View Full Version : What is the going rate for live actors?

Luke Furney
08-28-2012, 10:53 AM
I was wondering what the going rate for live actors should be? Also security and ticket booth workers and so on?

Howie Slobber Erlich
08-28-2012, 11:34 AM
There are a lot of variables. How long have they worked for you, how good an actor, how hard is the position, are they getting paid cash or check, are you taking out taxes or 1099ing them or no taxes at all, are they full time or part timers and so on?

I have had this debate with several local haunt owners over the years. I have in the past paid my actors as high as $10.00 an hour to someone who had been with me for over 10 years. In the first couple years I paid as low as $5.00 an hour cash and did not take out taxes.

So, after speaking to a very respected local haunt owner, he said 90% of all his actors only make minimum wage. I have decided this year that all my actors are going to be making the exact same amount. This way there are no hard feelings or feelings of favoritism. All actors are making $7.50 per hour which is .10 over Michigan's Minimum wage. Keep in mind, that I also do cash bonuses for best actors every night, ranging from $20.00 to $100.00 and tons of horror merchandise as well. Almost every actor will get one or more bonuses through out the season.

Simple fact is, with the way the economy is right now, there are plenty of people who would love to work for that amount, and would be very grateful on top of that. I may lose some actors this year because it will be a pay decrease for some of them. I will be very sad about that. But the simple fact is, I still have to be able to make a profit too. I have a workers meeting scheduled for the 16th of Sept., and as of right now, I have 40 more people showing up then I will need. It will be no problem filling my haunt with quality actors.

Now as far as ticket booth and security. Ticket booth people will also be making $7.50 an hour. But, security is a different matter. This is the hardest one to figure out. YOU NEED GOOD SECURITY! Quality security people who you know you can trust to handle any situation, the way you want it handled, are hard to come by. You need to negotiate the best deal possible but understand that these for the most part are not going to take minimum wage. Figure at least $10.00 per hour up to about $25.00 per hour. I usually set a flat rate per night depending weekday or weekend. I am the closet haunt to Detroit and have never had any major security problem because I have great Security.

Hope this helps a bit,

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted Attraction (The Final Chapter)

Luke Furney
08-28-2012, 12:19 PM

Thanks for the reply, I'm also in Michigan as well; I'm located about 10 minutes south of Kalamazoo. I'm really just trying to cover my bases before under taking all of this. I really don't want to make a low quality or run of the mill haunted house.

Howie Slobber Erlich
08-28-2012, 12:31 PM
I would say to you that it takes time to build a quality attraction. Do not over extend your first year or two. The first thing is to establish good word of mouth. That does not mean you have to spend a fortune. Just be creative and make sure your actors do a good job. Once you get there, then you'll start really getting busy and that means more money to do bigger and better things.

This is my 26th year in the business. 13 years for charity and 13 years for profit. (Cool I just realized that!) And sadly my last year. Mainly do to declining health. After all these years, I am finally happy with what I have accomplished in the business. Both good and bad. It's all been a very fun journey that I learned a lot from, and who I have met so many life long friends!

I wish you the very best this year and for the future. If there are any other questions I could help you with, don't hesitate to ask.


Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted Attraction (The Final Chapter)

08-28-2012, 01:51 PM

Howie is great and very experienced (much more than me) you definitely should respect his word.

However......I have never and will never pay someone to act for me. And I have over 45 actors on any given night.

My crew is entirely volunteer, and I don't run a cheesy charity haunt these days, my partner and I are doing a lot of hard work to make sure our actors, scenes and scares DO NOT reflect upon anyone else's in the state. We want to be unique.

So now onto the financial side, is it cheaper to pay everyone minimum wage, or cheaper to find dedicated volunteers who LOVE acting and scaring for the FUN of it and will give you their ALL, and give them community service hours for school or whatever if they need them and just donating a percentage of the ticket sales?

Weigh your costs, pay everyone or pay no one but donate to a worthy charity?

Being a not for profit haunt, we landed both armed and unarmed certified security as well as a few off duty cops for free from a trusted security company that is paying those guys for us, out of their pocket. They're using it as a write off, and we get to feel beyond safe! I couldn't be more grateful!

