View Full Version : Haunts in Malls?

06-20-2011, 08:27 PM
Hello everyone!
Well, our haunt had to move this year and we've all but secured a deal with the local mall. They always have a Spirit Halloween store each year. (It's not a HUGE mall, but not a rinky dink strip mall either).
We were wondering if anyone has any advice or answers to a few questions.
The mall really seems to want this and has an old Rite Aid Store with sprinklers and everything set for us (about 5-6000 sq. ft.) with outdoor access which is great since the indoor access (if we have it) will need shut down at 9pm but we can stay open til whenever. They're also going to put us in all the advertising they do and we're right near the food court and movie theater.
We were still thinking of opening Thur/Fri/Sat (usually 7-11pm but might modify it to 6-10pm or last ticket is sold).
Is this still what people do or do you open every night from 6-9 or 6-10?
Also, any other considerations that are different from a free standing building.
They are working with us off a percentage of the door with a guaranteed amount from July 15th-Nov. 15th. We pay utilities. It's actually a great deal (one we proposed).
We are getting advertising/insurance/registration/floor plan/etc. set up before move in so we can focus on the building...
So excited...this is the earliest start for us ever! Last year was Aug. 13th before we found a place and a week later for our wood/supplies!

Haunted Prints (EOM)
06-20-2011, 08:35 PM
Sounds like a promising opportunity. A few haunts in the Dallas area were in malls and are still around to talk about. Proof it can work. Just like any location, you gotta put on respectable show and market the heck out of your haunt!

Grave Digger
06-20-2011, 09:41 PM
Um.... very interesting! I've been there in the haunt mall, and it was so awersome!! It was in 1999, perhaps. But, it was closed b/c it was out of business, no money, nothing! It was near the food court. I do miss it.

Trail of Terror
06-21-2011, 08:07 AM
i ahd mine last year in the mall. we got allot of business but not as much as we thought... Allot of our business was from people at the mall and kids wanting to go in... What was our problem was... most of the people that go to haunt to haunt, thought we was going to lame and it was just for kids.. until we told them to try it and see..... finally the word got out the last week and it was to late to get a really big gain... So my advise to make sure you advertise that you are an adult haunt not a kidding haunt... also our utilities deposit was out of the roof... they take the last year three biggests bills and divide it by 3 and that will be your deposit... you will get it back when you chow it off but out of the pocket till then.... our power deposit was 5000.00 only not counting the rest....

Good luck... also try to strike a deal for a couple of years.... we didn't and they got us out... and i know we would of made a killing this year... casue everone loved us..


06-21-2011, 02:07 PM
Thanks everyone!
Geoff-Yes, the utilities was like "What?" to us since it was WAY over what we've paid in the past...and they do go off of normal daytime operations (10am-9pm) with full lights, etc. We are only open a handful of hours a night 3 days a week. It's not as much as 5000.00 but it's still a chunk. Plus water too for us.
The great thing is the percentage/guaranteed amount is exactly what we asked for.
Very excited with this possibility.
Any more to share?

06-21-2011, 03:44 PM
I would be worried about that "promised" amount in July, August, and September. October is the gravy month, but getting people to come each night in the off months could be tough, so I hope you didn't promise them too much for those early months.

Rocky Mountain Terror
06-21-2011, 04:45 PM
Looks like we're going into a mall this year as well. We should know for sure by the end of the week. Should be an interesting year. Looking forward to it!

06-21-2011, 04:54 PM
Im trying a mall in NJ this year as well. This mall brings in 750,000 customers a month .......so we will see how it goes...............


06-21-2011, 07:18 PM
We'll all have to stay in touch with the mall thing...LOL :)
We didn't promise anything other than a 'guaranteed lowest amount they'd get' (ie. 2500.00 or 10%-whichever is more).
We are not open in July/Aug either...we will build from July 15th-Sept. 22 and open the 23rd.
We were just wondering if anyone else opens Mon/Tue/Wed or not and anyones experience.
We proposed a price we were comfortable with and took a shot.
They liked it and we are probably ago.
Will know this week!

