It's the time of year for haunted houses and scares to become popular attractions across the U.S., and digital signage is getting in on the big fright business.
St. Louis-based Pale Night Productions specializes in special effects and animations for haunted attractions, and has provided effects for attractions from Joplin, Mo., to Niagara Falls to China. In addition to animatronic figures and pneumatic lifts, the company also uses digital signage technology to create the spookiest effects for haunted houses.
Ashley Polley, who along with husband Kip co-owns Pale Night, said digital signage makes sense for haunts in several ways.
"It's very difficult to try to get good actors," she said. "We've worked in haunted houses for a long time ... you have to train them, and if something breaks (in the haunted house set) it might hurt your actor. We just figured it would be a nice way to have a human interaction and a 3D or real-space interaction and the video."
The digital signage installs the Polleys provide also have another big benefit, she said: "They're very plug and play."
"We wanted to be able to do all that, and we wanted to make it very easy for our customers," she said. "And we wanted to make something that was very good and very exciting."
The reliability of the technology also has been a factor, according to Polley. Pale Night uses solid-state BrightSign media players to power its exhibits, and Polley said they've only had a problem with one player in four years, "and we just gave the customer a new one."
And big frights are big business these days. According to AmericanHaunts.com, the haunted attraction industry generates between $300-$500 million in ticket sales, including revenue from "major theme parks that operate a haunted event."
We estimate there are over 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission fees to their events. We additionally estimate that there are over 300 amusement facilities producing some sort of Halloween or Haunted House event such as an amusement park or family fun center. Lastly there are over 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one or two weekends in October produced by a local charity group.
That's a lot of scares for the digital signage industry to get in on.