Forget Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Washington visitors apparently want to see the likes of John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland and perhaps Chester A. Arthur.
The city's Madame Tussauds wax museum is preparing to rebrand itself as the only place with sculptures of all 44 U.S. presidents that visitors can see up close and touch, museum officials said Tuesday.
The changes come after the attraction hasn't drawn as many paying visitors as the international museum company planned when it opened in 2007.
"It was very surprising to us to see how many visitors requested more educational content, more historical content," rather than pop stars, said general manager Janine DiGioacchino. "So we said, 'We hear the people, let's deliver.'"
The museum hasn't met attendance targets in part because of the sluggish economy and because it's one of the few paid attractions in a city of many free museums, she said. Madam Tussauds officials don't release attendance or financial figures.
On Tuesday, the museum unveiled nine new presidents, along with plans for a $2 million-plus presidential gallery opening this fall. The exhibit space will expand by about 10,000 square feet at the downtown location.
Adams, Arthur and Cleveland debuted in wax. The others recently created were Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield and Gerald Ford.
Nineteen more presidents will be created this year. The museum expects to have all 44 on display by November.
"Welcome back, gentlemen," Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said, turning to the wax presidents.
The mayor joined students from Cleveland Elementary school for the unveiling and asked whether they recognized the nine figures draped in dark suits — including the namesake of their school.
"NO!" the kids shouted back.
"You know who our president is now, right?" Fenty said.
"Barack Obama!" the students shouted.
Madame Tussauds isn't giving up on A-listers from Hollywood, DiGioacchino said, but the presidents will help set the place apart.
"It gives us a unique offering," she said. "It's the closest that you can get to some of these presidents and celebrities without actually meeting them."