Allen H
06-21-2011, 08:51 PM
Sounds great to me. here goes my take-

"We were still thinking of opening Thur/Fri/Sat (usually 7-11pm but might modify it to 6-10pm or last ticket is sold).
Is this still what people do or do you open every night from 6-9 or 6-10?"
If your paying actors, then stick to Friday and Saturday. maybe add thursdays if you like. I like 7:30 to midnighgt for hours. Open the box office at 7:00.

"Also, any other considerations that are different from a free standing building."
No drawbacks, but you do have two fronts one outside and one inside If you can sell tickets from both great. If nout then build a hall from the mall interior to your ticket booth on the other side.

The business side sounds fine if your comfortable with it. Thats what matters.
Allen H

The Forsaken Crypt
06-21-2011, 09:19 PM
In the next few years when I decide to open my haunt I was debating between an old asylum in the area or a mall. A few years back I remember Frightworld was occupying the mall I have my eye on and from what I saw they did a very good job. So from what I am hearing and please correct me if I'm wrong, malls are good as long as you massively advertise your attraction? I mean when you come to think of it, wouldn't a mall be the most ideal spot?

Hundreds of people shop during the day and pass your attraction.
Even though it is closed it has to make people wonder

"What could be in there?"

and trigger a lot of curiosity causing them to come back. That has to increase attendance right?

Mad Wax Sculptor
06-22-2011, 12:00 AM
This may sound crazy but it might work for you. We opened on sundays at like 2 till 6 when the mall closed and used to get really good crowds and even church groups. We were the only haunt in our market open at that time and got a lot of haunt traffic from the mall or from people who went to us before other haunts opened. We had a few sundays that were close to sat nights traffic

06-22-2011, 06:23 AM
I opened a haunt in a mall back in 2003 (CrossRoads mall in OKC).
The first absolute thing I did first was get the fire marshal out there to make sure he approves the site (hope you have done this) and discuss evacuation, fire alarms and such. Call him out regularly to be sure you're doing everything right up to the end. It will make things alot smoother with no last minute shockers.
Operating in a mall was nice and we did alright. The first year is always hard to get established and get the word out.
We stayed open after mall hours (till 11pm, 12pm the last week) with the doors opening around 7ish.
We only opened on weekends the first couple weeks then the last week we opened every night.
You might think about doing a kiddie version during the afternoon on weekends at a cheaper price. This will get some of the weekend shoppers with kids and won't wear out your actors from a long day. Use only a couple of haunt staff to make sure the kids are going thru okay. Something to think about. Of course, you don't want everyone to think it's a kiddie haunt all the time so advertise likewise.
One thing you might ask about is mall security. If they have enough staff, you may not have to hire one just for the haunt. We had a mall security that hung around because he had a blast seeing everyone come out scared. He enjoyed his job while we were there.
If you aren't open during the daytime mall hours, have a video or voice recording explaining what the haunt is (advertisement) there at the haunt entrance. This way, the mall shoppers during the day will see/hear it and hopefully spread the work.
One thing to check with the mall if actors with mask/face paint on and roaming the mall. Some have rules/laws against this happening. We were restricted to just outside the entrance to the mall.
We had a temp lease (1 year) and when going to renew, we were pushed out for a Chinese joint. Oh well....
It was a great experience for me and the other tenants loved it.

Hope this helps,

06-22-2011, 04:52 PM
We actually have some good fire marshalls and people to work with in our area...we're on top of that! :)
The mall is actually really going out of their way for us too...it's almost too good to be true! LOL
The mall maintainence man grew up and knew my partner's family. He is even putting in extra outlets for us (even thought at this moment it's still pending...hopefully by Friday we'll know!)
We are thinking Sept. 23/24 to open (Fri/Sat only) from 6-10pm.
Then Thur/Fri/Sat nights from 6-9pm Thur and 6-10pm Fri/Sat...or until the last victim is in.
I am thinking the 2 lines (in mall and outside mall after 9pm) sounds confusing and we have to work it out...
Keep the advice coming! :)

Mad Wax Sculptor
06-24-2011, 01:17 AM
I did the malls for 4 yrs and lived to tell about it . In fact some of my fondest memories were at the malls. If I had planned better in the early yrs i would have planned an outside entry. Thank god we did well enough with out it. I would advise a mall entry as well as out side entry leading to the ticket booth. We got lucky and had a space by the movies that stayed open till 12am. We also did thurs nights with little success

