View Full Version : Anyone know how many customers a haunts gets each season??
08-14-2011, 09:27 AM
Im looking to get into the haunt business. im just curious if anyone can shoot me some numbers.
08-14-2011, 11:46 AM
That answer is going to vary so widely that the answer could be 100 to 60,000. Its going to depend on were you are located, how big you are, advertisement, how good you are, just a ton of different stuff. So basically you are not going to get an answer unless you can get more specific on your question. There are haunts that are free, haunts that charge $45 haunts that charge different fees for this section and more if you want to do more... Start with this. Were are you located, how much are you going to charge, what are your goals, what are you doing for advertisement, how big is your local population then maybe someone will be able to give you an idea?
08-14-2011, 06:35 PM
Right, location is everything. And remember the first year isn't going to be great. Haunts, in my humble opinion seldom turn any profit the first year. There's a lot involved in starting a haunt, even as basic as what codes and registrations do you need to operate? Lots of things like that to look into and take into account. Things like sprinkler systems that might need installed or ADA compliance in an old building really can add up fast and might be mandatory in your haunt area.
This is a great forum to get started though. Lots of great ideas and people to help with the process. Good luck to you!
08-14-2011, 07:11 PM
Wow 60,000!! that would be nice..im in Northeast Ohio, there are several other haunts in the area that do very well ( im assuming by the show) "Factory of Terror", "Haunted school house", " Haunted Hoochie" and alot more.. So im judging by all the haunts people in the area do like them. I figure if i could pull 10,000 people id be totally in the clear. Offer an indoor haunt, 5,000 square, 15 bucks a pop.. and yes this site is awesome thank you for everyones info
08-14-2011, 07:28 PM
It sounds like you are getting into this for all the wrong reasons. 2K to 4K is what you will be looking at doing in year 2 or 3, Im pretty sure that 10,000 in your first five years in that market is going to be tough. First year I think you can market your butt off and get 1,500.
Do you have a passion for the industry? I highly recommend you work for a major haunt for a few years before you tackle your own. And starting this late in the game this year does not count- much of the hard work is already done for this season at most shows. This will be a huge undertaking- you either need to have it alter and become your life, or have enough money to invest so you dont care if it fails or not.
Can you churn out a cookie cutter haunted attraction, absolutely. But I dont recommend it. How many haunts have you attended? How many tradeshows have you attended? It sounds like you are winging it, if you have the capitol to do that great if not then do some home work.
Get Kelley Allen's books they will help at the stage you are at. I wish you the best of luck, but you are starting a hard journey and if you are on it for money, then there are easier ways.
08-14-2011, 08:33 PM
I was happy with 600 last year,which was my first year puting on my own haunt. I didnt break even. I did however have a great time as did all my patrons. This year my crew and my customers cant wait till opening. To me thats what it is all about. Who knows this year i might have 1200.
08-14-2011, 08:53 PM
@ Allen H
Im obsessed with halloween, i worked for my first haunted house when i was 16. Started out double siding walls and worked my way up to house build and a chainsaw hillbilly character i called "earl".. I spent many seasons working this character at several different haunts. AS far as my passion goes its there. Im just trying to see some numbers for a business plan im writing up. maybe 10,000 is shooting alil high.
08-14-2011, 09:17 PM
Who do you show a business plan to?
08-15-2011, 03:09 AM
Everyone is giving you great advice here. If you think you are going to open your first year and make a butt load of money, hang it up. We are doing ok here in Kentucky, but still trying to sort out our measly budget and how far we can make it go in advertising, new props, etc.
You definitely want to go into this prepared, and starting here is a pretty good choice. You have haunters of all different calibers. But, by the same token, the vast majority of us also have different stories.
One thing I definitely agree with, is you should work in a professional haunt before tackling your own. I started in a small time haunt when I was 17. Worked my way up to management, managed for 4 years, and when I left, I am still proud to say that I came from that haunt, although, I do have my own haunted trail in the woods on 18 acres. Good luck on your endeavors, just don't jump in without as much knowledge as you can get!
