From going the other way, doing highly detailed scenes to a black plywood habitrail I couldn't believe just how better recived the simple black walls were. No animatronics, some sound effects, strobes and other lighting, lots of actors and a few dummies to fill in the spots. Something to contend with every 12 linear feet or so. Lots of good props, perhaps a bridge through a cemetery that is larger. Its almost like customer expectations also change from location to location. Some may actually not appreciate big toys with just plain not every day experienced black mazes being better. It may have been more well recieved as it was not visually overwhelming, their minds made it entertaining wondering what is next with adrenalin rather than forced perspective.
On the same token there is a fine line to customers entertaining themselves. What are they paying for if it is self serve.
I would expect this to be a starter haunt. I have been through 30,000 SF of black plywood with characters pointing the way every 100 feet or so, not really interacting with two really poorly decorated scenes. That was a pro haunt. I felt like for $18.99 patrons should be able to take a piece of plywood home on the roofs of their car.
In comparison, 3,000 SF plywood habitrail with lots of interaction and 12 to 17 scenes is better than 30,000 SF of nothing. 3,000 SF with lots of actors and not much detail is better than a haunt of the same size with painted walls to look like a mansion and no actors and few props inside. The price must be lower as well to be a success. Bigger is not always better.
It seems somewhere a memo went out that $18.99 is the new $5 and no one told me. It has been done, but I would not open with a "what the market will bear" price. I would work the detail and realtive price up over years of development.
If I had 8,000 SF to start out with, it would be two haunts one at 5,000 and one at 3,000 or two 4,000 SF units with different themes. Then yu can bump the price up a bit to $12 or $13. Maybe 3 or 4 haunts and lots of side activities qualifies for $18.99
Although we try to come up with a formula, there are too many variables. You may have really large hollywood level sets that each take up 3,000 SF each and several of these comprise a 24,000 SF haunt. Or it is a mix and match of sized experiences. Really tight mazes and huge scenes. Little scenes and still high interaction. Huge scenes with anticipation. Having to walk through the woods or even an indoor wooded scene knowing the monsters are assembling for some reason along both sides is kind of freaky.
I personally have not seen a "theatrical" style scene work well or when the manner of operating maybe 1 in 10 little plays is actually captivating. So I am expecting good acting pertains to just being creepy and staying in character.
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