seems at the very least a risky business model to scare your customers
off, yet The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company have made it their
bread and butter.
V Harris of The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company
V Harris is the founder, Chairman and CEO, and Sudden Impact! have
made it their mission to move the idea of interactive walk through shows
away from simply achieving the flimsy pretext of being Halloween
attractions to fitting the far more profitable and accessible format of
being more general forms of entertainment playing on the universal
emotion of fear.
Australian, Lynton V Harris was a surfer cum Marketing Director for
eight regional radio stations. With a dream of moving to America and
chasing fame in Hollywood, he visited New York New York where an advert
in the entertainment trade magazine Variety caught his eye.
was for the Radio City Christmas Show, a performance that went on to
take $32m (Ł18m) in a
matter of months. Inspired by the concept versus takings, Harris
pondered whether the similar niche of Halloween could perhaps be
home in Sydney, Harris quit his job and focused all efforts on writing a
Halloween musical to be shown in the enormous 13,000-seat Sydney
months later, despite losing thousands, the show was a success of sorts
– Harris wrote the experimental show mainly to get his foot on the
live entertainment ladder, using a video of the show as a multimedia
portfolio to take with him to America.
bit the bullet in February 1993, when he packed up his life and moved to
New York. It took three years before Harris’ idea came to life in
earnest, as the 40,000 square-foot Madison Square Garden was transformed
into a vast interactive Halloween show, Madison SCARE Garden.
live acting talent and a labyrinth of dark sets, Madison SCARE Garden
became an annual Halloween institution scaring over
quarter of a million people in just four seasons.
Lynton still wasn’t happy. Why settle for just 250,000 over the space
of four holiday seasons when there was no reason why these live walk
through shows couldn’t become year-round, as a broader entertainment
a three-year Harvard education in Owner President Management to
practice, Harris began selling the idea of the walk through shows to
Hollywood movie theme park studios like Paramount and Universal.
‘testing’ The Mummy LIVE as part of Madison SCARE Garden,
and to prove how the concept had universal appeal and didn’t have to
fit within the Halloween agenda, Sudden Impact! created The
Mummy Returns LIVE! and toured it to Dreamworld Australia, in their
June/July winter vacation period. It was a smash hit success, and
Australian audiences were thrilled (and scared) to bits.
Studios followed suit, and opened The Mummy Returns Live, a
lavish walk through with nine massive crypts themed to the two Mummy
Madison SCARE Garden, Sudden Impact! attractions have
opened in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Las Vegas
and a return visit to Dreamworld on Australia’s Gold Coast with Lara
Croft: Tomb Raider LIVE!, for the high profile Christamas/Summer
vacation season. Booked for a month, the show was extended for a further
three months after breaking Dreamworld’s attendance records.
was Dreamworld’s most popular show for a decade, proving that
Halloween was an unnecessary constriction when it came to
first encounter with Harris’ dark side was in 2002 when Thorpe Park
introduced Fright Nights. The cornerstones of these events were two
haunted walk through mazes – The Freezer and Freakshow 3D.
both of these mazes scared ticket holders into submission, neither
resorted to blood and gore, and neither relied on actors simply jumping
from darkened corners screaming ‘boo!’.
in Staffordshire, the reportedly haunted Towers themselves were the
slightly sinister setting for Terror of the Towers, part of Alton
Towers’ short-lived Halloween Spooktacular.
love affair with the dark and macabre snowballed from this, and itself
went to show how the idea of scaring guests wasn’t limited to dark and
autumnal evenings with Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds both operating
Sudden Impact! mazes throughout the year, both in unique and challenging
in fact introduced the ‘theatrical play’ style of scare show that is
a fully scripted and choreographed, interactive short play.
were afforded the chance to speak to the Sudden Impact! dark lord
himself, Lynton V Harris, who told us about the art of scaring people.