A Night in the Danger Room

Airbnb brings 'X-Men '97' to life in the battle of delight vs. scale
Airbnb Goes Hollywood With Plans to Rent X-Men Mansion, ‘Up’ Home, ‘Purple Rain’ House and More
The travel and tech firm is launching an ‘Icons’ program, letting users book a visit to a comedy show with Kevin Hart, a night at the Ferrari museum, or a stay in fictional locales.

You had my curiosity... but now you have my attention:

The mansion, sitting atop a hill in Westchester County, New York, could be mistaken for any number of homes in the area, save for one little, er, big, thing.

In the driveway, feet from the front door, there is the battered severed head of a giant Sentinel, one of the antagonists to the X-Men.

To me, my X-Men.

The house, overlooking rolling hills north of New York City, was until recently a residential home. For a few months however, Airbnb is taking it over, turning the home into a recreation of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, as featured specifically in the Marvel Animation series X-Men ’97.

That includes an interior that has been meticulously hand-painted so as to appear two-dimensional, as in the cartoon, with the bedrooms, Professor X’s office, Beast’s lab, and even a “danger room” available for guests to explore.

Obviously, this is marketing, but it also feels like something a bit more.

“The name Airbnb is a noun and a verb used all over the world, that’s a good thing, that means everyone knows it. But the downside is kind of like Kleenex or Xerox, it’s associated with one thing, and we want to do more things,” says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “We want to be in the business not just of places to stay, but experiences and more. And so I think this is a gateway for us to offer more types of services and more types of offerings, and really just do something I think that brings magic in the world and attaches us to some of the biggest icons in culture.”

And while some companies would be fine going halfway, Airbnb is not pulling any punches. To whit: Carl’s house from the Pixar film Up, which was recreated room by room, and which can actually be suspended in the air by a crane.

As someone who has stayed in one of these novelty experiences – also, randomly, in a crane, but not through Airbnb – as silly as it sounds, there is something special about it. It's not just a random place to stay, but the place to stay is a part of the experience. Obviously Airbnb has been doing similar things for a while – the Home Alone house, Bag End in Hobbiton – but this seems to be more of an attempt to scale these kind of things, while playing up the "experiences" aspect of the business. Of course, at the same time, this is absolutely one of those things that does not scale. But that's also how Airbnb famously started.

“I think it’s about the details. You know Walt Disney used to talk about the details,” Chesky says. “Walt Disney also said if you can dream it, you can do it and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

Speaking of, I'm reminded of Disney's ill-fated Galactic Starcruiser – you know the Star Wars-themed fully-immersive role-playing hotel. It sounded amazing. It was something I absolutely wanted to do, even if it meant going to Florida. Sadly, it only lasted 18 months before it was shut down. The $1,200 per person/per day price clearly kept it from being a hit (funny how that works). That perhaps helps explain Airbnb's pricing strategy here:

Airbnb will have 11 Icons at launch, and is promising to refresh it with new offerings throughout the year. Most will be free and first-come, first-serve, but even the ones with a fee will cost under $100 per person, per night (the X-Men mansion, for example, will be $97, but includes the overnight stay, the X-Men training experience, dinner, and breakfast).

Free?! Even $100 per person, per night feels far too low. Again, I get that this is marketing, but there's probably something between free and $1,200 on the supply/demand curve that makes this more accessible and sustainable (on both sides of the marketplace!). That is to say, Airbnb: do not shut down the Danger Room before I get a chance to go.1

1 Also, they better be just playing the theme song 24/7 throughout the home.