Universal Parks & Resorts recently announced that their mega-popular Halloween Horror Nights event will soon be scaring folks year-round in Las Vegas. As a huge Halloween Horror Nights fan myself, I was immediately delighted by this news. But after thinking about it for a while, it made me wonder whether or not the general public will want a Halloween Horror Nights-like experience all year long and whether Las Vegas is the best location for it.
There’s no doubt about it. Las Vegas is one of the hottest locations around for adult entertainment. But is it the best place for adult entertainment of the horror persuasion? Some past horror themed entertainment in Sin City found it not to be the case.
In September of 2012, Eli Roth’s Goretorium opened on the Las Vegas Strip to much fanfare. Unfortunately, even with a well-known horror director’s name attached, Goretorium lasted barely one year closing in early October 2013. Described as a “self-guided horror experience…employing high-tech Vegas showmanship with old-fashioned scares,” this is the type of entertainment you would expect to thrive in October. The fact that it couldn’t survive through a second Halloween season may just indicate that Vegas isn’t the place where horror fans go for entertainment.
Over on the Fremont Street Experience, another extremely popular Las Vegas location, Fear the Walking Dead Survival attraction opened in August of 2017. Less than two years later, in April of 2019, this was another horror-themed Vegas experience that simply didn’t interest Vegas vacationers enough to survive.
There are many reasons why a business in Vegas can ultimately fail. It’s not fair to say that horror simply doesn’t work in Vegas based on these examples alone. In fact, The Official SAW Escape, which opened in 2018, seems to be doing pretty well. Even newer is Escape Blair Witch, which opened in 2021. Time will tell how long this one survives.
The new Universal horror experience is heading to AREA15 in Las Vegas. “At AREA15, the veil between reality and ultimate possibilities dissolves. Will it be a VR or sensory immersion, zip line race, or zombie hunt? Perhaps an immersive art experience, or a panoramic skyline jaunt, complete with cocktails?”
I haven’t personally experienced AREA15 for myself, but when I heard that an HHN-like experience was heading to this location, it felt like a perfect fit. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the high-quality experiences available at AREA15. Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is among the best Halloween haunts in existence, so it’s nice to see that they’ve aligned themselves with another high-quality brand.
Some of the differences between Universal’s Vegas horror experience, and earlier examples I gave that didn’t survive, could benefit Universal for a hopefully more successful run. It’s been reported that this new horror experience will fill 110,000-square-feet. That is a pretty sizable amount of space in which they can fit multiple haunts equating to a full length experience. In a lot of cases, the year-round haunts Vegas previously had, were short, standalone experiences. By being able to create a horror destination where people can spend a good chunk of their day, it can be perceived as a much greater value.
Typically, during Halloween Horror Nights my favorite experiences tend to be the original mazes. But in the case of a year-round haunt, I think it will be important to have recognizable intellectual properties attached. This year-round experience will need to entice far beyond the die-hard horror fanbase in order to remain relevant. Intellectual property is the easiest way to do that. Luckily for Universal, they own the rights to many horror properties. I expect to see them use the Universal library of horror films rather than license outside films as they often do for Halloween Horror Nights. In addition, I’m hoping the Vegas location gets a new, original icon existing only at this location.
Although we don’t have tons of details on what the experiences will be, I hope that live performers are part of it. It’s undeniable that scareactors are what bring the scary to Halloween Horror Nights. In the past, we’ve seen some year-round horror houses at Universal Studios Hollywood. This included Universal’s House of Horrors as well as The Walking Dead walk through haunt. Through the years, there were less live performers in those mazes only to be amped up during the Halloween season. In order for a year-round haunt to succeed, I think it’s extremely important to have the scareactor roles well-staffed throughout the year.
Overall, I’m rooting for the success of Universal’s Las Vegas horror experience. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, guaranteed win. But I believe if anyone has the best shot at creating a year-round horror experience that will succeed in Las Vegas, it’s the folks at Universal Parks & Resorts. They have expert knowledge in this field, I’m sure they’ve done the necessary research in regard to choosing the right location, and they have the money to stay afloat should there be any growing pains.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited for this experience to open. Are you as well, or do you only want your scares during the Halloween season? Are there any particular horror titles you would like to see featured as part of this year-round experience? Leave a comment and let me know.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.