Just something to think about, especially for your first year. :)

Howie, much respect buddy! Not trying to disrespect ya, that's just the way I run my haunt :)

Allen H
08-28-2012, 02:18 PM
I like $8/ hour.

08-28-2012, 07:41 PM
We pay out "Main" actors $350 for the season. Then we supplement the actor field with groups from the college. We make a deal with them that they supply us with 8 actors a night and we "donate" $1500 to their club. We also feed everyone, supply the costumes and makeup and supply pop/water for the night. Seems to work well for us.

Jim Warfield
08-28-2012, 09:14 PM
" worked for 3 months building his haunt, I managed it every night , he was going to pay me for all of this November 1st, then he disappeared!" (I guess financially speaking the employer withheld 100% for the payroll taxes?)
I don't know how anyone could do this to someone else, but then in my working life I was usually the guy getting hollow promises in leu of foldable money.
In Illinois if you own a haunt or are paid to work in one, You have to have a criminal backround check, this costs Us $16.oo/per/person. They reject anyone with a history of frequenting prostitutes too, so this means ... don't pay That bill!???haha!
How many "$16.oo's do we spend every year and THEN they decide to Not Show Up? Don't ask. ("Grrrr!")
One of our employees's name was caught by the state computer-ejected because some convict had once used "part" of His name as an alias, so now for the rest of our employees life he must be finger-printed every year to prove he is not the other guy, which costs somebody $45.oo! He says he paid it this year.
I once hired an old celebrity to work here, he said he was "Tony The Tiger", he resembled him too, then I discover that he lied! He was NOT "Tony The Tiger!", he was "Chester The Frito Molester!" I actually implement "Chester" in my first room and get screams from many people when they see him!... then they laugh, as required.

08-28-2012, 09:32 PM
I too like 8 and 8 likes me.

I prefer to mix my vols with my paids about equally.

This year I've worked a scheme to help me manage actors by classifying their positions and importance into 3 categories: A,B and C.

The A's are the must-have-covered spots, usually comprised of the best actors, and qualify for pay if they're up to standard and want it. I get vols here too.

The B's are the fill-if-you-can spots but won't stop the show if unfilled. They can qualify for pay, but so far it's not been a huge issue. I have asked that they either vol some time or donate some pay to charity. B's get bumped to A spots if unfilled, sort of understudy style.

The C's are volunteer only spots, and again I have had no problem filling them. These are usually my youngest or high school vol time seekers. C's get bumped to B spots if needed or even A's, but so far thats not happened.

The real trick is designing the haunt so that the A's,B's and C's are evenly mixed about. Makes it WAY easier to sub a guy on zero notice if he's at least slightly familiar with the position by being near it prior.

Luke Furney
08-28-2012, 09:57 PM
Thanks, everyone for the continued input; I'll put all my findings in front of my team and make something work for us.

Howie Slobber Erlich
08-29-2012, 06:39 AM
I agree with some of these posts as well, especially about volunteers. We make all of our full timers volunteer at least 2 nights each season. Many end up volunteering more nights just to help the cause. I use that money to help pay for a great party after the haunt is finished.

My experience with going all volunteer actors is that a lot of them are not as good and don't care as much about doing a top notch job. Also, they seem to be a lot less reliable because it's not like they are worried about getting fired. So sometimes they just don't show up or call to let ya know they are not coming in that night leaving you without people to fill their spots and making you run around at the last minute to rearrange things. After all, they can show up at any haunt and be put to work as a volunteer. Who's going to turn down free help? so if you go that route, make sure you have a handfull of extras so you never end up with a haunt that looks short on monsters. As a customer of a haunt I hate when you enter a scene that you know is supposed to have someone working at nobody is there to scare ya!

