6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020)

2020 has been a difficult year for non-virtual entertainment. Overall the US escape room industry has adapted rapidly and the long term impact hasn’t been immediate. While it’s too early to understand the full implications of 2020 on escape room businesses, we can look at some early trends in this industry report.

In this report dated August 2020, we present a data-driven look at the US escape room industry today, based on the data industry tracking through the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory since 2014.

In August 2020, there are more than 2,250 escape room facilities in the United States.

This is a 4.3% decrease in the number of facilities since this time last year, when there were 2,350 escape room facilities in the United States.

Growth Over Time

In 2014 there were about 2 dozen escape room facilities in the US.

The following years introduced incredible growth in the number of escape room facilities: 317% growth in 2015, followed by 800% growth in 2016.

By 2019, facility growth had leveled, growing by just 2%.

In 2020, the industry has shrunk slightly in number of facilities, down 4.3%. That said, compared to the boom of the early years, the decline is small and the number of facilities currently operating in the US (excluding temporary closures) remains stable at 2,250.

Graph of US Escape Room Facilities Over Time

It is important to understand that the number of facilities does not represent revenue. These are two separate datasets, and no one in the escape room industry currently has access to revenue data.

Counting Escape Rooms

Please keep in mind the following nuances as you read this report:

Temporary Closures

Due to COVID-19, many escape room facilities are temporarily closed, and have been for much of 2020. In this report, we are not counting temporary closures as closed facilities. If the business is communicating the closure as temporary, and as far as we can tell, they plan to reopen the facility, we are counting this as an operational facility for the purpose of this report.

Some of these temporary closures will eventually become permanent closures, but at this time, we can only report what has already occurred, and not what may occur in the coming months.

Locations

In this report, we count escape room facilities. These are permanent physical locations where you can go play an escape room. One business owner might operate 10 locations around the country or 2 locations in the same city. These would be counted as 10 facilities and 2 facilities, respectively.

Games

This report does not count individual escape room games. While some facilities only operate a single game, many operate two or three games, and some operate far more.

Soon to Open

The Room Escape Artist directory includes some facilities that are not yet open for business, but appear to be opening in the near future. To be listed in the directory, we require a facility to have their address published on their website and their website to tell us a bit about the business.

We do not include escape room facilities that might open some day. A social media page that says “coming soon” is not enough to be listed in the directory or counted in this report.

Dates

All dates in our data are when we added a company to our directory or removed it from our directory. While we try to find companies as soon as they open, and to check often for closures, our dates don’t necessarily correlate exactly with when a facility opened or closed.

Permanence

Our directory only includes established entertainment facilities that continually operate escape rooms (2020’s temporary shutdowns notwithstanding). We do not include escape rooms that appeared for a weekend, a week, or even a month, in a temporary structure or other facility, but will not operate continually.

Venue

Most escape room facilities are independent operations. Others operate out of larger entertainment venues such as bowling alleys, arcades, or restaurants. We include these as well, as long as the escape room is a permanent fixture in the larger venue.

Mobile Facilities

The count of escape room facilities above includes mobile escape room venues, which we track separately. While in past years these have been included within the Room Escape Artist US Escape Room Directory, the current directory interface requires a full address and does not include mobile rooms. We plan to update the directory to include a listing of mobile escape room venues in the coming months.

Facility Closures

Over the course of 6 years, we’ve tracked 850 escape room facility closures.

This includes only permanent closures as reported by the business on their website or social media, and/or as reported by Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor. This does not include temporary closures with the intent to re-open.

Gradual Trend Line

With each year, we’ve seen additional closures and we are on track to report more closures in 2020 than any other previous year.

We removed 315 closed facilities from the Room Escape Artist directory in 2019. In the first half of 2020, we removed 185.

That said, thus far, we haven’t seen an enormous surge in closures amidst the challenges of 2020.

Which Businesses Close

While our data doesn’t tell us why businesses close, anecdotally, in 2020, product quality isn’t necessarily the reason. From seeing which companies have closed, and talking with many business owners, we predict that surviving 2020 may have more to do with ability to adapt, cash reserves, a friendly landlord relationship, and government loans.

Industry Size & Government Support

72% of escape room facilities in the US are single-facility businesses. While there are chains and franchises with multiple locations across the country, these are the exception. In general, escape rooms are small operations.

That makes it especially difficult to assess the impact of the pandemic on the businesses and the industry at this time. We cannot know the extent to which the industry has received government assistance.

More than 15 Locations

These are the largest escape room companies in the US, by count of facilities.

Company NameFacility Count
Escapology46
Breakout Games39
All In Adventures31
Escape The Room24
Key Quest21
The Escape Game19

Escapology is the largest escape room company in the US, with 46 locations, same as they had one year ago.

Breakout Games and Key Quest have lost a few locations over the last year, shrinking from 44 to 39 (Breakout Games) and 28 to 21 (Key Quest).

All In Adventures, Escape The Room, and The Escape Game have added locations in the last year, growing from 28 to 31 (All in Adventures), 23 to 24 (Escape the Room), and 15 to 19 (The Escape Game).

6 to 15 Locations

Most of these companies are holding pretty steady in number of facilities compared to last year. The notable exception is Epic Escape Game, which has dropped from 10 facilities in 2019 to less than 6 now.

