open next summer. They might even open for select weekends during the off-season, utilizing their upstairs party/event space as needed.
First, before any guests can pour in with Instagram open and VSCO filters at the ready, the art inside and outside the attraction must be completed. The outside can’t be painted until temperatures reach a consistent 50-degree mark; then it’ll get a fresh coat of paint and a mural on the street-facing wall that will serve as an outdoor selfie spot, providing guests a profile pic-friendly backdrop even before they go inside and get their tickets.
Inside, local artists, including T.C. Studios owners Jaime and Alexandra Jacobs, have been commissioned to paint fun, colorful backdrops and even an Ocean City-themed mural on the wall.
In addition to offering their artistic talents, local leaders and business owners have lent the Warners plenty of help in getting their new business, the first of its kind in Ocean City, off the ground.
“Everyone we’ve been in contact with down here has been great, it’s just so many nice people,” Stacey said.
She named the people at City Hall, Ocean City Development Corporation’s Board of Directors and Executive Director Glenn Irwin, and Larry Layton of Layton’s Family Restaurant, among many others, as local leaders who have been instrumental in Selfie Fantasy’s development.
“What I’m learning is, it’s kind of a slower pace down here — people just seem to be a little more relaxed,” she said. “These people have been here for years and they all are experts. They want us to succeed, they really do.”
Artists who are interested in working with Selfie Fantasy can contact the team at [email protected]
For The ‘Gram
Let’s face it, we all have “Instagram husbands” who take pictures of us oh-so-casually sipping coffee in our favorite local spot for the sake of posting the “plandid” moment to social media. In the digital age, there’s a lot of pressure to maintain a social presence that projects a fun and aesthetically pleasing lifestyle, especially when our Instagram feeds are filled with colorful landscapes from European vacations and sun-kissed afternoons on the lake. But how can a 21-year-old like me compete when I can barely afford the cover charge at Seacrets?
This slight obsession with spicing up our social media pages is what has drawn crowds to interactive pop-up exhibitions such as the Museum of Ice Cream and the Color Factory in New York, and now Selfie Fantasy, Ocean City’s first immersive photo studio on steroids. Since opening in June in the former home of Ocean City Screams Haunted House on Worcester Street, owners Stacey and Mark Warner and Jason Tillman have welcomed about 200 visitors per day into their one-stop Instagram shop.
For $13 per visitor, wannabe models can spend an hour taking pictures on the swing in the garden room, on a golden throne beside a pile of money, or on a surfboard riding a tidal wave. With a prime location on the inlet across from the under-21 dance club H2O and with current pop songs blasting through the sound system, Selfie Fantasy primarily markets to members of Generation Z. However, the owners say they’ve hosted more families than they anticipated. “We thought the demographic was going to be the 15- to 19-year-olds,” says Mark, “but we’re finding that families are coming in and they’re having a nice time.”
Unlike similar Instagram-worthy attractions, Selfie Fantasy doesn’t revolve around a central theme but instead features a “hodge-podge” of changeable rooms, Stacey says. During a recent visit to Selfie Fantasy, my mom was my Instagram husband of the day, snapping shots of me in a hot pink clawfoot bathtub, “talking” on a rotary phone in the cherry room, and swimming in the second-floor ball pit filled with emoji-themed blow-ups for the allotted three minutes. Thanks to help from the OC community—local artist Mark Brown designed the interior backdrops and Alexandra Jacobs of T.C. Studios Arts & Entertainment painted the building’s exterior as well as the psychedelic entryway—Mark says the Selfie Fantasy team has “brought a family’s vacation experience of creating lasting memories to a whole new level.” And I have the pictures to prove it.
Boots with small heels, although they were not. Warm, but indoors the feet did not freeze in them. The teacher himself was cold, sometimes he shifted the pages of his lecture and it was noticeable how his hand was trembling.
Md selfie fantasy ocean city
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