There are a lot of problems with the go big off the bat business theory. It ends up in failure all the time and that 10% that say they are still at it, have simply chosen it to be a lifestyle rather that that thing that is going to let them retire early.
There are lots of problems with 2 year or 5 year break even scenarios because in todays world of everything being fractured and lots and lots of competition, You can't just assume spending money is going to make it happen. You have to develop your clientel with lots of little experiments. To get feed back that what you are doing is crap or wildly successful or at least broke even.
If using the restaraunt scenario, you could have a hot dog cart and just a few events to make sure people are wild about your hot dog and fixings or it is impossible to compete with some corporate vendor strategy. Whereas it isn't simple to say that there is a sucker born every minute, now everyone can find what ever on the internet for free. As you mention some or lots of people are tired of haunted houses that exist and the new generations could compare you venue to either small live bands somewhere in an underground location or to a movie that has a 300 million dollar budget.
You can't just say a partner with no previous track record is going to fix that or just spending $1 or $3 per customer is going to make it happen. More like it takes 3 years of smaller stunts to get noticed, have a social network that is solid and then you can go medium or go home. If you go big and fail you have ruined your lifes access to resources. Sorry.
If there are partners they need years to develop the skills specific to the location. Actors evolve over several years and return but then 5 years down the line kind of get lacks because the have earned the right to just show up or something. And it all comes down to you. Pieces of a haunt I got were floating around for sale because the guy died. The guy who layed out the wonderful life of haunting in a big way died. The two guys from my business that I felt would be a great match for doing a haunt as a second business, one died on his motorcycle, and the other one in a different scenario also went into a coma from bouncing his head off the aspalt on a motorcycle. Those two I have never been able to replace in capabilities. But, I had a remodeled haunt. Then the location that we had been doing events at was lost in the landlords divorce.
SO my haunt became a charity event where there were lots of people that could and would do things. Except for actually telling anyone they had a haunt opened. It still made money. BUt in the mean time some younger guys with advertising backgrounds started the first pro haunt in the area. Their charity dues went on for 3 years where they basically used the charities advertising budget and the characters they created to develop a following where it was sort of understandable that they had a real segment of clientel that would come to a haunted house, people would want to be actors and people would want to set things up and make things long term even if it paid nothing.
After a few decades there are some zen principals.
Lots of people die at an early age and it seems to be from working themselves to death because there is a deadline or they have to have it now and in excess.
Lots of bitches seem to think they need mood altering legal drugs and go nuts and cause divorces.
There is an astounding number of people who can't do shit.
So that leaves you alone with how much can you put up with. So you start super small even if that is an entirely different angle on the haunted house experience. Have people following you for years wondering now what is he doing. In a way, I did that too, it became second nature to do something different.
So I'm supporting things like Frighteners mobile attractions because it may take a few years but instead of just whipping out $200,000 no one actually has or can borrow, you have earned it and know when pay day will be 4 or 5 years down the road and then you have a break even first year event.
A couple years of being a mobile hot dog vendor completely understanding the tastes of the locals. Like who knew, here instead of mustard and relish it is miracle whip and relish. Disgusting but if that is what they want, heres freaking miracle whip on your hot dogs. So you are the guy who isn't a cookie cutter franchise that doesn't have miracle whip or thinks relish is expensive so you get shitty little condement packets if you want that only by special request.
So you end up with a complete knowing of your market, not Bob is our marketing guy and he is going to pull all this amazing crap off starting the week we open this year for 50 cents a customer.
You can't get a loan for $200,000 since you haven't already done it and proven you can make $200,000 but you can get $3 per customer having a halloween party. Then in a city like Philidelphia, you probably will have to spend $3 per customer to do it, so you save the $3 per customer and spend their money to get them to come support the big thing. You already have several groups on social marketing, email lists and become a character of sorts and you are just cashing in on the big album tour. That is the proper other people's money scenario. Indivviduals having been inexpensively entertained funded your deal and the money went to send them a personal invitation that they already paid for and are highly likely to respond to.
Some haunts have taken 15 years and 20 years for this automatic fan base to develop. So the trick is to have as much haunt as the fan base deserves and actually supports. Not Just 50,000 SF or go home. Not when you can just have a scary bag of tricks that is a total of 2 SF.
So then in the bigger picture you still have the mobile hot dog stands not making much money but not costing money out there being your advertising media. So many companies after the fact have service branches that are a lost leader but necessary to keep finding the new customers. You don't stop the mobile activities, or go back to it as an after thought, it is part of the program. Then it doesn't matter what other haunts are doing one bit, you have qualified YOUR customer that still has life in them and is intrested and hasn't just been expected to be a good consumer.
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.