Company NameFacility Count
The Great Escape Room12
Amazing Escape Room10
PanIQ Entertainment10
Great Room Escape9
Puzzle Effect8
Puzzle Room LLC8
Red Door Escape Room8
Texas Panic Room8
60 Out Escape Rooms7
Brainy Actz Escape Rooms7
ESCAPE INC7
Maze Rooms7
5 Wits6
Escape Room Zone6
Escape Zone 606
Fox in a Box6

Some of the larger franchises also operate outside the US. While this report only includes their locations in the US, Fox in a Box and PanIQ Entertainment, for example, have more international locations.

PPP Loans

ProPublica put together a resource for searching the loans by approved lenders and disclosed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This database only includes federal loans of over $150,000, listed as a range.

Most escape room businesses are too small to have received more than $150,000. For the most part, only the bigger chains received this much.

CompanyLocation CountLoan AmountJobs Retained*
The Escape Game19$2-5 million415
All in Adventures31$350,000-1 million153
Breakout Games39$350,000-1 million381
Escapology46$150,000-350,00070
Escape the Room24$150,000-350,00024
Escape the Room**24$150,000-350,0002
Red Door Escape Room8$150,000-350,0000
ESCAPE INC7$150,000-350,00067
Mastermind Escape Games5$150,000-350,00045
Escape OKC5$150,000-350,00033
Palace Games1$150,000-350,00017
Boda Borg1$150,000-350,00039
NetherWorld Haunted Attractions***1$150,000-350,000no data

*at the time of applying for the loan

**Escape the Room is listed in the ProPublica directory twice, as two different business entities.

***NetherWorld Haunted Attractions is the larger business that includes Escape The NetherWorld.

It’s likely that this list is not exhaustive. These businesses are classified in many different ways: All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries, Amusement Arcades, Other Spectator Sports, All Other Support Services, Other Performing Arts Companies, Theater Companies and Dinner Theaters, and even Food Service Contractors (Boda Borg does have food on site). We may have missed some recipients of loans over $150,000 while searching ProPublica’s database.

From this data we know the largest escape room companies received loans of more than $150,000. Most of this industry has received far less. We don’t know how much, or how far it will go.

By State

The most populous states remain the states with the most escape rooms: California, Florida, and Texas.

Colorado remains the state with the most escape rooms per capita. New Hampshire and North Dakota are the second and third, respectively, in escape rooms per capita.

Delaware now has the fewest escape rooms, which is a bit of an exception, since it’s not one of the very smallest states by population. South Dakota ranks just above it also with few escape rooms. Similarly to last year, the least populous states Wyoming, Vermont, and the District of Columbia round out the list of states with the fewest rooms.

The states with the fewest escape rooms per capita include Texas, Kentucky, Delaware, and Alabama.

Booking Trends

Over the course of 2018 and 2019 we did a study into booking trends in the US escape room industry. We collected this data over the course of 2 years and completed the study before the start of 2020.

During 2018 and 2019, the US escape room industry was already shifting away from its earlier reliance on public ticketing. When we explored escape room pricing structures back in 2017, we found, at least anecdotally, that for escape room businesses, private ticketing made more sense. Many escape room operators drew the same conclusions.

At the end of 2019, only 50% of the US escape room market relied entirely on public bookings.

Booking TypePercentage of Market
Public50%
Private22%
Both18%
Insufficient Data10%

As escape rooms reopen in 2020, we expect public bookings to become a thing of the past. Despite the broader perception of the US escape room market as offering largely public ticketing, at the start of 2020, at least 40% of facilities were already set up to offer private experiences.

Analysis & Conclusions

Escape rooms are better positioned to operate in the coming months than many other forms of entertainment. Movie theaters, theaters, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and amusement parks require large crowds to turn a profit. Escape rooms, however, are small-group, private experiences with low throughput and good-enough margins. Earlier this year, we outlined different precautions escape rooms can take to reopen safely.

While the number of escape room facilities operating in the US has decreased in the last year, it hasn’t plummeted. In fact, the closure rate is lower than we were expecting at the start of 2020, regardless of the impact of the pandemic.

We can infer that some companies are limping along based on government support, but we can’t know how many because the industry is too small to find that data. We can assume that some of these temporary closures will become permanent closures. It’s too soon to know the precise number.

As 2020 continues, we expect more closures, but we also expect innovation – the type that enables escape room companies to scale, diversity their product lines, reach new markets, and grow. The challenges of 2020 have forced escape rooms to adapt. We are optimistic that adaptation will open new opportunities.

Methodology & Past Reports

Methodology

Following the publication of our first piece on the US industry growth in 2016, we published more detailed information on our methodology for tracking the growth of the industry. That piece includes a bit of history about our directory and additional perspectives on the data.

Previous studies will remain available: 

Thank Yous

Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for her unwavering dedication to this directory. Her countless hours of research and fact-checking ensure that this report is as complete and accurate as possible. We are all indebted to Melissa for so much of the data in this report.

Thank you to Jason for building many of the tools we use to keep the directory accurate and functional. Jason’s work has also improved the directory interface for those who rely on this information and those who maintain the backend.

Thank you to the many readers from all over the country who continually let us know about the updates in their areas. Please continue to send us this information.

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