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What you should do to Open Your haunts in 2020 - Thread

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  • #46
    How to Save Vendors and What Should Haunt Owners Do?

    Even before this pandemic, several vendors had already gone out of business. Now with the virus situation, Transworld cancellation, and haunt owners not placing orders out of fear of not opening, will more ill fate plunder our vendor community? What options do vendors have? (The majority of this article was written prior to the cancellation of Transworld show and mostly applies to how vendors should price their products in the future.) Even before all this, vendors were struggling. Some had already cancelled their booths and filed bankruptcy. I can't speak for these companies, but I can tell you this…Overall, haunted house vendors do not charge enough. I’ve talked to someone who builds escape room attractions charging only $50,000. I’ve talked to someone else who builds haunted houses who jumped at the chance to build one for an amusement park for only $75,000. I'm like WHAT? You can't make any money, especially after you build, ship, and install. Anytime I get a call, my first question is budget. If it’s $100,000 or less, my answer is SORRY. Why? On every project, the buyer expects you to ship and install. Some companies don't have the kind of experience of installing attractions like our company, but let me forewarn. You can get tied up on site for a couple weeks on an install, paying people every day, hotels, food, travel costs, and more. Simply put, you can't do it for $50,000. Just because someone offers you a job, doesn't mean you should take it. Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something that will tie up your company’s time and prevent you from doing something else that actually makes money.

    Same thing goes to vendors who sell animations, costumes, masks, and more. The industry started almost like a hobby, and some never left that mentality. Haunted house owners charge $25-$35 to enter their attractions not $8-$10 like in 1999. Vendors: Success is about how much you make, not how many you sell. As a haunt owner, I learned long ago that customers don't choose which haunted house to visit based on price; it’s about the quality of the haunt. If your a vendor with the best product, then trust your price with a built-in margin, so you can take care of your employees and your family.

    Too many new vendors come into the game thinking they must keep the price as low as possible. When Transworld started this show in St Louis, the site was chosen in part because it was the cheapest convention center. Why? The idea was if you make the booth prices super low more vendors would buy booths and the show could launch more successfully. I encouraged Transworld to charge admission fee to maintain those lower booth costs Initially Jen thought NO WAY, but if people can't pay $100+ to support the show and the vendors, then they don't need to walk in the door. The cost of the show needs to be shared by vendors and buyers alike. I recently talked to a big retailer, and still he thinks of the Transworld show as a convention not a tradeshow. Why did he say that? Clearly too many actors and enthusiasts show up, plus some haunt owners bring up to 30 of their staff. Some people run around in costume. Some people are there just to have fun. I can understand his perception, but I argued back that Transworld is a tradeshow, because it’s a show for a billion dollar industry. (You could argue that Escape Rooms worldwide might be a billion dollar industry now too.) Transworld could charge $200 for entry to weed out the non-buyers and not worry about losing a single valid buyer. Vendors: you would spend more time on the show floor talking to qualified buyers, not people who roam the floor without any ability to buy a $5000 prop. Haunt owners: you should NOT bring 20-30 of your staff to waste vendors time. This must be a tradeshow not a convention. Midwest Haunters Convention is a convention, so take them there. Transworld should be a place to do business.

    Vendors shouldn't be worried about losing one sale due to raised prices. You're entitled to make a profit. If a haunt owner cries about the price, ask them if they're lowering their admission price? You'll hear crickets! If we're going to maintain a strong & healthy vendor community, companies might need to raise prices and not be afraid to make a profit. For an escape room attraction, I charge minimum $100,000 while so many others sell them for $50,000, but many companies are going out of business, and I'm still standing. Ghost Ride is still standing , now in it's 21st year. Creative Visions is still humming along after 27 years. If I make more money from 1 sale than you make from selling 3, well that is a problem for YOU, not me I want to focus on doing a GREAT JOB offering the BEST product and service. It’s not about how many I can sell. You learn from experience and experience teaches you quantity doesn't equal profit. Learn the motto: Work smarter not harder and deliver a better product both on-time & ahead of schedule. That is how you do it!

