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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > A Storyline for Success

A Storyline for Success
By Cydney Neil

 

Producing a Halloween show that will attract repeat customers and increase profits year after year requires a continuous flow of new ideas. After nineteen years in business in the same area, one of the most effective techniques I've found for keeping my shows fresh and innovative is to choose a different annual theme for both of my houses and use those themes in my promotional materials.

Lets face it, we, as haunted house producers are in the theater business. Haunted houses are simply interactive theater. As with theater, our goal is to tell a story and create an environment that invites the audience to get personally involved with the characters. Using a theme, provides a direction, from which to design every aspect of your show, and allows you to create in a much more effective and exciting way.

This past year I took the theater concept one step further. Once I had chosen my theme, I actually wrote a detailed storyline to tell in words what I wanted my audience to experience when they visited the shows. I knew 1998 was the year of "Aliens", and I wanted our shows to reflect this very popular topic. The theme I chose was The Rocky Point Haunted House&endash;Its Out of This World. This was a large departure from the previous year's Batman theme, and I wanted to clearly let my audience know of the change.


The Legend

On October 28th, 1997, just as the Rocky Point Haunted House was about to conclude its 18th season, the show's producer, Cydney Neil, mysteriously disappeared. Just 24 hours later, Cydney returned with a tale that she had been abducted by aliens, who directed her to share her experience of her ordeal in the following year's production.

As the 1998 season approached, Cydney did as she was told, but in the middle of construction, an alien spaceship crash-landed at the site of the Rocky Point Haunted House. The alien's goal, was to keep secret, all information about the extraterrestrial world that Cydney was about to release. Mayhem immediately set in. The ship was in pieces throughout the attraction and many of the aliens were dead. The ones that were alive remained inside the damaged ship and were conducting experiments on the cast and crew of the Haunted House.

Soon after the crash, the U.S. government moved in and set up a highly restricted area to protect the public from danger while collecting top secret alien technology. After gathered alien specimens, the government moved them into familiar areas of the Haunted House--the body bag room, the autopsy room and the psycho ward--and there they began to conduct their own experiments.

Before long, the alien world began descending on the crash site in mass. The first to arrive were Edgar and his cockroach friends from Men in Black. Then came the Killer Clowns from Outer Space, who set up their entire circus tent at the site to create terror and collect specimens of their own, and Virus infected bees escaped into the cornfields as in the X-Files-the Movie. The Queen alien from Aliens made her nest in the old barn that, in the past, has been the home of only bats and spiders. Vampires, long time occupants of the haunted house, discovered the alien bodies after crawling through the old building's duct work and began a strange metamorphosis after drinking the thick green blood of the captured alien embryos.

The leader of the alien invasion has remained in his mostly destroyed ship and is threatening destruction to all for the lives lost and the damage done.

Patrons may enter this highly restricted and extremely dangerous crash site only with a special clearance access pass obtained in Area 51 at the haunted house. But BEWARE! You enter at your own risk, and there is no guarantee you will exit again on this planet, or at least remember to tell about it...

 

This storyline served several purposes:

1) It provided an overall design guide and allowed me to design the shows so that they flowed easily from room to room, not randomly or haphazardly, but with every room being a part of the story line. It also provided a guide to assist me in incorporating updated versions of many of my past rooms and props rather than starting from scratch.

2) It allowed my construction and production crew to understand more clearly what we were trying to achieve even before they started building.

3) It allowed my cast members to create their characters with a specific motivation behind them and to create mini scripts inside the storyline for themselves.

4) It gave us a direction from which to design our make-up and costumes.

5) An enlarged copy of the legend was displayed prominently in the waiting area, both entertaining patrons before they entered, making their experience much more meaningful and complete.

6) It provided the theme and direction for all our promotional materials, posters T-shirts and retail.

7) It was an innovative and original idea that our sponsors and the media could get excited about.

Our shows were complimented as being our best ever and it reflected in another huge increase in ticket sales. The creative use of our theme and storyline, was one of the main reasons for this success. The storyline allowed us to stand out from our many competitors. I encourage you to be creative and have fun as you choose a theme and develop a storyline for your 1999 Halloween show. I'm certain it will help make it your best show ever!

 

Cydney Neil is the owner/operator of the Rocky Point Haunted Houses in Salt Lake City, Utah and is a consultant for the Haunted Attraction Industry. She can be reached via email at CydneyNeil@aol.com

 

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