How haunted attractions rake in Big Bucks
Photo: Advertising on Union SquareBeing chased by a chainsaw doesn’t sound like fun, but for more and more people, a good scare equals a good time.
Passagea Detroit-based event ticketing company that operates Haunt Pay for haunted attractions, recently released the results of its Haunting Industry Report 2022a new survey of 2,100 haunted attractions industry professionals in the United States and Canada.
According to the survey, the total number of visitors to haunted attractions is increasing year on year, with 68% of attractions hosting at least 1,000 guests in 2021 and 78% expecting that number to return in 2022. The survey also found that 40% of respondents charged $21-$30 in 2021, while 25.9% charged $11-$20 and 17.1% charged $31-$40.
So far this year, Passage’s HauntPay has already logged over $5 million in haunted house ticket sales, with 200,000 tickets sold in the past two weeks. “In total, we expect to generate over $30 million in haunted attraction ticket sales this year alone, and even more next year,” said Passage’s CEO. Alex Linebrink.
And it’s not just during spooky season. Haunted attractions have become year-round offerings, Linebrink said, with spooky versions sneaking up on Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and even “zombie prom.”
So why are more and more people looking for these experiences?
“People love being scared,” Linebrink said. “There’s a lot of science behind the idea of the ‘adrenaline rush’ feeling, which a lot of people to like, especially when they are in no real danger, such as at a haunted attraction. These “simulated danger” environments offer the same kind of rush as skydiving or roller coasters, but in a way that’s much easier to access and more family-friendly. »
It’s true. According to a study published in the journal Emotionafter having a voluntary frightening experience, people were in better moods and had reduced brain activity similar to meditation.
Linebrink also said he attributed the popularity of haunted attractions to the fact that they were accessible to groups both in terms of price and overall experience, with many offering concessions and merchandising, in addition to the scare factor. Moreover, it is an escape. “It’s been a tough few years. During the pandemic, haunted attractions (often with outdoor elements) have provided a safe and often socially distanced way to meet up with friends and get out of the house,” he explained. “They’re also generally an escape from reality, transporting participants to a different world where monsters and chainsaws are all you have to worry about.”
Catherine Delaneymanaging director of tourism and operations for Liberty Entertainment Group, which produces legends of horrorlocated on the grounds of Toronto’s historic castle, Casa Loma, and the new zombie apocalypsealso attributed the interest in spooky attractions to the pandemic, but for more gruesome reasons.
“While we all hope to put our COVID experience behind us, the reality is that the pandemic has brought about a collective sense of dread,” she said. “We all shared this “plague” experience. This allows people to more freely explore darker themes in theater and to understand and fear them more. … I think there will be an appetite for it in the near future. It comes with the territory of people who live in uncertain times – we explore uncertain themes.
Photo: Advertising on Union SquareJim Lorenzo, co-founder and owner of blood mansion, a 19-year-old 10,000-square-foot haunted house attraction with themed rooms and a maze of passageways located in midtown Manhattan, said it believes the surge in visitors was due to the general popularity of the season. “Halloween is now the second most popular holiday after Christmas, and it’s truly become a whole season of fun. Costume parties, parades, hay rides, apple picking, corn mazes and haunted houses are all part of the October traditions that people love.
But he acknowledged that “it has been difficult to recover from the pandemic when we have had to drastically reduce the number of guests. But all the COVID protocols we have in place have made people feel comfortable coming back,” adding that he is optimistic for this year.
Like other immersive theatrical experiences, Lorenzo calls Blood Manor a “show,” using theatrical terms such as actors, sets, props, makeup, and costumes to describe the production. “The audience comes on stage and becomes part of the action. We organize guests into small groups so everyone gets a ‘front row seat,’” he said.
Of course, in order to keep visitors coming back again and again, haunted attractions must offer a new scare. Lorenzo said that this year, 75% of rooms at Blood Manor are either new or renovated, including the Killer Clown Room. Plus, he added a haunted battlefield that pays homage to the history of the building, which in the late 19th century housed the studio of famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.
“Customers have become more sophisticated,” Delaney said. “As the evolution and accessibility of technology and virtual home experiences increase, public expectations increase. We need to be one step ahead of our customers. They are watching us to show them what’s new, so we’ll be constantly looking to keep that edge.
New this year from Liberty Entertainment Group, Zombie Apocalypse, created in partnership with Adventures in the Secret City, invites guests to step inside the fictional pharmaceutical giant, Biolux, and learn about its new drug, which turns subjects into cannibalistic zombies. Located in a former dental facility south of Casa Loma, the 45-minute activation runs through November 5. bring a pseudo-realistic horror story to life.
“In recent years there has been a trend towards immersive experiences – the idea of being inside a theatrical experience rather than looking at it – and breaking through that fourth wall is a dramaturgical innovation that continues to grow. grow,” Delaney said. “Either people are trying to immerse themselves in technology or they are looking to have the most realistic real-life experience possible. In a post-lockdown world, people are hungry to participate and, of course, the Halloween horror and post-apocalyptic themes have always been de rigueur.
For 2022, Legends of Horror, an immersive promenade theater-style show where patrons interact with a cast of characters along a 1.2-mile outdoor walking path, has been updated with the latest technologies, including over 40 animatronic pieces that work synchronously with motion sensors and lighting and sound systems.
“Customers don’t want to be silent observers. It’s clear to us,” Delaney said. “The combination of live actors, animatronics, ambient light and sound is what makes [Legends of Horror] a huge success. … Being able to share one’s experiences online is also an evolution that should not be overlooked. Most theater productions don’t allow online sharing – this type of experience does. It encompasses social media, and it’s a freebie that works for all parties.
Photo: Edwin Luk, SVPhotographyAt Legends of Horror, visitors can get a “dose of courage” at the on-site Captain Morgan Bar and Lounge, located halfway through the experience. “The bar provides a more social opportunity for our patrons who otherwise walk through fear-soaked territory,” Delaney said. “In terms of revenue, the bar brings additional revenue and is extremely appealing to patrons who typically can’t enjoy food and drink in the middle of an immersive experience.”
On average, Liberty Entertainment Group sees attendance increase by 13% each year, she added. Last year, 65,000 guests visited Legends of Horror, and this year’s number is expected to exceed that.
Visitors can also purchase a VIP experience for two, which costs $200. It includes entry for two, VIP entry, dining vouchers for two drinks and two food items, and a gift bag.
Similarly, visitors to Blood Manor can purchase “RIP fast-entry” tickets which allow patrons to arrive anytime during opening hours and enter from a special queue, with expedited entry and reduced waiting time. General admission tickets with timed entry are $40; fast-track entry is $60. These types of ticket bonuses, in addition to concessions, merchandise and games, help expand the revenue stream for haunted attractions, according to the Passage survey.
Linebrink said he believes the growing popularity of haunted attractions will continue despite the current scary economic forecast. “In the short term, I think the financial downturn could lead to a momentary drop in sales, and we have certainly seen many of our customers negatively affected by the impact of Hurricane Ian. But in the long term, I think the attractions haunted places will continue to evolve and create new ways to be entertained, and attendance will continue to increase.
Scroll—if you dare—to see more from inside these spooky sights.
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