    But how do vendors survive an entire year of virtually no orders? Vendors: It won't be easy, but you can survive. For starters I hope you got approved for a PPP loan from the government and are using it to hire your staff to build inventory. Yes, build up inventory, because you need to bet on yourself. Ten years ago haunts typically bought products in late July and early August, using credit cards to finance upgrades. This could be the case again. Haunts want to know what conditions will be in 6 to 8 weeks from today. The economy is going to re-open; it has to re-open, because having a depression, poverty, and high crime would destroy more lives than this virus ever could. Right now states can't pay their bills. Cities and townships are laying people off and cutting budgets, because they have no revenue. Cities and States have no other option but to open and once they do there won't be any turning back. This will become very clear by July, and once that happens haunts might start calling asking 'WHAT DO YOU HAVE'. Use government PPP loans to build inventory, because there will be haunts calling in late July, and when they do you'll have product. Re-read what was written above, stop the discounts and make a profit! If a haunt owner wants to wait until July or August...FINE, but charge appropriately because you have a business to save. No matter what happens, Transworld should strongly consider moving the Tradeshow to January or February to help vendors, at least for 2021, if the convention has open dates. Either way the show is currently booked for March 4th 2021, the earliest ever, so that helps!

    What should haunt owners do this 2020 season? I've heard a lot of really wacky concepts like hayrides and haunts doing drive thru... dumbest idea I've ever heard. I'm not risking any of my actors getting hit by cars. Overall, haunt owners have different ideas on what they should do, but honestly why consider doing anything outside the realm of what you normally do? Yes..."buyer confidence" is low right now, and haunt owners are fearful of lower attendance, so skim costs to offset that possibility. For example, you can switch ticketing to, offering the lowest fees with the best system and fastest scanning PLUS remarketing! Fearticket offers regular tickets, timed ticketing, dynamic pricing, group scanning, and everything in between. And, FearTicket doesn't keep your online convenience fees, so technically many of you could actually MAKE MONEY by switching. (Shameless plug, I know...Sorry. Still, you should switch. )

    Speaking of timed ticketing...Is that the saving grace we all should incorporate for 2020? Good question but NOPE! Is timed ticketing going to prevent actors from being within 6 feet of customers or customers stopping in the haunt and backing up the groups? Is that going to prevent a screaming, fleeing customer from running into other people? No. So how would timed ticketing solve that problem?

    Thinking positively, haunts might actually thrive in this environment. After all, we tend to all do well when people opt for "stay-cations" rather than "vacations". What you should do right now is PLAN TO OPEN! Get your websites updated, get your social media content created, repair your haunt, interview possible staff members, plan your marketing. What else would you do...wait around until the last minute? Yes you're going to spend some money, but this is your only option. Just make sure if you sign marketing deals, add a clause you can cancel with 24 hour notice. If for some reason you can't open, well you can still cancel all the marketing, you don't hire the staff, and you simply cancel everything. (I believe you will open though.)

    Things you could consider to give the public trust in your attraction: (1) Post Warning Signs everywhere including your website. Visit Fright Forum where you can get FREE warning signs to use. Your warning signs should warn people against entering if they're sick, suggesting everyone wear masks, wash their hands, etc. (2)Put washing stations at the entrance. (3)Take touchless temperature of every staff member and maybe every guest too. (4)Spray-sanitize everyone's hands as they enter. (5)Purchase affordable masks for every possible customer and require them to wear them while in the attraction

    Other thing to do:

    (1) Reduce spending overall.

    (2) You could remove sections of your haunt to reduce staffing, while adding midway attractions which make money. Haunts need to add more scareboxes / scarezones so actors can stay busy hitting multiple sides of the attraction from one area. REDUCE STAFF!

