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Thread: Orlando Haunted House

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  1. Default Orlando Haunted House 
    #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Orlando
    Posts
    37
    My name is Mike Layton, Iím currently in the process of starting a small company that will produce a seasonal haunted attraction in Orlando (I know a year round haunted attraction would never survive as seen by several attempts so far). The past few Halloween seasons I spent visiting the competition in Orlando and some of the top Haunted Houses in the country, Netherworld and the 13th Gate. Iíve even helped build the sets for Halloween Horror Nights. From these experiences, I realize the quality you need to succeed and the standards set by these attractions. I know with this being my first year I could never be at the same level as Netherworld, but they are still my idol.

    Hereís a little background about myself. I have a BFA in Design/Tech with an emphasis on Technical Production. I am currently the Assistant Technical Director at University of Central Floridaís Conservatory Theatre. I worked on several haunted houses in the past as the Technical Supervisor. These were smaller attractions in Northern Florida. I have experience using many different materials and techniques including wood, metal, plastic, and foam. I also do all the special effects and automation for the theatre. Additionally, I have created several large animatronic props for use in some of the haunted houses I used to work for.

    What I want to do, for some time now, is put all my talents into an amazing professional haunted house of my own. Money has been the leading issue for some time now. But if I start small enough and continue to grow into something better, I hope to overcome my previous challenges. Iíve started by organizing a small group of technical theatre students. I have designers, stage managers, actors, technicians, and costume designers that all want to help out. I plan on opening the Haunted House in North Eastern Orlando somewhere between the large campuses of UCF and Valencia Community College. It is from these area schools that I hope to draw most of my customers.

    Iím new to starting a business but have experience in running a smaller haunted attraction. I know I can succeed for several reasons. First, Iím not in it for the money. I think this is an important factor. Few people ever get rich at what they do. You have to do something because you love it, otherwise, youíll lose interest. And I plan on donating a portion of the profits to a local charity. Second, Iím more about quality over quantity. I donít want people standing in line as they go through my haunted house. I know this may be a bad business choice but it brings me to my third point. I have a full time job and do not hope to receive large sums of money from my endeavor. Iím a realistic person and all efforts will focus on breaking even this first year.

    Iíve been reading as much as I can from everything I can get my hands on. Iíve spent a lot of time looking through and reading this forum and have found out how close a community the Haunted Industry is. Iíve joined IAHA and hope to one day be able to give back to them all the help they are providing me with.

    I guess Iím really posting this because Iím looking for any and all advice to help me in my business venture. Iíd also like to rally any support in the local area. Any and all help will be much appreciated. Itís important to note that Iím not rich and I know I still have a lot to learn. But with support, I am determined to succeed.
     

  2. Default  
    #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Bakersfield CA
    Posts
    67
    first big step is to get a rough budget for actors, building props, makeup equipment etc.... then double it.... If you can manage this new budget and are still interested then proceed. And don't forget a budget for marketing efforts, a great haunt with no marketing is just that a great haunt that no one knows about. I would also be amazed if you broke even your first year, your safer plan as I see it is to have say a 3-7 year plan and assume the first year flops and a slow increase from there where as you are breaking even at the mid point of your plan. This seems to be the norm for the industry. Good luck, if i were on the other side of the country I'd offer to help more

    Nick
    Holy crap scaring people is fun!!!

    The Chamber
    Bakersfield CA
    Actor and (more then i thought id be doing)

     

  3. Default  
    #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Mesquite, TX
    Posts
    2,788
    Nick has a great point about the budget, Im amazed at how much screws and hinges can add to he budget, and almost no one includes them in their budgets.
    My other bit of advice is to start small, I think you are on the right track there. If you can, put nothing on credit, challenge yourself to be a frugal as possible and owe nothing at the start of the season.
    Your marketing depends on your location, I like to just have a big sign by the highway (which can be free) and all of the free listings in every newspaper within 2 hours drive of you. Thats all I normally do for my first year, depending on location you can see 4,000 + first year. Your cast can also help get the word out, have a school night for sports teams or clubs trying to raise money, give them a $1 of each admission (that mentions that school) You get a week or two worth of free morning announcements at the high school (work two or three a weekend) and they make a couple hundred bucks for doing nothing.
    Let your audience tell you how much to spend each year, do not spend and hope they will come.
    I know many others will give you completely different advice, but Im giving advice a grandpa would give, and it does not mean both approaches wont work, just less risk my way.
    I would also focus on something your competition cant give, a personal show. The good actors that HHN gets are a happy accident, they do not train for squat and they do not spend enough time on the patrons as they get a cattle call going through most of the time.
    If you get going in the area let me know because I have a ton of ex Terror on church st. and Skull kingdom friends who are pros and love the work. do not try to match universal for money, beat them with heart.
    Much luck and good vibes sent to a new show in my old stomping grounds.
    Allen H
     

