Universal Parks & Resorts has confirmed it’s bringing a permanent horror-themed “entertainment experience” to Las Vegas.
The location: A just-approved 20-acre expansion of Area 15.
Area 15 is home to Omega Mart, one of our favorite non-gambling things to do in Las Vegas. Seriously, Omega Mart is more fun than France.
Area 15 has been described as a “surprisingly successful, weird-ass mall full of interactive experiences that’s about as not The Strip as you can get.” It’s worth mentioning we’re the only one who describes it that way, but presumably that’s why you read this blog. You’re welcome.
As for Universal’s new 110,000 square-foot attraction, they’re sort of keeping it a little vague.
We got wind the attraction was in the works back in May 2022, because that’s how we roll. It’s cool when rumors pan out, but news is a lot less interesting to us after it’s been officially announced, honestly.
Rumor is Universal Studios is eyeing Vegas for “a Sin City version of Halloween Horror Nights,” a popular attraction in Orlando and Hollywood. SoCal version has “eight haunted houses, the Terror Tram, scare zones, a live show” and more. https://t.co/eGewA1SIEL (h/t @Screamscape)
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) May 26, 2022
Universal’s attraction in Las Vegas seems to align with its existing Halloween Horror Nights destinations, including in Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California.
You bet your ass it’ll be immersive!
Here’s the predictable word salad from the official news release: “With a variety of unique, immersive, fantastic horror-centric experiences that surround high energy food and beverage spaces by day turned haunting bars and eateries by night, the new concept marks the first time Universal has created a permanent horror experience beyond its theme parks. It will deliver on the thrills and frights its horror fans have come to love and excite anyone looking for a new level of experiential entertainment. The space will also feature a continuously updated experience, must see seasonal events, and one-of-a-kind merchandise.”
So, a haunted house with merch. Got it! Exciting news for jump scare fans.
Naturally, it’s our job to provide some perspective when news like this hits, as opposed to the gleeful cutting-and-pasting you’ll find elsewhere. You know who you are.
While we trust Universal has done its market research, there could be some challenges ahead.
Horror-inspired attractions have had mixed results in Las Vegas.
The example that leaps to mind is Fear the Walking Dead. The zombie-based, interactive—and, yes, immersive—attraction opened at Fremont Street Experience in August 2017 and closed in April 2019. (We worked in marketing at Fremont Street Experience at the time.) The reasons the attraction failed are complicated, but fail it did, and that was in a spot with a massive amount of foot traffic. It was definitely not the marketing.
Then there was Eli Roth’s Goretorium. There was lots of interactivity and immersion, of course. This $10 million attraction at the Harmon Corner mall on The Strip tanked after just a year of operation. It filed for bankruptcy in July 2013.
“Halloween haunts” have also had mixed results in Las Vegas (the popular Fright Dome closed at Circus Circus in 2018), but some have done well. Those seasonal diversions are just that, though, seasonal. Year-round attractions are a whole other ball of gore.
What’s different about Universal’s attraction is, well, Universal. Universal Parks & Resorts is making bank at its venues, and we, too, can’t believe we actually wrote “making bank” while completely sober.
While we have some concerns about a year-round horror attraction, off The Strip, our crystal ball doesn’t always get it right. We are the first to admit our skepticism about Area 15 was unwarranted. The place is printing cheddar. Or whatever the kids are calling it now, because we’re pretty sure they are no longer saying “making bank.”
Area 15 opened in 2020 to a chorus of “What in the hell are you doing?” Since then, it has pulled in more than four million visitors.
To get into Area 15, you have to go through the A hole. pic.twitter.com/PWBBQhgJuV
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) September 27, 2020
One of the most remarkable things about Area 15, including its new expansion, is the casino industry hasn’t tried to kill it off. These are the same folks who were worried Allegiant Stadium would take players away from slot machines for four hours, and the same industry that won’t let Nevada have the lottery because it would divert revenue away from their coffers. Don’t get us started.
Wise businesspersons, however, realize anything that brings more people to Las Vegas lifts all boats.
Las Vegas isn’t going the family-friendly route (again), but more people are bringing their kids to Las Vegas, so providing more family-oriented activities probably isn’t the worst idea out there. The worst idea out there would be Bleutech Park.
Here’s more about the recent spike in people bringing children to Las Vegas. Hint: We aren’t a fan.
Area 15 is brilliant counter-programming to the Las Vegas Strip, and continues to grow its offbeat offerings.
No timeline was given for the new Universal attraction at Area 15, but we’re putting the over-under at Q1 2025.
You’ll know when we know, and there’s always something thrilling on the horizon in Las Vegas. If you doubt we’ll get the scoop, you don’t know shat.