    3) Marketing: Don't throw a wide net, focus on marketing to the CORE audience. Cut out all TV and almost all radio and focus on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, mass email and maybe Youtube with a few billboards. Oh and! All haunts should seek better deals from marketing companies or skip them. I also would not launch early marketing programs; I would start marketing no more than 10 days before opening date to save money.

    4) Public Relations: This is the year to SKIP ALL PR efforts. Why? The media could be your worst enemy this year, asking specific questions about safety. I would avoid the media in 2020 and keep a very low profile. Open your haunt, do your best, and make it thru.

    5) Reduce operating Days: This is not the year to open in early September or stay open deep into November. This October has 5 weekends so maybe you skip September all together. Maybe instead of opening every night in October just open weekends. Do what you need to do to cut costs, and focus on the meat and potatoes. If you open later, you'll save labor costs and marketing costs. We've already decided one of our haunts (LEMP) will only open TEN DAYS just Friday and Saturdays in October. We have cut some days from Darkness and Creepyworld too.

    6) Add Revenue Generating Upgrades: Instead of building new scenes, create new revenue generating attractions like a small zombie paintball arena, a 5-minute escape room, gift stores, photo ops, horror arcade, pumpkin smashing, anything that is FUN that generates additional revenue. You can do this simply by removing the last 2000 square feet of your haunt. This is a smart move!

    7) Buy the new How to Get Rich DVD on (I know... another shameless plug. Sorry.) I might have titled the DVD wrong, because some mistakenly think this is about how to start a successful haunt, but it's more for haunted house owners who currently own a haunt. The DVD shows you how to reduce staff, how to open a gift store, how to build scareboxes to maximize actors, how to market your haunt more effectively, how to create 5 minute escape rooms, and so much more. You can get this DVD at with that being said, this DVD will help you RIGHT NOW! It is by far the best DVD I've ever made; sadly we didn't get to promote the DVD at Trasnworld. All the same, snag this DVD, because it will help your business.

    And FINALLY, become a member of the Hauntworld Fright Forum. You can't learn anything on Facebook. Come to the Fright Forum, where we can talk, share, learn, exchange, trade, etc. I'm posting important information every week on the forums and the blog, and tune into to listen to our new podcast which will start soon!

    Happy Haunting,
    Larry Kirchner

    PS: I never thought in a million years we'd get to issue 50 but it was a goal and we made it! Always set goals and achieve them. It makes everything between worthwhile. Congrats to Hauntworld Magazine! Get your subscription now at

    Larry Kirchner


    • #47
      Read this article about waivers at Disney
      Larry Kirchner


      • #49
        BTW I'm doing a Digital Marketing Content Program. You get tons of commercials, photos, videos, memes, boomerangs, you name it you get it. Commercials for Valentines, Krampus, and everything between. Contact me if you're interested because this will help you get open and really nail the competition.
        Larry Kirchner


        • #50
          Again for the goofs who think this is the year to do national PR, or the people who think oh well CNN has been great to work with...


          Showing PICTURES of people in the Lake of the Ozarks, which is here in Missouri. NO ONE IS SOCIAL DISTANCING... OH MY GOSH SHUT IT DOWN!

          Quote from the story: The gathering violates social distancing measures intended to limit the spread of Covid-19. As part of Missouri's reopening plan announced earlier this month, state officials said restaurants may offer dining-in services but must adhere to social distancing and other precautionary public health measures.

          What is the point of these stories? Clearly to get liberals all wound up and call for closing beaches, lakes, and public places.

          Obviously. Don’t be shocked when you see drones flying over your haunts this season!

          If anyone and I mean ANYONE thinks there won’t be a picture coming from Fake News CNN about haunted house lines you’re a NUTS! NO to ANY PR PROGRAM! I’m going a step further NO TO LOCAL PR programs. Open and try to avoid the media. It’s not worth it!
          Larry Kirchner


          • #51
            Oh no another one front page of Yahoo... this time in Texas. Way to many people in the POOL... what will the mainstream media say about haunted houses?