  4. Default You have already gotten excellant advice. 
    #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Posts
    12,813
    In the two previous replies. This might sound a bit unusual but my advice would possibly prod you towards looking at the whole haunt as your artistic expression so your end product remains different and personally special, something many customers will realise and appreciate and will also help generate a patronage attitude from your customers.
    Give them a special experienceand they will remember it , advertise it for you, for free, and return to keep you growing.
    All of this is peculiar advice and is a very personal decision and a singular way to proceed by your statements seem to already be sort of aiming you in such a direction or I would not be saying these things.
    I started small and relatively quietly and over the last 20plus years have actually designed and built 99% of what people see and experience after they buy a ticket from me.
    Last night one customer told me he has been buying my tickets since 1992 and he enjoys seeing my "works-in-progress" everytime he is here.
    You can see some of the evidence at : hauntedravensgrin.com
    Good Luck.
     

  5. Default  
    #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    FLORIDA
    Posts
    49
    hay in live in orlando ill come to ur haunted house enven though im a home haunter and only 17 years old if you need some actors im there and some of my friends we dont screw around most importantly we take great pride in how safe we make our home haunt
    terror tents we will leave you screaming
     

  6. Default Responses 
    #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Orlando
    Posts
    37
    Nick,

    Thanks for your advice Nick. Iíve been working on the budget and have a few questions. I am an experienced builder and have no trouble budgeting materials and equipment, but how much should I budget for marketing, insurance, and business/inspection type stuff? I already have a website for the business/haunt and have designed the logo. The website is still under construction. The majority of my marketing campaign will focus on directing people to this website. I plan on using posters, bumper stickers, and small hand out flyers. If I can spend under a thousand on marketing, that would be great. Itíll be a lot of leg work, but thatís the kind of person I am.

    Iíve read that people have obtained insurance for their haunt for under $600. Is this possible? Iíd need at least general liability coverage for a million dollars, but only for one month. I havenít asked for a quote yet because I do not have a location or any of the specific details the insurance company asks for. So I guess Iím looking for an average number small professional haunts spend on these items. My haunt will be around 3,000 to 3,500 sq.ft.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Allen,

    I agree 100% with your advice, especially about giving the audience a personal show. That was ALWAYS part of the plan. I have developed a storyline and plan on communicating that story to the audience as they go through the haunt. There will be audience to actor interaction throughout. Some rooms will have a small speech or skit. I will only allow small groups of no more than 6 people through at a time. I think that this is what will really set me apart from the competition, both with having a smaller more personalized terror and having a strong story that is clearly communicated throughout the haunt. I want people to feel that they understood what happened. Itíll be very similar to a theatre show, just with more audience participation.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Jim,

    You and I have a lot in common. Almost everything Iíve ever created was deigned and built by myself. I am strongly against the idea of buying store props and placing them throughout the haunt and as people go through they say ďIíve seen that at Spencerís or Wal-MartĒ. My stuff is always unique and I think people appreciate that. They want to see something they havenít before. I know sometimes itís not possible to create everything from scrap. I also feel that if you do buy from a store you need to at least change the store props so they become your own.

    Iíve looked at your website. I like your unique approach to your haunted house. The amount of creative liberty you use to entertain your guests is something to be admired. Your house is now on the list of must see haunted houses. Did you build that little tank yourself?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    theeverydayguy,

    Where about in Orlando are you located? Iíll keep you up to date on the haunt with whatís going on. Actors that donít screw around and respect safety are always needed. Thanks for your support.
     

