View Full Version : Let me re-phrase.
02-11-2007, 10:14 PM
I asked if $10,000.00 would get me by to build my own haunt. Well I have researched everything from Lumber, to Electrical, to safety features, to costumes and makeup for 20 actors, fire retard and paint, legal papers, props, and misc. items. And I came up with a figure of about $10,000.00. Yes my goal is more then that, but I may not get that much. I do plan on constucting my walls myself, paint them and fire retard them. And yes I will have help with that, I also have the time as well as my dad, who is handy. Now I know that I left out utilites and building loans. I hope that those would be paid for after the season was over.
02-11-2007, 11:47 PM
You forgot insurance, and that might be a pretty penny. When we all replied to you last post, we were all just curious as to where the money was going. How much square feet you have, etc... Then we all started sharing stories of what $10,000 did for us. As you probably know it gets you what you need, but it will not be enough. In short, yes, it will get you by, but you gotta do with what you have.
02-11-2007, 11:56 PM
Smaller haunted venues can make money if you have the peculair talents involving communicating well, thetrically with others.
A room large enough to seat 20 to 30 people all paying to see and hear you and be entertained can work.
Three miles of plywood temporary walls and $20,ooo in purchased toys are not the only way to go.
If this is all about seeing how much money you can harvest, that's fine but you will probably need a location near a large population, which is more expensive, and you will be seeing more competiton usually and then you will need alot of hired help (Avoid the hired helpless!)
Nobody else has all your answers for you, but you probably know that by now.
I sure don't know it all, maybe nobody really can?
We all know what worked for us, individually, though.
02-12-2007, 12:50 AM
If you want to recoup expenses at least half of that should be put into "media and promotions"
If you plan to spend 10K on construction and operations try to locate at least another 8 to 10K to let people know your out there. The idea of "If you build they will come" only works for baseball movies. you HAVE to let them know you built it or you will be spending lots-o-time learning about your actors real lives.
Life experience over, stepping off the soap box
02-12-2007, 03:17 AM
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.
02-12-2007, 06:57 AM
There are a lot of factors and figures... I believe Greg caught there...
And I totally agree... How much time, involvement and you time depends on the budget too.
But as an example - I just did a budget for a First Year Haunt.
6,000 sq Feet. and approx 5,000 sq feet outdoor area.
Total Budget: $51,000
Includes, Insurance, Labor, Props, Advertising, Lumber, Paint, Emergency Lighting, Electrical, etc. etc.
My team will be doing the design and actual construction so that is not figured in, since we will be taking a $$ per ticket. But it does give you an idea...if YOU were doing the labor w/ help.
And as Joe pointed out - the rule of thumb in the industry is $2 per head on advertising - but I have stretched my dollar and marketing to actually have a $1.00 to $1.50 payoff per person So if you were hoping for 6,000 people - set a advertising budget $7,500 - $9,000 not saying you might be able to do it for less, but always a good rule of thumb
My first year haunt which was 3,500 sq feet probably ran me $10,000 but I also had all the props, sponsors, and some free lumber. And a free space!
02-12-2007, 10:34 AM
In Rob Schneider's voice - You can dooo iiit
02-12-2007, 11:14 AM
Well, again, before we can REALLY help you out, we need more information.
How big of a haunt are you planning on having?
How many people a night do you want to have go through?
What is your ticket price?
In other words, you ask can you put on a haunted house for $10,000? I am sure that there are many home haunters that do it for that money, heck maybe less. Do they have 2000 a night going through? I really doubt it. I was watching one of Larrys DVDs last night and he was talking about a budget of $200,000 and sales of $300,000 and I was just rolling my eyes as I found those numbers CRAZY in a video for creating a new haunted house. Maybe I am just poor, but I do not have $200000 to invest in a gamble. So any way, YES you can do it, will you make a big profit? If you do, make sure you make a how to DVD and you will have people buying it to learn from you!
Ok, where do I start.
Most of this stuff on here is true but-DONT LET IT SCARE YOU AWAY!!
'06 was my first year haunt. I have been buying stuff for the last 6 or 7 years(various costumes, masks, props, decor, etc.),with no intentions of openning up a haunt for a few more years, and I found out that I had a free building to work with this year. My best friend is a volunteer firefighter, and the fire dept. wanted to do a haunted house as a fundraiser. They brought me in and at the first meeting, they(not I-but the fire dept. which knew nothing about a haunted house) set the budget at $2000. $2000!!! WTF!!! I cant do anything with $2000. But that was it, thats all I had. Oh, and I had 1 month till openning day to do everything-EVERYTHING.
As far as advertising, we printed about 2000 full page fliers at first, and then more later on, overall cost on fliers- about$250
I later bought a radio spot on a popular station here. We had 15 or 17 spots at 30 seconds each-this came out of my personal expense and not the $2000 budget. cost? $450
Add in insurance- $480
As far as setup, we bought a lot of black plastic from Home Depot, and various other things to put it together.
Long story short, after our first weekend(which did well over my expectations), we added some more stuff to the place.
Our overall expenses came out thye $2100 to $2200. Now again, I already have lots of stuff from the last 7 years, so as far as decor and costuming goes, that was taken care of.
Overall, I'd say that word of mouth was much more effective than fliers or radio. In the end, we put through 1350 people, and did nearly $10,000 in sales, with a lot of repeat business. By the way- our haunt was around 3200 sq. ft.
Now this might not seem like a lot compared to some other haunters on this forum, but for the size town that I'm in, the amount of money we had to work with, and the amount of time we had to work with- we did nearly the impossible, and we pulled it off with flying colors!
According to some big haunts, $10,000 budget is a drop in the bucket compared to some other budgets, but to me- I would LOVE to have $10,000 to work with. This year, since we have more time and money to work with, and I plan on having a 10,000 sq. ft. haunt, with some nice goodies from Transworld.
I hope with you reading the above posts, they don't scar you away, they're all just trying to show you what you might not know what to expect, or not know whats around the corner.
I would recommend, at least for the first year, to team up with a vol. fire dept., and this will help get you on your feet. My personal cut from my deal with the fire dept. was $3700 profit on top of what I spent, in my pocket. Again, that's nothing compared to most haunts, but being a first year, with the pitiful budget and amount of time, I consider that great, and that gives me just that much more to work with this year.
You can do it!! You can do the impossible!!!
02-12-2007, 04:12 PM
Brad, we should team up, you start haunts at firehalls and then I come in The second or third year with walled attractions and tell the firemen how evil black plastic is and they can make even more money with detailed sets and quality attractions. Or I just outlined your next step? Walking out with $3700 is pretty good. That's 100 walls and some more toys for the second season.
We got fliers donated and posters donated from top notch shops in great quantity, Some lumber was donated, A whole other haunt troup that was displaced added their props and provided half of the acting and had one big night of their customers come with food and bands.
Firehalls are great. You don't need a sprinkler system when you have 8,000 gallons of water, 3 pumper trucks and 10 people on hand that know how to use them. They already have one or two 3,000 SF bays that are clean and sound, They generally do other fund raisers so have the proper mind set, they have radios, know how to handle gawking crowds of people, how to direct traffic. And it is fun for them. It is additional team work for them to get acclamated to one another that would prove important in an emergency situation and it brings them money.
Our wall system gets stripped of props and used as a rescue training facility, finding and dragging out victims in a hypothetical situation dragging int he tools and hoses and dragging everything back out. If a few areas work well together it can be for many surrounding area fire halls.
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