            And another one from CNN Some Americans take a holiday from social distancing and officials fear future spikes in coronavirus cases

            Who do you even believe because if I watch Foxnews they say cases are falling, if you listen to the President and his team they say cases are falling, but Fake News CNN its the opposite. If anyone in this room thinks the media isn't out to cause chaos between now and the election they're trying are lost.

            Will the entire haunted house industry be shut down by one rogue comment from a haunted house owner? If anyone in this room thinks the public will care if your haunts are closed for 2020 you're sniffing glue! NO ONE WILL CARE! Haunted Houses are the furthest thing from essential.

            OPEN FEWER DAYS

            AVOID THE MEDIA



            CONSIDER HANDING OUT MASKS TO EVERY CUSTOMER - It might be your only savior if the media comes a knocking.
            Larry Kirchner


            • #52
              I think most people have their own mask to wear but having masks on hand to give out in case they do not is a good idea. Anyone have a good source for cheap surgical masks at this time? Best price I can find is 47 cents a mask from china.

              Also, Larry, do you have full size versions of your signs available? Ive tried to print them at the size downloadable from here and they are pixelated at the larger sizes. Great warning sizes thanks again for sharing.



              • #53

                OH MY GOODNESS ... even Fox News is DEEPLY disturbed by seeing a ton of people in a POOL!

                Wait until someone launches a PR program INVITING the media into their attraction. I can’t wait to see what happens. Which haunted house will it be that has drone photos of your crowd, only then having CNN to Fox News doing a story about how DANGEROUS the haunt industry is.

                Best plan (my opinion) ... based on conditions not changing

                1) Hand out masks to every customer require them to wear (this MIGHT save you from a click bait media person)
                2) Set up hand washing stations
                3) Set up warning signs onsite and online

                Then DO NOT SPEAK TO THE MEDIA not this year if you can avoid it. But if you have someone like me talking to the media I would probably say something like... Our attraction is one of the safest attractions someone could attend, we’re doing our part to get America back to normal, putting people back to work, and offering a very safe and exciting place for them to celebrate Halloween. People want to scream, have fun with their friends, family and be safe at the same time so we’re doing everything we can do to accomplish those goals.

                Then I would probably thank them for contacting us and leave the conversation because it can only get worse.

                IF I HAD NO CHOICE BUT to answer a question about what is so safe... they’d get a very generic answer like:

                Well we’ve added washing stations, never had those in the past, we’ve posted warning signs about fevers, and flu like symptoms, we’re strongly encouraging all of our customers to wear face masks, while at the same time handing out our own to every guests. We want to be a part of the solution of getting back to work, entertaining people while at the same time keeping people healthy! We think its possible to accomplish all these goals thanks to our dedicated staff.

                AGAIN THANKS FOR THE CALL and we appreciate your hard work keeping people educated and updated!!! Thanks Again Goodbye!

                Remember anything and I mean ANYTHING you say to the media could be used against you in a lawsuit. So be careful what you say! NONE OF THIS MATTERS UNLESS EVERY HAUNT IS ON THE SAME PAGE!
                Larry Kirchner


                • #54
                  FROM DISNEY
                  Dear Disney Vacation Club Member,

                  A little more than two months ago, I shared with you the details of our company’s plans to temporarily close our parks and resorts, pause cruises and make other changes because of COVID-19. While this time apart has been challenging for all of us, physical-distancing efforts around the globe have helped slow the spread of the virus and have allowed Disney to plan for a gradual reopening.

                  We began earlier this month with the phased reopening of Shanghai Disneyland and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort. Today, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced additional plans including the expected reopening of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort on June 15 and all Disney Vacation Club properties at the Walt Disney World Resort on June 22.

