In this report dated July 2022, we present a data-driven look at the US escape room industry today.
After a global pandemic caused 2 years of significant upheaval for small businesses and in-person entertainment, the escape room industry is rebounding.
This report is based on 8 years of data collected and maintained through the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory since 2014.
July 2022 Industry Numbers
In July 2022, there were more than 1,900 escape room facilities in the United States.
This is a 8.5% decrease in the number of facilities since our last report, about one year into the pandemic (February 2021), when there were 2,080 escape room facilities in the United States.
While this is a larger decrease than the industry has previously experienced, the uptick in new market entrants in 2022 shows a rebounding industry with growth trajectory.
As with previously published reports, it is critical to note that the number of facilities does not alone indicate the size of the industry. It is one indicator, and one we have the data to measure. It does not represent revenue. At this time, no one in the escape room industry has access to revenue data.
Historical Industry Numbers
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 terms of number of facilities, the industry started shrinking in 2020. This was not surprising, given the rapid market expansion of the first few years. Some market entrants saw escape rooms as a “get rich quick” scheme, and were ill-equipped to succeed. The global pandemic exacerbated business challenges, and led to additional closures. In 2020, we experienced a 4.3% decrease, followed by a 7.5% decrease over the following 6 months through, February 2021.
Compared to the boom of the early years, the current decline is small. We are not experiencing a pronounced bust, but rather a slower attrition.
Counting Escape Rooms
Please keep in mind the following nuances as you read this report:
In this report, we count escape room facilities. These are permanent physical locations where you can go play real-life escape rooms in person. 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.
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.
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 check often for closures, our dates don’t necessarily correlate exactly with when a facility opened or closed.
Our directory only includes established entertainment facilities that continually operate physical escape rooms. 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.
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.
The count of escape room facilities above does not include mobile escape room venues, which we stopped actively tracking in 2020. In past reports, mobile facilities were included within the Room Escape Artist US Escape Room Directory, and in the report. However, the current directory interface requires a full address and does not include mobile rooms, and because our mobile data is now outdated, it is not included here. The change to no longer count mobile facilities also accounts for a portion of the decrease in facilities.
The Post-Pandemic Map Maker’s Dilemmas
The global pandemic introduced some new data maintenance challenges.
In March 2020, many businesses closed temporarily without warning. While we have been able to confirm that most either re-opened or closed permanently, there are still those claiming to be “temporarily closed” and the mapmaker must decide at what point temporary has become permanent.
With regard to closures, we remove facilities from our directory when they are permanently closed, as reported by the business on their website or social media, and/or as reported by Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor. We also consider closures to be permanent when the website has been down for a number of months.
Shifted Business Online
Over the course of 2020 and 2021, some escape room businesses diversified revenue streams with online products. A small number of businesses eventually closed their brick-and-mortar location, while maintaining their web presence to support their online escape room products. The mapmaker must perform a detailed review of a business’ web presence to find those that no longer operate physical, real-life escape rooms. We probably didn’t find them all.
For escape rooms, the closures started in 2017 (75) and accelerated in 2018 (260) and 2019 (315).
The closure rate slowed a little in 2020 (300) and 2021 (230). This was in part due to the volume of temporary closures that stayed in limbo for quite some time, not yet confirmed to be permanently closed.
In 2022, the closure rate is on track to be similar to that of 2020, with 140 closures in the first 6 months of the year.
While this industry continues to experience facility closures, many due to COVID-19 and some due to other factors, the closure rate is steady. We have not experienced an alarming closure rate.
New escape room companies continue to open.
During the pandemic years, we added fewer new facilities to our directory: 75 new facilities added each in 2020 and 2021.
That has changed in 2022. In the first 6 months of the year, we’ve added 90 new escape room facilities to our directory. New companies are entering this industry again.
The growth is returning. It’s not in the exponential shape it was in 2016 and 2017, but it’s back at a healthy and more sustainable rate.
Chains & Franchises
By today’s count, 66% of escape room facilities in the US are single-facility businesses. (Of note, two non-affiliated businesses with exactly the same name would skew this count, so the percentage is likely even higher.)
The companies with more than 10 facilities are:
|Escape Room Company (Chain or Franchise)||Count of Facilities|
|All In Adventures||28|
|The Escape Game||23|
|Escape The Room||22|
|The Great Escape Room||15|
|Red Door Escape Room||12|
Notably, Escapology has continued to grow over the last 2 years. The Escape Game has expanded as well.
