Sunday, August 26, 2018

The politics of a Vegas haunted house

There were rumors that the annual haunted attraction "Fright Dome" was not coming back to the amusement park at Circus Circus this year. There were a few tidbits to suggest all was not kosher in the world of amusement park death, and some of those came from the fine folks at the Vital Vegas blog. (It's one guy.)

Now Vital Vegas has some interesting inside scoop on how the relationship between the dirty Circus and the folks that run Fright Dome have broken down. The company running Fright Dome, a horror attraction run seasonally within the amusement park by a company called Egan Productions, also runs an escape room based upon the "Saw" horror movies. It's unclear why the seemingly lackluster performance of the escape room, which does not seem to be tied to the Circus Circus property or corporate parent MGM, has ended the business relationship between the dirty Circus and Egan Productions. But it has something to do with money, naturally. It always does. (UPDATE:
The Vital Vegas blog post has been amended to offer an explanation for how the business relationship between the entities has deteriorated.)

My guess, and it's purely a guess, is that there's some sort of business arrangement that requires some sort of up-front payment by Egan Productions. Rent, if you will. The dirty Circus can't be giving Egan Productions use of the amusement park space for free. I suspect Egan rents its space, brings in its sets and props, pays the employees and collects on the back end, meaning they get a cut of admissions sold during the haunt season. If Egan is hemorrhaging cash right now, they might not be in a position to make payments up front for their 2018 rent, and at a certain point they get the boot. 

A couple of things in the Vital Vegas blog piqued my interest. 

One tidbit that the fine folks at Vital Vegas reported is that "Circus Circus expressed it would run its own haunted house." 

That wouldn't surprise me. I have had a seasonal job for most of the past 12 years at the corporate owned amusement park in the Minneapolis area, which started its own haunted attraction in 2006. (I work building security these days, but I was once an actor. Boy do I have stories, and I've written plenty of them for a different blog.) While I don't study the amusement park industry, I'm well aware that our corporate parent runs haunted attractions at its parks around the country, as do some of the other heavy hitters in the amusement park industry. With all the parks in the haunt business, it wouldn't surprise me if MGM decides it wants to invest in its amusement park and run its own operation in the future. That won't happen this year, but it could definitely happen in 2019. 

MGM could have pulled the plug at the end of any contract period, or simply non-renewed its lease with Egan Productions, I imagine. Perhaps the wheels were already in motion. Perhaps MGM is working on plans to cut out Egan and run its own show, and the demise of Fright Dome is simply an unplanned hiccup. 

It makes plenty of sense. If the corporate penny pinchers at MGM, who never stop finding a way to make an extra $5, realize that they're making a certain amount of money per season at Fright Dome, and surmise they could make more than that by cutting out the production company, then of course they'll do that. Although, this assumes they want to invest in ownership of their haunted attraction. It will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop attractions that work within the confines of their amusement park. Yes, it will cost a lot of money to design several attractions that people will pay big money to see. I'm no expert, but that's not exactly a trade secret. 

Will we see a new haunted attraction at the dirty Circus in the future? I could see why MGM would say yes, and I could see why MGM would say no. I don't know how lucrative the Fright Dome deal is, and that will likely influence the eventual decision. If I had to wager $5, my hunch is that they'll try to develop their own. 

It sounds like Vital Vegas has insight into the financials of their business agreement. He often has Vegas insight. I, ironically, don't. 

For the record, I've never been to Fright Dome, and that's by design. You can't trust any one online review, but I've ready more than a couple of reviews that suggested over the past several years that the attraction is so popular that the lines are too long to get through all of the haunted attractions during any one admission without paying for the "fast pass" upgrade that plops you into a faster moving line. The "fast pass" seems to be a marketing strategy that amusement parks embrace, and why not? We live in a country where not all men and women are financially equal, and with that, some places will cater to those with more dollars to part with. Not a new phenomena. 

But given that Fright Dome has a reputation of being overrun by obnoxious teens, and the fact that I h have worked at an amusement park overrun with obnoxious teens every October, seeing the Vegas version of that held limited appeal. Yeah, I've had mild curiosity, but not enough to spend a night of my Vegas Halloween trip at the dirty Circus. (I've been in Vegas five of the past seven years on Halloween night.)

When Vital Vegas notes that "Fright Dome at Adventuredome was considered the premier Halloween haunted house in Las Vegas," I'm not sure I agree. 

It depends upon how you define premier. It's the most noteworthy for tourists, as it's on the strip, and it draws big crowds to the amusement park. If you base the statement upon which puts the most asses on the property, I'm sure Fright Dome wins.

But given my experience and observations during the past seven years, anyone who critiques the quality of the production and the originality of the show would tell you that Freakling Bros., a locally-owned haunted attraction, is the premier attraction in the Vegas area. It just doesn't do the volume that Fright Dome does, for a variety of reasons. Do a little Googling and you'll soon find out that it gets plenty of raves from all corners of the haunt industry. And I echo those sentiments. I've written about it, too, both for this blog and for my aforementioned blog. 

Either way, the demise of a haunted attraction at the dirty Circus has been extra interesting for me to read about, even if I had no intention of visiting it. It will be interesting to watch what happens in 2019. The dirty Circus might return with a new haunted attraction, and I wouldn't rule out Egan Productions finding a new place to try selling its product in the Vegas area. 

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