Open letter to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights: A true fan’s perspective on how to fix the event
Editor’s note: After the end of Halloween Horror Nights in 2012, Robert shared this “open letter” on our site to express some of the changes fans would like to see for HHN 2013. Now that this year’s event starts in less than a week, we’re taking another look at what he wrote to see if any of his suggestions are taken into account…
Dear Universal Orlando,
This is not a rant, or a letter swearing never to return to Halloween Horror Nights. These are ideas — some simple, some more complex — that would make Halloween Horror Nights better for all of your guests with the specific intention of keeping the event practical and profitable:
Alcohol at HHN
- Make sure Sam Adams Octoberfest and a Pumpkin Ale is available at the beer carts to make the October theme more complete.
- Have Candied Apples, infused with alcohol, for sale.
- Also to help expedite the bar/beer cart lines allow guest to buy pre-paid cards for drinks that can be scanned and stored in their lanyards. (This would increase lanyard sales too.)
Increase capacity at HHN
- Continue the “No Escape” philosophy of the street experience but incorporate themed “Scare Zones.” The marching army made no sense and was confusing to the overall theme. The “Scare Zone” areas with darkened mazes were greatly missed.
- Have the “Sunset Sidemen” in Hollywood playing themes from classic horror movies or cover songs like monster mash and thriller.
- Add a Halloween version of Horror Make-Up Show as an additional attraction.
- Add a Halloween overlay for MIB via theming the streets of New York.
- Glad to see Transformers should be online for next year, as this will also help elevate some of the pressure on the lines.
- Every night the park should be open till 2am, as many guests cherry pick their night trying to enjoy those coveted extra hours. This backfires, as other guests have the same plans. To help evenly distribute the guest flow, try and spread them out throughout the week, keeping the hours the same makes more sense.
- Turn the Chez Alcatraz dock into a party zone for mingling of guest. Besides, what scary movie doesn’t have “crazy kids” partying when something goes wrong?
- Publish a schedule for the lagoon shows. In addition, on the half hour and hour, rotate the horror segment from Cinematic Spectacular and other classic Universal movie clips.
- Theme the rumored Springfield section near The Simpsons Ride with characters from the twenty plus years of Tree House of Horrors episodes. Great photo opportunities! You could also how clips from Tree House of Horror Episodes in the Lagoon or projected on a large temporary screen. (Don’t know about the rumored Springfield section? You can learn a little more in the New character dining section of this rumor round-up post.)
Increase value for all guests
- Open Universal Studios Florida at 8am on days with Halloween Horror Nights for regular guests. That way they feel they get the entire value of their visit.
- Add more decorations around the park for Halloween, so daytime guests and early-arriving Halloween Horror Night guests feel more immersed. For example, there could be roaming, costumed ghouls for picture opportunities and more Halloween theming on the storefronts, etc. This idea could also help prevent some guests with young children, who just want a small dose of Halloween fright, from going to HHN and ultimately being really disappointed when their kids want to leave after 30 minutes (leading to the question, “Why did I just pay $80 for this?”).
- On nights that there is no Halloween Horror Nights, still turn on the Pumpkin Lights throughout Woody Woodpecker. It seems foolish and somewhat “penny smart, nickel foolish” to not have them on.
- During the first two weeks of the Halloween Horror Nights, schedule over 21+ only nights with a more aggressive street experience and R-rated version(s) for Bill & Teds or other show. This will draw more locals to the September event nights, alleviating the pressure on the October weekends.
- Have the last showtime each night feature the R-rated version(s) of each show, getting more guests to come late to play.
- Have more immersive overlays for the non-soundstage Haunted Houses to help create a better impression and help disguise their actual size. Playing music helps create mood too.
- Each house needs a projected video to help ease the wait and keep the theming going. If it’s good enough for virtually every ride, it should be used for waits that are regularly over an hour.
- Do not tear down Dead End and Gothic. Use them throughout the year during high volume periods as added attractions, or as year-round advertisements for HHN.
- For the Annual Passholder Preview Nights, have more staff (at least 20-25 people) involved in the check-in process. Also, allow the event to start earlier in the day before rush hour begins. In order to keep labor cost the same as they are now, simply take the additional staff from the greeters/directions area in the middle of the park. You don’t need staff to help direct Annual Passholders to Woody Woodpecker Kidzone (we know where it is).
- Allow Stay & Scream guests and others staying over to get the wristbands throughout the day, not just after 4pm. Then, for the layover between the park closing, allow guests with wristbands to enjoy the rides that are open for Halloween Horror Nights. This will increase the value of the Stay & Scream tickets while reducing the frustration for guests who feel like they just wasted of an hour and half of their day waiting in the holding area. It also could reduce pressure on front gates at 6:30pm by having guest already inside the park having fun and spending money.
To learn more about Halloween Horror Nights 2013, visit the complete insider’s guide to HHN in the OI Universal Center.
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