Breakout Games, All In Adventures, and Escape The Room have all shrunk slightly.
As expected, the most populous states have the most escape room facilities. California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania are the top 5 most populous states, in order, and they have the most escape room facilities, respectively.
The states with the fewest escape room facilities (5 or less) are Delaware, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.
New Hampshire has the most escape room facilities per capita, being a smaller state with 17 escape room facilities. It has surpassed Colorado, which topped previous reports for per capita escape room facilities.
Kentucky has the fewest escape room facilities per capita.
A few observations and conclusions:
The Effects of the Pandemic on Closures
Even before the pandemic, we were expecting an uptick in escape room closures in 2020 and 2021. The exponential growth of the early years would invariably lead to a bust, as unprepared market entrants began closing as their leases expired. (This theme was central to our state of the industry talk in San Antonio in August of 2019.)
These weaker escape room companies typically had inferior products. Others lacked the business skills to support a good product, or there was some inherent instability in the relationships of the various owners/ investors.
The pandemic affected the rate at which companies (the weaker ones, and even some of the stronger ones) closed in numerous ways:
In some cases, the pandemic pushed companies to close sooner. Across sectors, small businesses that relied on in-person interaction struggled with lack of customers and challenging landlord relationships.
In other cases, the pandemic aid allowed struggling companies to hobble along until the customers and the revenue would return.
We don’t know how much government aid sustained the US escape room market. We also don’t know how many escape room companies are sitting on debt from which they will not be able to recover. The pandemic wreaked havoc on many businesses, and we expect that the aftermath has a long tail.
Economic Trends To Watch
Today, escape room operators must contend with new hurdles, such as the tightness in the labor market, inflation, and economic insecurity.
That said, the strengths of small-scale physical entertainment are more pronounced today than ever before.
An escape room is an activity you can enjoy with a small group. It doesn’t expose you to the same risks as crowded concert venues or theaters, for example. It offers an alternative to the screens that have been our primary source of human connection for 2 years.
This report confirms that escape room facilities are numerous throughout the US; they are accessible regardless of climbing gas prices.
The local, small-scale escape room model continues to look promising even in the face of recession and pandemic fallout.
The Threat of Low Quality Products
A key factor to keep an eye on: the gap between high-end and low-end escape room businesses in the United States has never been wider. Our recent trip to Phoenix, AZ in March of 2022 reconfirmed this vividly (high end vs low end).
Room Escape Artist is biased insofar as our reviews cover more high end (and even average) escape rooms. We prefer to shine a spotlight on the best rather than beat down on the worst.
However, the directory data that underpins this report is not biased in the same way; it includes all the escape room facilities we can find. Even if the lower end of the market rarely surfaces in our reviews, these companies continue to produce inferior products or provide bad service, which shrinks the customer base for the entire market by turning off potential repeat customers.
The low end continues to be a serious threat. We predict that the low end of the market is a bigger threat to the longevity of the industry than a pandemic or an economic downturn. Because of this, the current closure rate doesn’t scare us. Closures are necessary for the long-term viability of the industry.
Furthermore, as we weathered a pandemic, we experienced incredible ingenuity and resilience by escape room creators. That gives us a lot of hope for the future, as the industry endures its first recession. We believe local, small-scale amusement is poised to do well, in spite of broader economic weakness.
One thing always remains true: people play.
Methodology & Past Reports
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:
- The Impact of the Pandemic on the Escape Room Market [Survey Results] (May 2021)
- US Escape Room Industry Report – 2020 Year End Update (February 2021)
- 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020)
- 5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2019)
- July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study
- 2017 Escape Room Industry Growth Study
- 2016 Escape Room Industry Growth Study
Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for her unwavering dedication to this directory. Without her hard work, we would not be able to provide this directory or the report. Her countless hours of research and fact-checking ensure that this report is as complete and accurate as possible.
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.
How to Play High-End Escape Rooms
If you’re looking to experience some truly incredible, high-end escape rooms, we invite you to join our escape room tour to New Orleans this November.
At Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans, you’ll experience one of North America’s premier escape room destinations. The reputation is deserved and there’s a reason why we’re bringing a tour here for a third time. Whether you’re looking for interesting gameplay, wonderful world building, or breathtaking sets, there’s a lot here for you. Come have an adventure with us.
Tickets are on sale now.