Even being handy the next hurdle is time. Every wall will require 2 hours to construct well and apply two coats of paint and some lay out room to do several at a time. Then where will it be stored. How will it be moved, how will the lumber be brought to assemble.
How many props will it require, how many costumes and how many hours does it take to procure these things. Sometimes spending money is a real job. This is where the even more talent comes in. The organized delegation of tasks that need to be done. Web presence, back stories, themes.
How much time you have will more dictate how big and how detailed it will be. As the questions we possed got the general responce that it took 16 years to get to 6,000 to 8,000 SF of very detailed offerings.
As a customer, I wandered around doing my research of every type of haunt imaginable and combined what I liked about each one. Some of it was obviously not in my purchasing power but, it was in my relm of expertise if I had the time. I spent a lot of time 5 years ago complaining about what I termed black plywood habitrails. Now I'm the proud owner of one however each year it gets an onsite treatment. There is a black wall system and then a whole other set of sheets that will go onto this that offer different or matching detail. The 30 people have to help and do at the 11th hour before opening. I actually used the "all we have here is a black plywood habitrail" in my speech that we are not done yet meetings. I was reassured things would be happening and they did. Even materials to decorate laboratories or boiler rooms, things hanging in the path all come at the last minute sometimes from the junk behind everyone's place of work that you never new was available until you need it.
You can have all the lumber cut to size and painted and do all of the assembly the month before with enough people. I think it was xxxDirk that was having to set up twice in a very short period of time. Our first haunt we got notice that it was something they might want to do on September 30th and went in with everything dissasembled but, painted and assembled 3,000 SF in 19 days while maintaining our day jobs that are not a piece of cake either.
This is why I asked how big it was when you started. The best answer was 50 SF. So what if you only have time to make 1,000 or 2,000 SF do you wait? No. You just find big things to occupy space like cars, bridges, toxic waste dumps from barrels and so on.
If you want a detailed asthetic it takes a lot of time to hand craft super detailed tombstones but, in the half dark and fog a simple inpainted piece of styrofoam with no writting looks like a tombstone if cut to the right shape.
You can fill large areas with potted trees and landscaping materials. Yet even being fabulously creative like this takes some time to spot where these resources might come from. It becomes a quick education of what is in my town, what is in the back where I'm not supposed to see.
And then yes, advertising can be done two ways. You either pay someone $4,000 to develop a campaign that might draw 2,000 to 4,000 patrons or it is your job to BE the advertising man. How does one do what they do, who do they know, who do they call, how do you get the attention of the right people and how many hours will each of those tasks require.
However, a starter haunt might be a big let down if it has Disneyesk high dollar advertising and there is only an actor every 50 feet in 7500 SF. Or the actual Disney Haunted Mansion Facade is actually only 2,000 SF and that's it. So even the advertising being understated, flyers printed on orange paper and things written on cars can do wonders. Even advertising becomes an art. Sometimes a hand painted fruit stand sign on a disgarded piece if soiled wood, spelled wrong will get more attention than a $20,000 billboard with a real car coming out of it.
It's better to work the advertising quality up each year as well to match the offering of the event. When you go from a super detailed 16 year construction into a 2 year old habitrail (even others I have experienced) in most cases the customer is not the slightest savy to the fact that there is anything better. I proved to myself that a black plywood habitrail has an endering quality to customers if it has a lot of heart. The ones I complained about tried to do 20,000 SF of black plywood habitrail instead of 2,000 SF with lots of action. Going too big is a burden that timewise can not be properly detailed.
Our competitor has built up over years (since the late 70's) to 7500 SF. Yet they had only 3 people put their all into propping it out. My 3,000 SF triangular black plywood habitrail was actually the same walking distance with the larges room being about 8 X12 with twisty turney maze hallways. They had 20 by 12 rooms and long 6 foot wide halls in between with nothing happening. Ours by design had something happening everywhere and because of the triangular shape there is no way to see what is more than 12 feet in front of you. They have 400 walls. I have 170 and actually the first year charged more money than them.
There is also the factor of wearing everyone out. People that just spent 30 days going to their day job and then frantically building because the TV cameras are coming Wednesday might not be the best and most enthusiastic actors also. So you have additionally others who only act in key positions. You also want to limit how many days you are open. You will see the same amount of people in a starting venue no matter if you are open only 4 nights or open 16 nights.
This is where all of this advice is a bit tricky. You know or can find out how many people other haunts in your area have seen meanwhile I'm giving my assumption about the type of haunt that has been your experience in your town. Others (some that are also about to have an event) are flat out expecting 20,000 people the first year as customers, no question, it has to be, every other place is doing it, all you have to do is hang an open sign. It doesn't work that way.
You will also find that no one wants to share their lame beginnings. I don't give a crap, it is the truth no one will relate. I have looked at big names right in the eye and asked these questions.
It takes time to do, time to absorb what has been learned, time to realize cetain people not only have developed but exhibit certain skills like they said they would. Time, Time, Time. On the opposite side of the scale I know a guy who will sell you a signature attraction for $75,000 that gets 500 people per hour. It's a money machine. It can be set up in a week. Well I have seen this thing go into a town of 4.5 million and see 800 people as customers with $25,000 in advertising that was supposed to be done, that might not have been done as there wasn't time to make all those last minute shopping decisions.
Just being on a highway that sees 80,000 cars a day means nothing. That's good for 400 people the first year. It takes time to educat the customers. They have to hear about it all year long from freinds (perhaps discussions on MySpace?) no matter of money can just ring a bell and the hounds come running unless the hounds know this means it is time to eat.
Being at a location where people go by at 20 MPH or have to sit in traffic might still not have any effect unless they see a cool facade and can understand what this crap on the side of the road is all about. It takes time for them to absorb, to internalize and be told by others, dude get your coat this is something cool and we have to go now!
You have to be unquestionably handy or ready to develop the market over years. I don't think a marketing study available for $25,000 from an agency telling the population and your expected demographic will work. Your product might be the best in the world, absolutely unique and it will be judged by the competition 5 years ago that had a black plastic haunt even with TV time showing the inside.
It takes time to develop a regular clientel and if you only have 40 hours per year to do that there has to be a buzz. Something unusual, exciting, odd enough to be talked about. On going spectacles of weirdness that make people ask you and each other questions. And they need the time to wonder if they the customers are up for that.
What part of "you can do it" do you not understand? The you or the it.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.