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Haunting Profitability – Part #3

So how do we do that? Now this is going to upset several of you, and for that I apologize up front! Please understand. “It is my personal belief that there is no right or wrong way to Haunt, and that the following recommendations are just that, recommendations. They are simply Haunting principles that have made Haunts successful in the past!” Your particular situation could be quite different, (but I doubt it!) Disclaimer out of the way, here is what I preach to anyone who will listen:

  • It will cost you between $20 and $35 per square foot to build an attraction, or a little bit cheaper if you decide not to hire a consultant. (NOTE: If you decide not to hire a consultant, then please also decide not to open a Haunted House!)
  • You must spend $2 – $3 per person in advertising  for every one person you are trying to get to buy a ticket, and this money must be spent wisely. Your target attendance should be 20,000 people so you need to spend between $40,000 and $60,000 in advertising dollars alone!
  • Attendance in most markets is exponential, it almost doubles each weekend!! To be able to do 20,000 people in 5 weekends (75 hours) your hourly capacity needs to be at least 700 people per hour on the last weekends. To design a Haunt that can take 700 people an hour and still give them a quality experience, you need to hire a Haunt designer! That is what they do!!
  • In my personal opinion Haunts are overpriced, which is why I push people to go Multi Element! Whatever you are charging now for your single haunt, if you divided it into two attractions you could charge more! (So why do you still have a single Haunt?) My approach is at the very least two elements, but preferably 4 elements to get a $25 “combo” ticket price. (And please, put the Haunts side by side so people can choose which to go to next. When you put the haunts “nose to tail,” it is still just one big haunt!)
  • Today, I try not design any attraction larger than 3,000 square feet. So a 4 element event, (which, now that you have 4 Haunts actually is an event!) is only 12,000 square feet of plywood actors and props. Each element is differently themed and should be a completely different style of attraction, not just more of the same thing! This provides a much greater perceived value than what a single 12,000 square foot Haunt that you would have a tough time getting $25 for!
  • Don’t do a Haunted House in your home town, just because you live there! Go to the big city!! You will only be there a month or two and there are many more people there for you to draw from!! (Seems simple enough, but in over 30 years of consulting; only one client has said to me, “I want to open a Haunt; where should I put it?”
  • Don’t do a Haunted House inside of an interior Mall, and if you already are, consider moving it. Haunting is a date thing. Malls are a shopping thing. A guy who is trying to impress his date is not going to take her to the mall! For this and perhaps other reasons, it is more difficult to drive large numbers, 20,000 plus, people to an event in a mall. It is my experience that the same attraction would do much better out in the parking lot of the same mall, than it does inside.
  • Panelize your wall system so you can easily change, rearrange, or move your attraction to a new building. And do not let the local building officials tell you your Haunt has to be built out of sheet rock. Nowhere in the code book does it say what a movable partition must be made of! I have seen a person run through a sheetrock wall before, and they are impossible to move! Flame treated lumber, flame retardant paint or spraying flame retardant on the finished sets are all ways to get the required flame spread rating for these wooden “temporary panels,”

So! You take these numbers and plug them into the formulas above to figure out if your business plan will make a profit, (Note: It takes three to five years for most start up businesses to turn a profit! So put that additional cash in your business plan calculations to carry the start up years.) If the numbers don’t show you will make a profit, then change the parameters, until they do. Increase you advertising budget, decrease the number of actors required, add an additional element to increase the ticket price, or decrease your construction costs! But do something to make the math work before you drive a single screw. Because! (Read it out loud with me!!) “If You Don’t Make a Profit With Your Haunt, Then You Don’t Get To Play Any More!”

Keep’em Screamin’!


Leonard Pickel is Owner of Hauntrepreneurs(R), a Dark Design and Consulting Firm, Founder of Haunted Attraction Magazine, Owner and Creator of the Haunted Attraction National Tradeshow and Convention, (HAuNTcon), Partner of Findahaunt.com Haunted Attraction locater. Leonard is available for consulting, Haunt design, permit drawings and lectures, (like the one above). Contact him at 972-951-5100 or via email at hauntcon@gmail.com