                  This is fantastic news and yet another positive step forward – for our Members, guests and our Disney teams

                  As we prepare to welcome you home, we have assessed every aspect of the resort experience – from pre-arrival to housekeeping to recreation – with your safety and that of our Cast Members as our top priority. A summary of what you can expect during your next visit is posted on the Disney Parks Blog. Some of the operational adjustments include:

                  Enhanced cleaning of all rooms prior to arrival, including additional measures for dishware and appliances for Disney Vacation Club units, along with the standard Disney Vacation Club housekeeping services during your stay

                  Increased cleaning and sanitization in high-traffic areas

                  Larry Kirchner


                  • #55
                    Six Flags just announced they're re-opening and requiring all guests to wear facemasks, get temp checks to enter, and washing their hands.

                    I really can't see this working at all because a facemask is going to rip right off your face on a coaster. No way!

                    But either way this is what is happening. I expect to see Six Flags attendance down by well north of 50% with that plan.

                    We'll see.

                    But here is the main point ... you might need facemasks to open. We might need a group buy on facemasks.

                    Larry Kirchner


                    • #57
                      Good news from the PPP Front... Thanks to IAAPA several new things happened today. READ THIS

                      • Allows forgiveness for eligible expenses beyond the 8-week covered period to 24 weeks
                      • Expands forgivable non-payroll eligible expenses from 25% to 40% of loan proceeds
                      • Permits the restructuring of existing loans from two years to up to five-year terms
                      • Ensures full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans.
                      • Provides a rehiring safe harbor for businesses unable to rehire employees due to the effects of enhanced Unemployment Insurance
                      • Extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan from June 30 to December 31, 2020

                      The bill now goes to President Trump, where it is expected to be signed into law. Thank you to all IAAPA members that have taken action and contacted your elected officials. Your efforts continue to make a difference.
                      Larry Kirchner


                      • #58
                        Awesome job Larry!!! This is why the Forum is so useful, ALL the info you need can be in one place. I have seen some of these articles posted elsewhere, but if you wanted to go back and review it...first remember WHERE you saw it, then try and find it.... OR just come here and get ALL the info! I read Larry's post about the PPP, decided to apply and GOT IT! Probably would not have attempted it had I not read the post! Thanks!!!
                        R&J Productions
                        Las Vegas, NV


                        • #59
                          Here is a warning posted today from Disney... every haunted house should have something like this posted.

                          COVID-19 Warning
                          We have taken enhanced health and safety measures—for you, our other Guests, and Cast Members. You must follow all posted instructions while visiting Walt Disney World Resort.

                          An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

                          By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.

                          Help keep each other healthy.
                          Larry Kirchner


                          • #60
                            Good News... although it is from WHO (World Health Organization) which has led us astray on a number of occasions during the virus crisis (probably because they were eager to please the country that put them in charge-- China-- the same country that gave us the Virus). But anyway, WHO reports that people who don't have symptoms but do have he virus are "not the main drivers of the disease." This is opposite of what we heard and feared early on, and gives more credence to the idea of taking temperatures at the door. On as side note, it is worth mentioning that Taiwan has been very successful with stopping the spread, and they have open schools and everything. Their main precautions involve everyone getting temperatures when they enter school or a business, wearing masks, and washing hands regularly.

                            Here's what the news reports WHO saying:

                            "Coronavirus patients without symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the virus, World Health Organization officials said Monday, casting doubt on concerns by some researchers that the disease could be difficult to contain due to asymptomatic infections.

                            "Some people, particularly young and otherwise healthy individuals, who are infected by the coronavirus never develop symptoms or only develop mild symptoms. Others might not develop symptoms until days after they were actually infected.

                            "Preliminary evidence from the earliest outbreaks indicated that the virus could spread from person-to-person contact, even if the carrier didn’t have symptoms. But WHO officials now say that while asymptomatic spread can occur, it is not the main way it’s being transmitted.

                            “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news briefing from the United Nations agency’s Geneva headquarters. “It’s very rare.”