  7. Default  
    #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Bakersfield CA
    Posts
    67
    Quote Originally Posted by backstagemike View Post
    Nick,

    Thanks for your advice Nick. Iíve been working on the budget and have a few questions. I am an experienced builder and have no trouble budgeting materials and equipment, but how much should I budget for marketing, insurance, and business/inspection type stuff? I already have a website for the business/haunt and have designed the logo. The website is still under construction. The majority of my marketing campaign will focus on directing people to this website. I plan on using posters, bumper stickers, and small hand out flyers. If I can spend under a thousand on marketing, that would be great. Itíll be a lot of leg work, but thatís the kind of person I am.

    Iíve read that people have obtained insurance for their haunt for under $600. Is this possible? Iíd need at least general liability coverage for a million dollars, but only for one month. I havenít asked for a quote yet because I do not have a location or any of the specific details the insurance company asks for. So I guess Iím looking for an average number small professional haunts spend on these items. My haunt will be around 3,000 to 3,500 sq.ft.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Allen,

    I agree 100% with your advice, especially about giving the audience a personal show. That was ALWAYS part of the plan. I have developed a storyline and plan on communicating that story to the audience as they go through the haunt. There will be audience to actor interaction throughout. Some rooms will have a small speech or skit. I will only allow small groups of no more than 6 people through at a time. I think that this is what will really set me apart from the competition, both with having a smaller more personalized terror and having a strong story that is clearly communicated throughout the haunt. I want people to feel that they understood what happened. Itíll be very similar to a theatre show, just with more audience participation.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Jim,

    You and I have a lot in common. Almost everything Iíve ever created was deigned and built by myself. I am strongly against the idea of buying store props and placing them throughout the haunt and as people go through they say ďIíve seen that at Spencerís or Wal-MartĒ. My stuff is always unique and I think people appreciate that. They want to see something they havenít before. I know sometimes itís not possible to create everything from scrap. I also feel that if you do buy from a store you need to at least change the store props so they become your own.

    Iíve looked at your website. I like your unique approach to your haunted house. The amount of creative liberty you use to entertain your guests is something to be admired. Your house is now on the list of must see haunted houses. Did you build that little tank yourself?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    theeverydayguy,

    Where about in Orlando are you located? Iíll keep you up to date on the haunt with whatís going on. Actors that donít screw around and respect safety are always needed. Thanks for your support.

    Although we are a larger haunt then you are going for, just for reference we have a budget of 12k for marketing.... It really is much more expensive then most would think. Also remember that you need to make 4-5 times as many fliers handouts etc. since only 1 of 5 will actually keep it and or attend. A grand is a very shoe string budget in my opinion, it is doable if you really work it. You need to get in touch with some print shops around you and get them to bid against each other on your account. You also need to find some cooperative advertising partners to help share the costs. As for your other budget questions its really hard to say, I'm not at all familiar with your market, building codes haunt situation etc. Your best bet is to just start calling places and getting ball park numbers, be upfront with them and say your not ready for a quote but your looking for a ball park figure so you can better assess the feasibility of this project. Most places should give you some number.
    Holy crap scaring people is fun!!!

    The Chamber
    Bakersfield CA
    Actor and (more then i thought id be doing)

     

  8. Default  
    #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Mesquite, TX
    Posts
    2,788
    My last independent orlando haunt A local restaurant paid for the printing when I let them print a coupon on the opposite side, If you have an Ihop or Denny's near you try them as they could see immediate returns on a haunt night.
    Allen H
     

  9. Default  
    #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Bakersfield CA
    Posts
    67
    Great idea we always hit up Denny's after we closed lol
    Holy crap scaring people is fun!!!

    The Chamber
    Bakersfield CA
    Actor and (more then i thought id be doing)

     

  10. Default  
    #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    30
    Be careful not to treat this like a hobby and not a business. You might not be in this to make millions but you do need to have a midset of making as much money as possible why maintaining your quality and intergrity. Get a good marketing/accouting addition to your team to offset your design/theatrical skills and you should be good.
    The gods cast the very worst mortal sinners and immortal enemies into TARTARUS for endless punishment, torment and suffering!!!
     

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