Revenue / 10.26.21
Venues Look to Scare up Some In-Person Halloween Thrills This Year
This weekend at venues all over the United States, patrons and live event organizers won’t be yelling “Boo,” — well, actually, many of them will be yelling “Boo” — but they’ll also be yelling things like “Welcome guys and ghouls!” and “Be our ghost!” and, most importantly, “Happy Halloween!”
Yes, everything from theaters and comedy clubs to museums and zoos are putting on shows and performances centered on the late October holiday that brings out the costumed kid in all of us. Some of these events were supposed to happen last year but didn’t because of COVID-19. One example is the return of the Colorado Symphony’s “Halloween Spooktacular,” a family-friendly concert featuring music from popular films, TV and more. Costumes are encouraged.
Nick Dobreff, Director of Publicity and Community Relations for the Colorado Symphony Association, says, “Halloween Spooktacular has become an audience favorite and a Colorado Symphony tradition as part of our annual Halloween celebration. We’re thrilled to bring this performance back to Boettcher Concert Hall after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the performance in 2020.”
Joe Carter, Director of Sales and Customer Experience for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, is equally excited that his organization is once again hosting its annual movie and music production on Halloween night. He says, “We present a silent film with a live organ every year. This year’s selection is ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ (1920) and will, as always, be sold out. It is a fun night for people to have a different kind of Halloween gathering while enjoying the film on a big screen accompanied by the magnificent organ at Walt Disney Concert Hall.” Past presentations have ranged from “The Phantom of the Opera” to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to “Nosferatu.”
Not to be outdone, The Omaha Symphony is once again holding its annual Symphony Spooktacular event this year. The theme and the structure of the concert varies from year to year. Liz Kendall Weisser, Education Director for the Omaha Symphony, says, “This year, the audience is transported to the Netherworld and must find clues to complete a spell or risk losing music to the Netherworld forever! This interactive concert features student dancers and violinists and runs approximately one hour. Families are encouraged to join us before the concert to make skeleton instruments — and rattle those bones during the concert!”
With the coronavirus still a very real concern, some previously indoor events are moving outdoors to give attendees greater peace of mind. One example is the Halloween-themed Boos & Brews 10-minute play festival on the campus of Davidson College in North Carolina. The event is now in its fifth year.
Sylvia Schnople is Artistic Director for the Davidson Community Players, which produces a six-play season on the campus each year including Boos & Brews. “For the first three years, we staged the event at our lab space,” she says. “But in 2020, we moved outdoors to the parking lot of our Armour Street Theatre. We had such fun outdoors that we have decided to keep the event outside for the foreseeable future. Our audiences feel safer, and the event feels more festive and spookier.”
She continues, “Our audiences — we have sold out every year — come to see original plays written by folks with a range of experience. Most of the actors are new to our stage as are many of the directors. The plays are a bit campy, and all have a humorous take on Halloween. This is not a high budget or high-tech event, which adds to the fun. We will sell local craft beer as well as other concessions.”
Other event organizers recognized how crowded Halloween weekend is going to be and planned their events prior to Saturday and Sunday. The Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS) and Maryland Zoo partnered on “Monster World: Zoo Quest,” a fundraiser that takes attendees through an interactive tour of the zoo grounds to see monsters from previous rock operas in their “natural habitat.”
The event is scheduled for two nights, Oct. 28 and 29, starting at 5 p.m. Guests are invited to follow the scripted story both on foot and riding the zoo’s tram, passing by monster puppets and costumed performers. Over at the Waterfowl Pavilion, a Halloween party is presented with drinks, carnival games, a costume contest, a photo booth and live music. The outdoor event allows the organizers to hold a COVID-19-safe fundraiser and have something akin to their own theme park.
Other events have been going on throughout the entire month of October. In Chicago, the Museum of Illusions is home to over 80 different exhibits. The museum’s many installations have been given an extensive makeover for the Halloween season, offering guests an even more disconcerting experience than before. Popular exhibits ranging from Head on a Platter to the Vortex Tunnel to the Anti-Gravity Room have been converted with Halloween-themed décor for an immersive experience.
Running through Oct. 31, the museum has held special events throughout the month. On Oct. 7, for instance, an adults-only SPOOKY HOURS event series kicked off and has been held every Thursday in October.
The single biggest night for Halloween lovers this year appears to be Oct. 30, though, as it is a Saturday. Among the events planned for that night are: Harry Styles’ “Harryween” concert at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan; New York City’s Monster Ball, which will be held at Times Square’s popular event space, Palladium Times Square; the Howl-O-Ween Harvest Ball, put on by a local country music station at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina; and the Improv Spooktacular, a family-friendly matinee of Halloween-themed comedy at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre in Dallas. One evening earlier, the Tucson Improv Movement in Arizona will host “The Spooky Stand-Up Comedy Show” that will see four comedians telling jokes that all have to deal with ghosts, goblins, ghouls and Halloween.
And while it’s too late for many ticketing and live event professionals reading this to put on their own special Halloween-themed event this year, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. Each of those interviewed for this article had some advice for doing so, led by Weisser: “Have fun, be energetic with the patrons, and having surprises on seats can be a special touch to add to the experience.”
Dobreff stayed in his wheelhouse, advising, “There’s no shortage of incredible symphonic music that fits a Halloween theme. For orchestras or venues looking to do something similar, don’t be afraid to get into the spirit of the holiday!”
Carter concurred, adding, “It’s best if Halloween events are family friendly, but not necessarily kid friendly. As Halloween has grown in popularity over the years, adults love to get their tricks and treats, too! Just be sure someone isn’t doing a similar offering in your market at the same time.”
Schnople concluded, “I would recommend that a venue look at Halloween as a time to have fun with all the tech elements and to not be afraid to go old school with good old spider webs and spooky music. Audiences want to be silly at Halloween, and everyone enjoys a good scare. I feel it gives us all an escape and an opportunity to be a kid again!”
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Tags: Venues , Leadership , Revenue , Movies