Guest Post: How HHN Is Appealing To A New Crowd by Shelby Denham
I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing about millennial, but I feel like it would only be right to start off with a proper definition of what a millennial is. According to to Wikipedia, a “millennial” is typically a person born between the late 1980’s and the early 2000’s. This may be a very broad definition, but it means that a person born between these years is now reaching or has already reached adulthood at this time. Even myself and my associate fall under this. What do these adults have? Money. What does Universal typically want? Money. (I would certainly hope that’s what they’re after.) After all, one of their team member mottos is to “generate profit”.
What would Universal do to try to appeal to the adults, old and new, of this generation? First, you have to delve into what adults are currently into, and that’s nostalgia. Those “dang millennials”, whether they’re understanding of what is to be considered nostalgic from the 90s and before, are certainly into anything they can call “nostalgic” whether it’s shows they watched in the 90’s, or movies their parents made them watch. They love that sense of nostalgia, the bliss of what it felt like to be a kid.
What was one thing a lot of kids watch in the 90’s? Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What girl in their early teens doesn’t want a sexy vampire as a boyfriend? We’re not talking about the ones that sparkle, either. We’re talking about the bad-ass Uglies from Buffy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a crush on Spike while growing up…
But what does Buffy have anything to do with selling tickets to Halloween Horror Nights? None other than the knee-wobbling, heart+throbbing, show-stealing Vamp ‘55.
If you don’t know what that is or wasn’t around for Halloween Horror Nights 26, Vamp ‘55 was a scarezone located in the Hollywood, Sunset Blvd section of Universal Studios. The story goes, it’s the year 1955, and the Hollywood High Homecoming parade has been attacked by greaser vampires. When I found out this was a scarezone, I might have freaked out a little. A lot people love the 50’s aesthetic, and I’m one of them. And that, with the greaser vampires on top? Yes, please! But they weren’t just “normal” vampires, none of this good-looking Anne Rice crap. They were ugly, they were covered in blood, and they were out to kill you. Weirdly enough, this was incredibly attractive to some people (myself and my blog associate included). Specifically, those girls who were in love with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a movie like Lost Boys; bad boy vampires with greased hair and sharp teeth.
I should also add the fact that the “50’s aesthetic” is also really popular with current young adults. It’s a kind of a fad to wear those fit and flair dresses, and sometimes now with dark lipstick. So it would only make sense that this zone would be incredibly popular with this audience.
With great theming comes annoying fangirls (and boys). It would be wrong of me to say that I didn’t fall for the sensation that was Vamp ‘55. I was there almost every night enjoying the sights and talking to the actors both in and out of character. But, I feel like my story was slightly different. I only say this because I wasn’t like the other girls I may have witnessed or have been witnessed. Girls (and to a lesser extent, younger men) would come every night and actively seek attention. Girls who would come every night and stalk certain actors. They’d honestly believe they could have (or sometimes did have) a relationship with a fictional vampire played by this actor.
Will this particular zone return due to its popularity and rave reviews (at least from people who understood the appeal)? Will those obsessive fangirls get to see their lovely vampires again? Most likely not. While the zone may have proved very popular, it was not the driving force for selling tickets. When people visiting from out-of-state see “Vamp ‘55” listed on the brochure, it’s probably not the first thing on their mind when they’re planning out their night. What most people are looking at are the houses, and the house that was the driving force for selling tickets last year was American Horror Story.
I’m going to start this part of the article by getting something off my chest. Now, a lot of you may hate me for this, but… I hate American Horror Story. I hate the show, I hated the house. I think the show is “horror for people who don’t like horror” or even understand what makes horror unique, well-done, never mind well-written. By that, I mean a lot of the people that I know who watch it, normally don’t watch any other sort of horror. They’re usually turned off by chainsaws, ghosts or any incarnation of a monster. But throw Lady Gaga or Zachary Quinto, progressively popular gay icons, into the mix and “OMG I love horror!”
But if Universal wants to sell to a different “horror” demographic, America Horror Story is the best way to go. It brings the people who wouldn’t normally go to Halloween Horror Nights, the “OMG I love horror” people were not about chainsaws, ghosts, or monsters. They’re about vampire Gaga and murderous Evan Peters. I will personally never understand it, but a lot of people seem to love it. And as the wait-times proved, a lot people loved the house from last year. While I may never like it, I will admit that it is a very popular and profitable property for Universal to bring into Halloween Horror Nights.
Now, what does this mean for the future of Halloween Horror Nights? Are we going to start seeing less of the classic houses like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween, and start seeing more houses like American Horror Story? Perhaps we’ll see a day where the houses are only popular IP’s like Supernatural or Teen Wolf, or whatever is currently popular on CW or MTV that is being churned out and categorized as “horror”. I certainly hope we never see the day where we have a house based on the show Grimm. We have to remember though, that nostalgia is a big factor into selling to millennials, so maybe we’ll see houses relating to properties from the 90s, like Twin Peaks, X-Files, etc.
While I can’t predict the future, I can definitely say that Halloween Horror Nights will be selling to current young adults and certainly catering towards their better interests. So be prepared for a change in the way that HHN is run and sold. Will it be for the better? Only time will tell.
Shelby can be contacted at her twitter @shelbydenhamart