06-25-2011, 06:54 AM
We opened our haunt Night Terrors of Effingham in 2010 in a vacant building in our mall. We are in a smaller community of 12,000 people so our mall is one of those that is slowly dying. The mall managers have been a AMAZING to work with, they charged us a very reduced rent for a space that is 45,000 sq ft and only charge for Sept and Oct!!! With much community advertisement, local business sponsorships, parades, social events, etc, we were able to get the word out and brought in 2,100 for our first year! Many of the businesses close at 9pm however the movie theater stays open til Midnight. So we had an inside entrance to our haunt and just had to have the patrons out by 12. If we were so busy we didn't think we would be able to get them through in time, we offered to sell them a ticket to return the next day and they would have a fast pass. People liked that!
The great thing with the mall is they are very accessible for the patrons, most know exactly where you are located, because they are a dying breed the managers are very eager to work with potential renters. You don't have to worry about parking, restrooms, etc. The downfall is you have to tear down at the end of your season. With our location our managers were so eager to have us back this year they offered to let us store our entire tore down haunt in their warehouse for an extremely discounted rate!!! They also have let us host haunt meetings each month to try and recruit new members along with hosting prop building days to prepare for this years haunt.
I think utilizing a mall space is a great way to build your business and get your haunt to the success you desire. Our goal is to do just that and then be able to move to establish a permanent haunt.
Good luck with your haunt this year!!!!

Haunt Bob
06-25-2011, 08:56 AM
What mall are you opening the haunt in jersey

is it going to be in south or north jersey

i live in new york but grow up in jersey


im trying a mall in nj this year as well. This mall brings in 750,000 customers a month .......so we will see how it goes...............


06-25-2011, 10:20 AM
Well, we got the word yesterday that it was a GO...
The tentative agreement they pitched us and we were fine with was all fine except the owners want 1000.00 more dollars tacked onto it.
Plus the mall operations lady we dealt with was very rude to us on the phone...she kept cutting us off saying "IS IT FEASIBLE OR NOT?!?!"
Now we are up in the air...


06-25-2011, 08:31 PM
Well, we got the word yesterday that it was a GO...
The tentative agreement they pitched us and we were fine with was all fine except the owners want 1000.00 more dollars tacked onto it.
Plus the mall operations lady we dealt with was very rude to us on the phone...she kept cutting us off saying "IS IT FEASIBLE OR NOT?!?!"
Now we are up in the air...


Don't let 1k and a gripey old lady stop you. If you think you can do good, then go for it.
If it were me, I would personally go and talk to the mall owners, not the old lady over the phone and get it all in writing. Show your concern and don't hold anything back. Nothing worse than getting in a contract only to be dismissed early because everything was not out on the table at the beginning.
Talk to them in person, not over the phone!!!

Also, asked them why they changed the price (what change made that happen) ?????????


06-25-2011, 09:52 PM
The lady is the one to talk to who does all the dealings, etc. with stores/contracts.
She is the top at the mall (other than owners).
It was a matter of principle in our eyes. If she pulls this with no answer as to why then what will
happen 1 month down the road?
We met with her and looked the location over and she seemed gung-ho and offering to advertise for us
in all of the mall advertising, etc.
She told us she'd call by Friday and didn't, so we called her and she was just very rude and would not answer
questions. She just kept saying "IS IT FEASIBLE?!?!"
Right now we are contacting our location we had last year as the sale fell through and will see what comes of that.
If that can work, we'd have it there. If not, we might just bite the bullet and try negotiating for 500 more instead of
I like having everything on the table (we tried to do that in person and thought we got it all out there).
The terms we agreed tentatively to were the malls offer.
The problem is, we've talked to some former mall tenants and they said the mall kept raising rent and prices on them and
that's why they had to leave. It's a slowly dying mall that could use the traffic we'd bring in and more fun events.
We thought it was mutually beneficial?
We'll see...but the haunted house WILL happen!