08-15-2011, 10:09 AM
Recently someone in Forbes magazine said that a business plan is like writing a book on playing guitar before you have ever played a guitar. That during the process so many things will have to be specialized to your market, your customers, your style that what ends up working is totally different than what you would have written at first. Any lender knows that. Any investor knows that and has already figured out how much all the tweeks are going to cost in time or money.
Just this season I have reviewed 3 deals where I could get involved and how different each event is and the expectations for return on investments and how far I would have to travel are so completely different that it is just plain 3 different situations. How people think is tweeked by whether they are broke and sitting on mammas couch, newly independent or get millions from the japanese or have actually done what could only be imagined 15 years ago in just a couple years.
Despite what CNN says there are segments of the ecomomy that have not totally tanked. Those people think differently than the ones that have been displaced at any time in their lives. They can be matched up but, you have to dig much deeper and let conversations go for months to figure out what everyones real goals are and how long they intend to go about doing what they are doing. Then the reality is no one really knows what they will have to do to make ends meet or what part of their list of material things and life goals they are going to have to give up are. Exchanging for what is something greater and all focused energy on one thing.
You never know what will happen until it happens.
08-15-2011, 03:19 PM
As usual, all good advice, take heed. The main problem with Haunts is really simple, it mainly made up of "artisan owners". By this I mean people whose first line of reasoning for being in the business is a passion for the holiday and the event itself. Because of this they tend to do things that no "normal" business people would not do. A business is meant to make money, it has to to survive. However there are many haunts out there that do NOT make money, yet continue to exist. WHY? Because the owners make decisons of the heart, not the head.
The owners work other jobs, sometimes funneling cash into the haunt just to keep it afloat. Any "real" business has a 3-5- year return on investment. Means it will take that time frame to make back the initial investment. After that period of time the business is meant to continue actually making a profit. If not, it is usually sold, liquidated or otherwise demised. If a haunt is still not profitable and owned by a real haunt enthusiast, chances are it will still continue. So an area may have many haunts that to outsides appears that haunts are quite profitable in that area. In a business reality there would only be maybe one haunt that could actually be profitable.
So you have to look at motive as has been said. You do need a bit of that "artisan" attitude to put the best show on as possible, but you need to be a realistic businessman also. Just because there are many haunts does not mean that the area will support one more. You can try and ask others in your market, but good luck getting accurate numbers!! We got in the business because a newspaper article quoted a local haunt owner that he got 24,000 people a year. I budgeted on only 1/3 of that to be "safe". The second year in business we actually partnered with that haunter. He laughed and said he told them he would LIKE to get 24,000, even my 1/3 estimate was high!!! Never trust what you can't verify.
It kinda of sounds like everyone is tryig to talk you out of starting a haunt.... that may be true. Not because they don't want the competition, well maybe if you are in a market that can't even support the ones that are there... but the main reason being that the major reason for failure is that the haunter only gets in the business because of passion. And passion makes lousey business decisions. Then when the do fail, as most do, it impacts the haunts that are surviving. How?? Well when they look for a site, a sponsor, even actors, all those failures are brought to light. "we really don't want to rent to a haunt, another realtor rented to a haunt and lost a lot of money."... Sponsors may be relunctant associating their business with a haunt also based on these failures...all people who really had a "passion"...but no real business sense!!
If you have to write a business plan to attract investors, you are already doomed. Look how many brick and mortar year round businesses are failing. Now you want people to invest in a business that needs to earn its entire income in 20 days of operation???? Based on what??? The fact is 90% of all haunts are NOT profitable. Another 5-7% survive which only leaves 3-5% that actually MAKE a profit!!! WHo in their right mind would invest in that???
Somtimes the smartest thing to do is ....nothing! IF you have a passion for the holiday, volunteer or work for an established haunt. You fufill you passion's need, hopefully help that haunt to be one step closer to being profitable and keep one more failure off the books! Bleak response...maybe... but very VERY accurate. Ask any haunt owner and he'll tell you he lost the real FUN of the holiday the day he became an owner! One of the satisfactions I get from my haunt is the fact that I am able to provide the setting for all my actors to realize THEIR haunt passions, I almost live viciously through them instead of them through me! Something to think about!!!
