Immersive Theater and the Pro Haunt

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Last week, I introduced readers to The Nest - an immersive theater show in Los Angeles.

Quick recap of The Nest: Josie has died and left the contents of her storage room to you. With a flashlight, you explore the house and unlock Josie's story through tapes and props you find. There are no actors in the house, and the patrons choose their actions freely.

As I said last week, I don't think a pro haunt could replace their current shows with this kind of intimate event. The throughput is just too small. That said, what's to keep a professional haunt from using this concept to supplement their Halloween show revenue?

Pro haunts with their own buildings could conceivably use those existing buildings to have limited-run shows like this year-round. Such shows would appeal to some of the same people who already go to haunted attractions. There is your "base". However, the appeal is wider than that. People interested in theater, people already attending escape rooms, really anyone looking for a unique avant-garde experience are all potential customers. Like an escape room, the actor investment could be minimal, so the off season shows could become financially viable. Marketing could be designed to promote both shows. It would even be possible to tie in the story of the immersive show with the story of the haunt. No reason the two could not work together in that way.

Imagine offering your current guests a chance to come back in the off season to wander through a building and learn more of the story behind some character in your haunt. Imagine getting coverage in local media for creating this unique theater experience. There is profit potential as well as a new way to tell the stories you want to tell. You could make it as scary or as tame as you like. You could even design it so the "scary" show depends on triggers activating props and effects. For a "not scary" show, just turn off the triggers.

The cost for a pro haunt with established sets to launch a show like this would be a fraction of the cost for a theater group to build it from the ground up. Running it would be substantially cheaper than running the haunt as well. There is potential there.

Here's another thought. There are several theater groups in the Phoenix area. I'm focusing on Phoenix because it's the main population center. There are groups in Tucson and elsewhere as well.

Why not work with one of these groups to help produce an immersive experience in the off season using your existing sets? You have the building, the parking, the good location. They want to do interesting shows and tell stories. They have very little money. Why not explore the potential there? You could then conceivably have a show with more actors than The Nest uses. Something more like Delusion -"The Original Interactive Horror Theatre Company". Let the theater group worry about paying the actors. You provide the space and as much or as little management of the show as you like.

I started by talking about The Nest because it's so small a home haunt could duplicate it with little money and a lot of effort. However, there are so many options for larger shows, if only one cares to explore.

Phoenix is a huge market that I think is being vastly underserved. Sure, the culture is different from LA or San Francisco, and theater is not as big here. Nevertheless, with about 5 million people in the Phoenix Metro area, there must be a huge audience looking for entertainment beyond going to the movies.

This is my appeal to the pro haunters out there. Someone is going to crack this market sooner or later. Please let it be haunters! Too many pro haunters still need "day jobs" to provide for their families. Alternative entertainment like escape rooms and immersive theater may not make you millions, but wouldn't it be sweet if it could help you tell stories and entertain people full-time?

Happy Haunting!