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Escape Rooms - Better Than Cinema


Well that may be a bold claim but it could prove to be true. There are plenty of articles about the explosive growth of the escape room business but I don’t think anyone expected this. I remember joking with my partners when we first started “hey let’s get 200 stores open and see what happens”. I remember laughing at the idea although we are a bunch of eternal optimists and here we are three years since that conversation and I think we’ll end up with more than that, I really do.

So why ‘better than cinema’?

What has astonished me is both the incredibly evenly spread demographic and then just how much people enjoy it. Virtually every town in the USA has an escape game as the number 1 thing to do in the area on the many available review websites. And every time I visit any of our venues I hear the screams of excitement when people ‘escape’.

Regarding the demographics there can be few escape game companies that are sitting on the data that we are, but for sure likely they’re sitting on enough. But for pure quantity of data which can now certainly be relied upon, if we’re not already the biggest operator in the US then we must be getting close. We have 47 signed venues and 25 of them are open for business with about one new one opening each week and another new franchise coming aboard at about the same rate. And they’re all a good size most with 5 rooms plus. And we’re obsessive at collecting the data like most escape game companies are. So what does it show us?

Crunching that data sees a virtually even split between male and female players - 51% female and 49% male. Unbelievable? What’s more astonishing is that the age split is incredibly even over the different age categories: 18-24=25.37%, 25-34=29.21%, 35-44=23.66%, 45+=21.76%. If you were trying to build a business that appealed to the widest possible audience you couldn’t make it up! OK we might not go into the kiddies toys business but I bet if we could collect the data from the kids too we might have five 20% rather than four near-perfect 25%. Now I haven’t even taken the time to check the data on cinemas and it may be as good but I can’t imagine it being better.

So who are the main contenders for the ‘best family entertainment’ category? If there was an entertainment Oscars then I promise “Escape Games” would be all over them. Best Production, Best Soundtrack, Best Design - some would even have a Best Actor category although the best we have managed thus far is Santa Claus himself working our Orlando venue this Christmas! We did save him by the way if anyone was concerned...

So again without particular research outside of my ‘specialized category’ of escape games my instinct tells me the three main contenders are Cinema, Bowling and Escape Games. I’m sure there are more and I’m sure people will be happy to point them out, but this my Oscars right and I’ll choose the categories, OK?

So, out of the three ‘nominated’ categories, which all seem to match my ‘perfect’ demographic criteria, which one wins? Well I was brought up in the training industry where my other business has been training car companies for years. Think of a brand - we’ve likely trained them. And we’ve won tons of awards. Why? Because making the training ‘hands-on’ and ‘interactive’ was my main goal. So sorry Cinema - you don’t even make the top two. It’s lazy entertainment and you know it (I can hear my daughter yelling now, and to be fair, I absolutely love the cinema). But it’s not interactive therefore apart from laughing or crying together you’re not actually doing anything together. So it’s escape games and bowling, how about it?

So here I’m not even going to pull the ‘we’re using our brains and we’re communicating with each other’ card. No, I’m going to pull the demographic card again. My mother is 80 and to be fair she’s still a force to be reckoned with on a bowling alley. And we do all have tremendous fun when we all go bowling. It’s good solid family entertainment and therefore not a surprise that’s an American mainstay as entertainment for all of the family.

However who normally wins at bowling? What would that demographic look like if we created it? OK my mother might skew the results a bit but I guarantee it will be male dominated and grouped kind of in the 18 to 30 range (sorry 40+ year olds you’re still very, very good, but are you as good as you were when you were 20?!). Great family entertainment but if you were into betting and didn’t know the players, you’re money would go on Dad.

So who are the winners in an escape game? Those in the know, know. And I don’t have the stats as to say that each puzzle was equally answered almost 50/50 by the genders with a 20/20/20/20 split across the age groups. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes and thanks to those bulging review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google+ and Facebook I know that it beats bowling as a fun thing to do for families and, well, basically anyone. And can you imagine a better team building activity? If you don’t work together you are screwed!

So the winner of the entertainment Oscars, by a resounding margin is……….

Escape Games!

“How long will it last?” I keep getting asked. Well mark my words, when you’ve seen what I’ve seen there is only one answer. “It is going to last forever”.

Whilst the stats are a true reflection of those collected across the entire Escapology franchise network, the personal opinions within this blog are those of Simon Davison - Founder and Chief Escapologist OF ESCAPOLOGY - USA’S FASTEST GROWING ESCAPE ROOM FRANCHISE.