Is Halloween Horror Nights Pissing Off Loyal Fans?

As expected, tickets for Halloween Horror Nights’ 24th season at the Universal Orlando Resort recently went on sale. Every year, as opposed to lying all their cards on the table, they pulse out press releases every few weeks to build anticipation. Yesterday, the first announcement was made when Halloween Horror Nights Creative Director Mike Aiello was interviewed by USA Today, as he confirmed the AMC series “The Walking Dead” will return to Halloween Horror Nights again for the third consecutive year.

Walking Dead Haunted House

Copyright Universal Orlando

This time, the zombies will be represented in the largest haunted house in the event’s history. They are literally hiring twice the cast to populate this new maze that will specifically revolve around “The Walking Dead’s” fourth season.

 

“They’ll be inside the Big Spot where we’re literally building a helicopter above peoples’ heads,” said Aiello in the interview. “We’ve got the country club with all the hanging walkers. We’ve got the burned-down moonshine shack that Daryl and Beth find ….”

Copyright The Walking Dead

Copyright The Walking Dead

Sounds great, right? Not according to the hardcore fans of Halloween Horror Nights.

 

Minutes after the news broke, the internet was filled with upset fans who couldn’t believe that Universal Orlando decided to beat a dead horse and bring back “The Walking Dead” theme for a third consecutive year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando is the only horror event in the United States that offers at least seven unique houses, plus horror street entertainment, in addition to live stage shows every single year. Unlike other similar events like Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens or even Six Flags’ Fright Nights, Universal Orlando doesn’t recycle a house from one year to the next. No matter how popular or well received a house is, they never repeat it.

Copyright Universal Studios

Copyright Universal Studios

This costs an absolute ton of money in research and development and an entire team is assigned year-round to ensure that their event is the ultimate horror extravaganza in the entire country. However, they can afford it, as Halloween Horror Nights makes a killing in ticket sales, in addition to Express Passes, merchandise and booze. Loyal fans expect an entirely new assortment of haunts to explore every single year. Even though this will be an entirely new Walking Dead house, it is still based on a franchise that’s been done before. Naturally, loyal fans are ready for fresh blood, so why use this hit AMC show again?

 

A quote from Mike Aiello might shed some light on the subject: “It’s always a careful decision,” says Aiello, of the call to bring The Walking Dead back for a third year. “Fortunately, it’s a brand people have really attached themselves to, including many atypical horror fans who otherwise might not have discovered the genre or found themselves at Horror Nights. The Walking Dead is a great way to bridge that gap.”

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

He’s right. Fans of “The Walking Dead” may not necessarily be horror fanatics. Maybe they have never even been to an event like Horror Nights before.

 

So why cater to a group of people who may or may not like Halloween Horror Nights? Math. 16.1 million people tuned into the season premiere of  The Walking Dead’s 4th season. Making one mega haunted house (out of many) makes a lot of sense to that many people who might make the pilgrimage to Universal Orlando for the first time and not only go to the event, but also stay at a hotel and buy multi-day park tickets.

 

Unofficially, it seems that the folks who are in charge of creative for HHN are just as unhappy as the fans are about all this. Kim Gromoll, a former Universal Orlando Team Member who helped create past events, but no longer works for them, took to Facebook to address the whining fans. “So, the fans are upset. WD is back! Waaaaa! They say A&D is getting lazy, that Show Development is out of ideas. Guess what. They aren’t. Do any of you have a job? Does your boss or those that run your company tell you to do something that you disagree with? I bet you do it anyway. I PROMISE you that every single member of A&D and Show Development fought tooth and nail NOT to do WD! I know, I was there. But when you get your orders you carry them out.”

Copyright The Walking Dead

Copyright The Walking Dead

Kids, here’s the reality. No matter what you think about how the loyal fans of any product should be exclusively catered to, just know that you are dead wrong. By all means, Universal should develop content for those hardcore fans who crave something new and fresh every year, while perhaps winking at the past from time to time. However, if you exclusively cater to them and ignore the casual visitor who comes every few years or more importantly, make every effort to bring in new potential guests, you are sunk as a business.

 

If you don’t like Universal Orlando’s decision to bring the Walking Dead back for a third time, spend your money elsewhere. Just know that you won’t be missed because with 16.1 million people watching the show every week, Universal will bring in more people to replace you and your ticket sale. Odds are that the new guest replacing you may spend more money than you ever have at Halloween Horror Nights. Don’t kid yourself; you are just a number in the grand scheme of things. Your thoughts?

 

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3 Comments

  1. fan51
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I went to Halloween Haunt at Knott’s twice before calling it quits. They get repetitive very fast. They are just not very scary the second time. Perhaps the vast majority of guests are new visitors. Or they visit on alternative years. There is nothing wrong with The Walking Dead appearing again. Not everyone has seen it every year. Besides, the show gives many dramatic scenes that differ every year though I still love the hospital door (Don’t Open Dead Inside) from Season 1.

    I do think maybe WD will come back for yet another year. This year will prove to be extremely violent with cannibalism at Terminus as the storyline. I can imagine the Horror Nights asking guests to enter the train cars as what we seen in the finale. It will be scary. Imagine scenes where people are eating people parts.

  2. the last of us
    Posted June 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    the real problem is not that they are using The Walking Dead again, the problem is that it shows that they will do whatever it takes to make money now. Forget about walking dead for a minute and think of what this says,
    Bringing back this property means they don’t care if they piss off the fans, It means they don’t care if they piss off their creative teams. Which means they dont really have any respect for anyone anymore.

    It means they don’t mind using a property as long as they get their money. the problem for me is, what comes next? what Property will they squeeze until it dies? will they give 2 houses to walking dead next time? 3 houses? they already gave every sibgle scarezone before. Why not every house next year be related to WD?

    the days of Icons and original stories and amazing websites are gone now. Now what we have is Walking Dead, and we will have PLENTY of it for the years to come

  3. Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Let’s get real about something…Universal Resort’s mission statement says it’s goal is to generate superior revenue. It’s a corporation. The whole point of their existence is to expand do upon their film franchise and generate more money for the company….that’s no secret, and if it is a surprise to you then you don’t understand corporate America.

    Now, on the WD subject…while it may be annoying to fans I think the creatives are trying very hard to keep integrity. Although there will be a haunted house with the same theme, the creative team is still making a brand new haunted house. It’s still impressive that year after year they develop new haunted houses.

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