08-15-2011, 04:03 PM
I will be opening my haunt in about a year and have been working on it for 5 years from first thought to now buying props. I have invested about $30,000 in props and have another $ 50,000 to go. I have looked at the numbers and if you don't have a good marketing plan then you won't get the customers you need the first year. This is a business that you have to grow and build a core following. I have owned 5 companies including the one that I own now and some have done better than expected the first year and some worse. The thing that I have learn is get all your ducks in a row and it will help with the profitability. If you have a set number of customers them you need to spend money to get them in the door. A rule that I live by is for every customer I want, I need to spend atleast $2 to get them. Sounds high but I have been doing this for a long time and the numbers work. Everytime I lower my marketing the customer base goes down too. Don't forget put out a good product you need the guys back next year. When I open I want 20,000 customers so I expect to spend $ 50,000 to get them. Now You say that you can't spend that much, then here is my free tip for you. Go to your local high school and offer all of the sport teams coupons for $2 dollars off and for every coupon redeemed, each team gets $1. Make it a contest between the sports and give them a pizza dinner and a tour for being the highs earners. Now with that said if you got 1000 kids to come and you charge $15 person you net $12 ( $12,000), you have just invested $3000 in to marketing without much up front money being spent. Hope that helps get you thinking about how to do some marketing with out blowing the bank roll on big ticket adds with radio and cable.
Just want to scare the s**t out of someone.
08-15-2011, 06:46 PM
I'm new here and could be speaking out of line but maybe the location of a haunt could generate a turn out of 10,000 patrons over a 4-5 weekend event for a first year. I live in central/east coast of florida in a pretty populated area. I witnessed myself, a first year haunt that was constructed from an 8'x20' cargo trailer ran out of some guys yard. We went to it to check it out and we waited in line for about 20 mins. From the time we went in, i would guess that 75-100 people went through the attraction and approximately another 100 were behind us. they charged $2 dollars to get in and it lasted for about 2 minutes.
Lets say that this guy saw an average of 600-800 people per night. The haunt was only open for 4-6 hours. The haunt would start at dusk and would run to 10:30 or 11.
Possibly grossing approximately 1200-1600 dollars per night, give or take. If he did for 10 nights, he grossed 12,000-16,000 for the month. If his cost to operate his operation was .50 cents per patron, he still netted $1.50 per patron. This guy did this without any advertising or sponsors. The only advertising we saw was a home made sign posted on a van on the road he lived on. I actually heard about by word of mouth. The place where this haunt was located was in a subdivision, nothing special.
Also another haunt i witnessed happened 4 years ago. The event planner rented the bottom section of an old school and turned it into a haunted attraction. Granted, he had sponsorship and did do some advertising but he managed to draw nearly 15k people at 20.00 per ticket for only 3 weekends of operation and Halloween night. He also sold merchandise and beverages at the event. We saw hordes of people in line, waiting to get in. We waited in line for nearly an hour before we went through the attraction. The attraction lasted about 5-7 minutes and was pretty good. If this guys cost was $15 dollars per patron, he still netted approximately 75k not to mention what was made from merchandise and food/beverage sales.
Now the area I live in is pretty populated. The 2 cities have a combined population of 420,000 and has 2 colleges within the city limits. My location is also about an hour away from Orlando and Daytona which both are very populated areas. Lets to say that a person had the right chain of events, i think a first year haunt could easily draw 10k plus patrons. Where I live, there is rarely a haunt other than going to HHN in Orlando, Screamfest in Tampa and Extreme Halloween in south florida and from what i have witnessed, people want something different from the mundane of the big commercial haunts that are put on by major corporations. Some of the best haunts I had seen were created by good ol boys in the backwoods of Kentucky and they knew how to scare and could really draw a crowd. Anythings possible.