06-25-2011, 11:00 PM
I understand Kirk (I really do),
Do what you fill is right.
Ask the lady, what will this empty space bring in the following months? A dead, empty space will bring nothing.
Anyway, I know what you mean and feel the pain.
I hope it goes well. Just get it all in writing on both sides needs. I hate to see a haunter get screwed.
Honestly? It will open doors to another future (resume) as it did for me. It was tough and I paid dearly doing it, but it got me established AND to the next level. And that was my goal.....

Good luck and keep us updated,


06-26-2011, 05:29 AM
Thanks Tom!
I appreciate the advice and encouragement!

It's needed right now!


09-01-2011, 01:29 AM
Almost my exact situation last year. The mall was having some problems with stores leaving and was not the biggest mall, but had a few good anchor stores and was not packed all the time, but had some foot traffic on weekends. They were real cool about everything and were glad to have us there. Since I own a radio station, we did a trade for free space in return for advertising. They also thought it would help bring people in and we were next to a family fun center. The space was perfect, avacated department store, about 4000-5000 sq. feet, more room than we needed. Plenty of electric, smoke detectors, sprinklers, exit signs and safety lights. Also heated and ac and even a side room we used as an actor break and makeup room complete with it's own bathroom. Had an entrance from the mall, we built a facade and divided off a waiting room. Also in the back connected to the loading dock for outside access.

Here is what I learned.

While people thought we did a good job making it scary, the mall is not a very creepy atmosphere, except late at night when you are there working alone at 2am and everything is quiet and you here the kids ride on stuff making noises and echoing from down the hall lol. Also as someone mentioned, people thought it would be cheesey. Had a lot of people bringing kids and getting to the first scene and leaving.

THIS IS A BIG ONE! We had issues with figuring out the power situation, and the mall gets a little funny about you playing around with their power panels, we had to work with a mall maint guy and figure out what turned the big overhead lights off, it was a mess, there were about 5 different panels located in 2 different places and we shared some lights with another rental space of offices. We learned the hard way not to mess with stuff, as we accidently turned off their lights and got a nasty call the next Monday morning, after that and we owned up, all was good.

After the mall closed at 9p, our customers dropped big time. Even though we had signs etc. All entrances were locked except the back entrance near our in mall front entrance. We did put a red police beacon light near the door and that helped after the first week.

White walls and white floor that we could not mess with made it hard to keep dark as the light was reflecting. So I had to work really hard on using minimal lights like l.e.d.s and have lights come on only when they were in that scene.

All in all, we made a small profit, not worth all the work though. Hope all this helps.

09-01-2011, 01:37 AM
Was that Janet and Chip you dealt with. I the people that I dealt with in the mall I just did a looong post about was owned by the same people and the lady i dealt with used to be there and still had something to do with it. They were really great and glad to have us and worked with us just like you were saying and let us store stuff for almost nothing, infact still some stuff there.

oh 1 more thing. There was 1 downfall, right after the haunt, they did tell me I needed to get everything out within a week!!! I could move it to storage across the loading dock, as they were having someone look at the sapce. It was a pain, but I did it and cleaned it all up, better than before I had started setting up. They were pleased. So that is something esle you might have to deal with.

09-01-2011, 07:56 PM
This must be the year for malls, I am also in a mall this year , but i have no accses to the mall (my request) using only outside accses in an old JCpennys space I am in a mall that is almost dead all the anchor stores are gone so i am renting it for the location only.

09-01-2011, 08:51 PM
Well, we are in and getting it built...crazy time...we open Sept. 23rd!
We are open 6-9 on Thursdays and until 10 on Fri/Sat.
The mall closes at 9 and we have an inside and outside entrance that meet at the ticket booth but our inside gate is to be locked at 9 sharp.
We have our sign on the gate and daily hear people talking about it.
The mall deal went in our favor our way and they've been cool about stuff...they even supply the toilet paper...talk about luxury!
We have to figure out the panel for our outlets as we can't get 1/2 of them to work and I'm working on lighting right now.
Other than that...we should have a great year! The only other stinker is we have to be moved/cleaned up by Nov. 15th...but if nobody is moving in (I doubt it) then we can take longer.
We're excited!