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted Attraction (The Final Chapter)

Jim Warfield
08-29-2012, 12:03 PM
I was paying my actors $10 an hour. Funny thing is, it seemed the more I paid them, the more problems they gave ME!
"He-said-She said", personal bull-chitt I didnot need to know or hear about when we were supposed to be "working" thinking about what they were supposed to be doing next, you know, the reason they were getting paid to be here!
I admit to totally ruining one young man by giving him a nice bonus at the end of a season. (He had a lot of talent)
The next season his ego was sky-high (Too high) and he was a huge butt-pain in the house, very disruptive to the things my other employees were attempting to do.
My main disappointment has always been hiring people who really weren't "Into It", even though all of this peculair fun is hiding around every corner waiting to happen, almost non-stop.
I have been "Into It" from the time I was 4 years old, with no let up!
(I have the pictures to prove it too!hahaha!)

08-30-2012, 07:37 AM
Now i feel like a cheap A$$. I pay $25.00 a night and a $100.00 bouns if you work ALL 15 nights!........oh and my makeup staff gets $20.00 on top of that. most act so thats $45.00 a night plus bonus.

Howie Slobber Erlich
08-30-2012, 11:08 AM

Just hope your actors don't read it! LOL

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted Attraction (The Final Chapter)

09-02-2012, 01:29 AM
you get what you pay for you dont pay you dont get

09-02-2012, 08:04 AM
Now i feel like a cheap A$$. I pay $25.00 a night and a $100.00 bouns if you work ALL 15 nights!........oh and my makeup staff gets $20.00 on top of that. most act so thats $45.00 a night plus bonus.

I've worked under similar conditions before. The first haunt I worked at paid $25 cash, with the potential for up to $15 in additional performance-based bonuses, per night.
Incentive systems like that can work wonders for some people.
I can tell you there were maybe two nights that I didn't walk out of there with the full $40, but there were plenty of co-workers who were happy just to take the $25 and do the bare minimum.

Jim Warfield
09-02-2012, 11:55 AM
You pay someone $10 an hour, and they think you have now paid them to just show up, Now if you need them to actually DO something, then you should pay them some more money.
I admit it, I come from a generation from long ago (Hatched 1949) I wil also admit to being grossly over-paid as a kid with a dollar a week alowance because movie admission was only 15cents, a big real chocolate candy bar was 10 cents, a plastic airplane model was 29 cents up to 98 cents, a tube of model glue was 10cents, Testor paint wasn't quite 10 cents yet, a comic book was 10 cents, neighborhood hooker-girls were only.. whoops! forget that.
I have worked long hours doing strenious tasks for much less than the min, wage most of my life, but everybody who works for me does get paid because I have sharp memories of being on that other end of the brown, smelly "Stick".(That you throw deep into the woods, far from the main trail, so as not to offend.)
I pacify any twinges of any guilt I might feel because I did build my business, doing probably 95% of All the work here it took to rebuild this old house and create all the rest of it,and contrary to some people's twisted, fantastic thinking, I am not a wealthy person, never have been, never will be unless something utterly fantastic might happen to make that happen. (Not counting on that)

09-04-2012, 07:16 PM
We have been doing about 10 dollars a hour plus a bonus if they show up all our nights, works pretty well but they are still college kids and tend to be unreliable sometimes

09-12-2012, 10:26 PM
Some great posts here, thanks for all who contributed. I think they all have merit, but at the same time, some claims are not universal. The feeling that "you get what you pay for" certainly applies to many, but not all haunts. I'm sure I'm not the only one here who would volunteer for free and give it my all if I I didn't have my own haunt. For years, I lost money doing this kind of thing, paying for the opportunity to scare, so doing it for "free" is not an outrageous idea at all. (It would certainly be a lot less stress!)

Most of our staff is volunteer, and one such person reminds me that there are some very well known haunts that use all volunteers, and they do fabulous work. He worked for House of Shock, with around 300 volunteers, about 200 of which return from year to year. And they take their work very seriously. That's in a major city (New Orleans) which certainly helps.

Smaller markets have to save money somewhere, and full time staff costs a lot more than just an hourly rate. Workman's Comp insurance, paper work, social security... It can be cost prohibitive for a lot of haunts that depend on a giant staff to fill a giant area. Fortunately, haunting is one area where the biggest budget doesn't mean you have the best haunt. (If it did, Universal and Busch Gardens would be the best in the business, but they aren't.) Creativity, originality, and commitment can still trump money in this profession. Let's hope it stays that way.