08-15-2011, 07:53 PM
Luke, at first your reasoning seems sound and it is the reasoning that everyone utilizes. You see how many people for a set time frame, extrapolate to total hours in a night, # nights in the run and you have a total attendance.....however..... the reality is more like this:
You open at 6:30...no one is inline. people are still just getting home, feeding the kids, other tasks and then remember they wanted to go to the haunt. So for your first hour to 2 hours you have a small trickle of people. There are no lines, there are no masses of people.
Now it's 8-8:30- people have finished said tasks and start showing up in earnest. NOW you have a wait and you have a line.
By 9:30-10:00 you think you are slammed, you are telling your actors to push them through quicker or you'll be there all night, and if you have a paid staff, it's costing you money.
By the 10:30 mark your line is getting under control, number of new patron is dwindling, your actors are in overdrive and you are pumping them through like crazy.
By 11:30 your numbers are back to the 6:30 level, your line has dwindled down to the opening size and that last 1/2 hour sees almost no new patrons.
The last of your customers enter the house just prior to midnight so you are locked up and ready to go by 12:30!!!!
Sure you might always get the one group that has raced over from another haunt, or were out at the bar all night and just remembered the haunt. But that's not every night. Sometimes you get the couple that shows up at 12:15 and is begging you to sell them a ticket...come on we drove ALL THE WAY OVER HERE!!! But it just isn't cost effective. You may have already started breaking your house, even if you haven't, they now buy tickets, say 2 @ $15 for another $30.00 income. But if it normally takes 15 minutes to go through, because they are all by themselves with no one to push them forward, they will take extra time stopping and looking at every detail!! They'll take 25 to 30 mnutes to go through so now you have to pay ALL your actors another 30 minutes. 20 actors X$5 ($10 hr for a half hr)= $100 !!! So you took in $30, but paid out $100 !!!!
Everyone looks at the peak time frame and assumes we have that amount start to finish...wrong.... it NEVER works like that.
Population base is another misnomer. What is the actual demographics of that population??? You live in Florida. How much of the population is retirees??
How much is under 12 years old? Remember we only have a demographics of maybe 12-35. Then out of that demographics how many would actually visit a haunted house???? Not all 12 yr olds and certainly not all 35 yr olds! Some people just don't like to be scared...period! Is your haunt too scary, not scary enough? that will also effect your possible demographic. Ours has a reputation of being very scary. I lose people because a group shows up and one idiot is too scared to go in. Instead of just leaving him/her behind, the entire group leaves!!!! one kid too scared, I lose $75-$100 !!!
Basically take as much of this and the other posts into consideration, try and get a REAL realistic number...then cut THAT in half!!! Especially for a first time attraction. As you develop a following, your base number will increase, but you have to earn that! Remember those of us posting these more REALISTIC comments are not trying to throw a damp blanket on your fire... these are things I wish someone had told me starting out.! I was able to weather my storm and survive against the odds, but only because I had prepared for it. There were 18 haunt owners when I started, now there are 3 !!! THAT's the reality of it. Take the right steps so you can be the 3 not the 15 that are gone!
08-15-2011, 08:12 PM
thanks for the feedback. i was not insinuating that it can be done, i was just saying that if the right chain of events happened, a person could do good on a first year based on location and from what i witnessed first hand. the demographic here isn't retirees but also it isn't a bunch of spring chickens. it is somewhat of a suburban college town so we have a slightly younger demographic than places like miami, boca, the palm beaches, naples, fort myers, etc.
i own a business and am getting ready start another business venture so i know whats put down on paper or here for that matter doesn't play out in the real world. i too would love to start a haunt where i am located based on what i have seen from the past little haunts that people put on here. If it was profitable, great. If not, would it matter? I have always wanted to do a haunt since i was 15 years old (36 now) and just the thought of me putting my thoughts to paper and bringing them to life would be a fulfillment in itself. hopefully, i will be at a position financially so i can prepare a good haunt and then turn it into something a little bigger further down the road.
