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Things I learned in 2020 - Future changes for operation of haunted houses

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  • Things I learned in 2020 - Future changes for operation of haunted houses

    Getting the ball rolling on SHARING information ...

    We have learned a lot from 2020. So what did we learn?

    1) We did more attendance in 2020 than 2019 and we did it with half the marketing, half the staff, with reduced dates and times.

    In other words we cut our expenses and raised revenue in the process.

    2) We will NOT go back to increasing staff ever again. We're in full blown figure out everyway to do more with less. Darkness actor counts going forward will be 45 to 60 actors TOPS.

    3) Marketing: Instagram and Snapchat are the two best to hit the pure demo. Facebook and Google we did and mixed in about 20% of our traditional radio budget. We nixed out sponsorship, billboards, 75% of radio and ALL PR! We did NOT want to promote the fact we were open and fall under some media trap to talk about safety. We avoided all media requests and fell under the radar.

    4) Valentines/Krampus: We did these as ONE NIGHT ONLY events and blew up that concept that it will sell out and they did. Krampus we did almost 1,500 and Valentines will be about 2,000. We did both as timed ticketing because it was a ONE NIGHT ONLY EVENT. We would never do timed ticketing for the season but these one off nights 110%.

    5) The one off nights did so well that we've decided to open for Scream Break! In total doing special event nights we're hoping ads about 4,500 to our overall attendance for the year. Our gift stores for these events have sold $4 to 5k. Big!

    6) We have done a ton of research on gift stores and now we've created the ultimate selling items everything from playing cards, keychains to our own Darkness socks. We got a lot of cool displays from a company call displays to go. Getting all the vendors for items took a long time. We also sold about 100 Mike Myers masks, and scary Rabbit masks, Jason all told we couldn’t keep those in stock. We did well with the gift stores.

    7) We removed haunts from both Darkness and Creepyworld.. in other words made them shorter the customers liked the haunts BETTER. With both haunts we now find it best to have a MIDWAY of sorts at the end filled with retail, or carved pumpkin displays, photo ops, 5 minute escapes its more of a real ending it really helps with ratings and social media sharing. I think the future of haunts should be to remove parts of your haunt so you can build a good space to create these ending experiences. while making the haunts shorter and better at the same time.

    8) At Creepyworld we're removing haunts while at the same time adding a VIDEO mapping experience which we feel is like killing two birds with one stone. it will be filmed and shared on social media like crazy, while at the same time we add a haunted experience that requires NO actors.

    9) In 2021 our haunt schedule will focus MORE on KEY dates rather than trying to be open EVERY DAY. The staff is more CHARGED UP and ready go. The customers came on the nights we opened we lost NO customers. Not going to open early in September ever again and not open most nights during the week until the STRETCH RUN. If they want to come on a Monday they'll come that last Monday, etc. This saves on wear and tear on your haunt and your staff. And hey the customers came on those days and we saved a ton of labor. Win win!

    I think the days of being open every day are over!

    10) Lastly we limited the hours we open earlier now 6:45 and we're closing or selling the last ticket at 11:45. Once we open they go in the haunt at a quick pace. We compensated fewer actors by adding 22 more air cannons to Creepyworld and an additional 12 at Darkness plus a focus on building scare boxes so actors can move around the haunt much better.

    We have three haunts which includes Lemp... we decided hey just focus on the best days and call it a day. Lemp will only be open on Friday and Saturday. Force the customers to COME TO YOU and save money.
    Attached Files
    Larry Kirchner

  • #2
    This is great feedback. Thank you for sharing!


    • #3
      Hi Larry, thanks for sharing.

      Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts behind avoiding timed ticketing during the season? Is it unpopular in your market?

      "We would never do timed ticketing for the season but these one of nights 110%."


      • #4
        We did timed ticketing for Darkness on Krampus and Valentines and its amazing! However if your goal is to control your lines this is the way to go no doubt. However when you leave the door wide open for people to use their tickets any day, or walk up and buy from the window you'll double your attendance. Timed ticketing will without a doubt slow down ticket sales and your overall attendance but it will control the line. Its one and a half dozen of another just depends on your goals. Larry
        Larry Kirchner


        • #5
          Hi Larry, that makes sense! Turning away walk-up customers on site is a big downside of the 100% timed ticket model (it might also deter the more spontaneous or "in the moment" consumers).

          I wonder if anyone has successfully implemented a hybrid ticketing system that has timed ticketing AND also allows customers to walk-up and buy tickets (so haunts don't have to turn customers away). It would be made clear that timed ticketing is strongly encouraged and more beneficial to customers (shorter wait times and maybe cheaper tickets) and that if anyone purchased tickets on site there would be a much longer wait time.
          Last edited by MeyerPointManor; 02-25-2021, 10:38 PM.


          • #6
            Hello Larry, What was your competition in your area? What else was open for people to do? Were you the only thing to do during the haunt season. The reason I am asking is could the rise in your attendance in 2020 be because there wasn't any concerts, movies, etc.
            We are opening this year no matter what. I am sure it will be with a state mandated reduced capacity since I am in NYS. Thanks for all the info. It will help for this upcoming season.
            In Darkness they hunt the living


            • #7
              I have a REALLY BIG article coming to front page blog. It should upload THIS WEEKEND!!!!

              Larry Kirchner