Why is Halloween such big business at theme parks?

October 9, 2016, 5:12 PM · Ask anyone who runs a theme park what his or her favorite holiday is and I'll bet you get a consistent answer — Halloween.

Ever since Knott's Berry Farm started its Halloween Haunt in 1973 — the industry's first after-hours, hard-ticket Halloween event — theme parks have discovered just how much fans love to celebrate the holiday. And not just at their local parks. Fans travel from across the country and around the world to major theme park Halloween events such as Universal Orlando's annual Halloween Horror Nights.

Whether you love the gore and scares of Halloween Horror Nights or the sweet trick-or-treating at Disney's annual Halloween parties, theme parks have created events designed to appeal to you — and your friends and family — to entice you to make an extra trip to the parks after the traditional Labor Day end to the summer vacation season. In a story I wrote today for The Spokesman-Review newspaper, I look at how Halloween has helped regional theme parks to earn more money by extending their operating season while also helping year-round parks find another way to pad their bottom line.

“That’s important for an industry with high fixed costs and large capital infrastructure investment,” said Martin Lewison, a professor of business development at Farmingdale State College in New York, who studies the theme park industry. “Capital infrastructure only pays for itself when it’s actually operating: a closed park doesn’t make any money.”

Halloween's not just for theme parks, of course. But many themed entertainment professionals got their start by building haunted houses in their basements and garages at Halloween. And the demand for Halloween haunts drives businesses all over the country to create their own Halloween experiences, from haunted houses to hay-bale mazes to costumed dance parties, some of which employ creative professionals who have or sometimes still work for parks.

What's your favorite Halloween event, theme park or otherwise? Check out our reviews for this year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, and at Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as our review for this year's version of the industry's original Halloween event, Knott's Scary Farm.

Read Robert's story:

Replies (2)

October 10, 2016 at 9:59 AM · Having been to both Disney and Unviersal horror nights I can tell you being from the UK you guys in America smash it out of the park regards to how Haloween should be celebrated, I just love this time of year in America.

Shame some idiots appear to be spoiling it dressing as clowns and chasin people, it's starting over here in the U.K.

Someone is going to get hurt, there are times and places for this and in the roads is not one of them, want to be scared go to Universal for your kicks.

Rant over, live the USA Haloween times, I so miss not being there this year.

October 10, 2016 at 6:25 PM · I'm from Australia and travel for the US Haunts. Got to say LA Horror Nights, Knotts, and Dark Harbor knocked it out of the park this year. Also went to California's Great America haunt, which was a very pleasant surprise (albeit before their VR experience and Insanatarium maze vanished).

I hope the PC Grinches don't kill Halloween.

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