08-15-2011, 08:56 PM
Luke, you bring up good points, and sometimes haunts, just like anything else can luck out. It reminds me of those impressive weight loss commercials where in the fine print reads "results not typical". :)
@ the original poster: If it were me in your shoes and this is something you really want to do, I would consider a yard haunt for your first year. Yard haunts are great at getting your feet wet in the management side of the haunt industry. You can still make up a business plan, can avoid lots of the operational costs involved and focus on props and the "fun stuff" like acting and set design. Minimal creative advertising can draw people to your door, and a small fee can recoup some of your costs. If you invest this way in props, lighting, etc. and keep it small, you can take all that with you to a more permanent haunt if you do well, so no loss in $$ that way. It will allow you a peek at your customer base as well. If you draw in huge numbers then you can feel fairly confident that a larger haunt will do well. It will give you a taste at managing a haunt...you might get into that "hat" and realize that it's not for you.
If starting a haunt is what you want to do, then start researching what your area needs for safety, ADA, fire safety, codes, etc. It will take a few months to weed through that if it's anything like where I'm at. There's classes to attend only offered at certain times of the year, etc. I would get that info under your belt and decide then whether or not you feel it's worthwhile. Then decide on where the haunt should be located, choosing somewhere that keeps the demographic we cater to in mind. Talk to other haunts in the area, they might be a valuable resource for you. Attend some tradeshows as well if you haven't already...if not for prop purchasing, at least for the networking alone. There are some great people out there willing to help get you through the starting up process, point you in the right direction, even something as simple as ordering buckies in bulk to save $$. Some of them even offer classes to help you get started or how to save money by making props, etc. And the tours are awesome. I learned so much talking to the owners and seeing just how others operated behind the scenes...it was money well spent to see how problems we were facing with the haunt I was with at the time were solved in another haunt.
08-16-2011, 03:58 AM
Kimmy makes a good point, yard haunts are like the "minor leagues". I did one first in Chicago, then Vegas from like 1977 to 1999...wow 22 years!!! ( missed one or two moving ect.!!!) You can learn alot without as many restrictions! How ever I would build the yard haunt just as thought it was a pro haunt, not using bastardized door closers and washing machine solenoids...heck with eBay & craigslist the real deal is just as cheap and 100 times better!! This way if you decide to go pro you might be able to even use some of the stuff or just have a small modification!!
Luke- if you have "real" business experience, you have a leg up on most that want to do the haunt business. 90% have never operated a business. It can really effect the choices made and the money that isn't!!! Seems like you are apporaching it like we did, Had jobs and other businesses and approached the haunt as a part-time "paid hobby". Decides how much I was willing to be able to lose and slowly build the business. Since I had back up income it wasn't necessary for the haunt to make anything the first couple years (which it didn't!!!) Reputation grew, experience grew, product grew and attendance grew!!
I certainly not saying the haunt business won't work....heck I beat the odds...just saying you need to really go in with eyes open and pocket book open, work really hard and hope for the best!! Just don't go in half-assed!! If you start out on too much of a shoestring budget you may develop a repuration that you never live down. Better to stay playing at the yard haunt longer and accumulate assets to go in correctly!! Good luck!!!
08-16-2011, 06:51 PM
I am not a pro haunter, but from what I have learned from others on this forum it's easy for business minded people to drive by a couple of haunts........guess how many people are at each haunt.............figure in a dollar amount and then come up with a profit. WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!
That is easy to do, but you first like everyone else have said you must love haunting to start what ever haunting venture you want to start.
A lot of people don't understand how much time, money, and effort goes to planning and opening a haunt. IT TAKES A LOT!!!
Most haunters would tell you they take a month or so off after October and then hit things hard for the next season come Feb or March.
Start as a home haunter or work at a haunt first!!!
All of us haunters big or small has PRIDE and the LOVE for what we do, money is not the first priority it's the rush of the scare that keeps us going!
08-16-2011, 08:31 PM
A proper plan and research is your #1 goal. Need to figure not only building size but how much is it going to cost and how will you pay for that over 12mths or do you get a temporary lease?
How much will props and building supplies cost as well as are you paying your actors?
Last major item is marketing. You can build the greatest haunt but what good is it if no one knows about it?
Your location is a big factor too. Not only area population but disposable income of that population.
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