You Can Help: Ongoing Industry Research & Reporting

In August we published the 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report, our fifth in a series of annual reports, released each summer, based on the data we have from maintaining our Directory of Escape Rooms in the US.

This annual report isn’t enough. It’s based entirely on publicly available information.

Hands reaching in together, each with a little piece of a larger heart to make a whole.

Majority Small Business

We’re an industry comprised almost entirely of small businesses. As this year’s report notes:

  • 72% of escape room facilities in the US are single-facility businesses.
  • Only 13 escape room facilities (out of 2,250) received more than $150,000 in PPP loans this year.

Because we’re small, there’s a shortage of available data. That’s where you come in.

2020 Year-End Report

This winter, we’ll be working on another report. It has two main components:

As we all feel the effects of the pandemic, over time, more businesses will close. By documenting the closures as they happen, we’ll have a better understanding of the health of our industry.

Businesses gather information on their operations and their customers. By asking you anonymously about your numbers, and aggregating this information from many businesses around the country, we’ll all learn more together.

Trust & Share

We’ve been observers, researchers, and documenters of this industry for 6 years. We make knowledge accessible. Every single day.

Please fill out this short form to tell us that you’re interested in sharing your data.

If you fill out the form, we’ll be emailing you a short survey in a few weeks.

Please share this form with your contacts in the industry. If you have relationships with escape room owners and operators, please ask them to fill out this form to tell us they too want to share data.

Thank you for helping us share knowledge, so that we can all make smarter, data-driven decisions as businesses and as an industry in 2021 and beyond.

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.

Escape Room Directory Updates: Please Contribute Local Knowledge

As we prepare to release this summer’s industry report at RECON, we are pushing a lot of updates to the Room Escape Artist Directory, located on our “Find a Room” page. This directory includes all of the brick-and-mortar escape rooms in the United States.

You can see last year’s industry report here.

How you can help

In order to provide this information, we rely on input from folks all over the United States who are playing and creating escape rooms.

Please check your local area for:

  • Newly opened facilities
  • Permanently closed facilities*
  • Mergers/ acquisitions
  • Outdated information (changed URL, changed name, moved location)

You are our best resource for escape rooms near you. Please send us your updates!

*Many facilities are temporarily closed right now. If the facility plans to reopen, we are currently keeping them listed in the directory.

REA logo with a photo of a pinned map of the USA in the background.

2020 Challenges

There are a lot of escape room companies struggling right now. As of this writing, different businesses are facing different challenges, depending on whether or not they can operate on location, and the comfort level of the public in their area.

We know that many escape room businesses have already faced insurmountable challenges, and have had to close their doors. Our hearts go out to these business owners and their staffs.

Other businesses are working hard to increase their visibility at this time when they can service customers, for any customers who want to experience these games in person.

It continues to be a challenging and unpredictable year. Please help all of these businesses by sending us updates about your local area. You know your local market best.

Thank You

Thank you to our team of map maintainers, especially Melissa from Connecticut, who dedicates a large amount of her time to keeping this directory accurate.

Thank you to the players who send in local updates and the companies that share their changes with us.

We can’t do this without you.

Escape Room Safety Report 2019

Escape rooms are a broadly safe activity.

In every escape room we played in 2019, we could have freed ourselves from the game in the event of an emergency, except for in 1 game, for only the first 5 minutes.

There is a small minority of companies that makes bad decisions. Thankfully, the owner community has generally recognized the need for safety and adhered to fire code and common sense.

A green exit sign with a person approaching a door.

Background

On January 13, 2019, we published a Basic Safety Evaluation for our escape room reviews.

We wrote, “the most important aspect of escape room safety is that players have the ability to free themselves in the event of an emergency.” That was the premise around which we established our safety rubric.

In that piece, we wrote “during 2019, we will maintain a dataset of basic escape room safety in the games that we play. We will issue a report at the end of the year.”

As we conclude 2019 today, here is the 2019 Basic Safety Report.

Data-Driven Analysis

This is a non-scientific study without random sampling. The dataset represents the games that we played in 2019.

We assigned a safety rating to 161 escape rooms that we played in 2019.*

This safety rating had two parts: Emergency Exit & Physical Restraints.

Emergency Exits

Room Escape Artist Emergency Exit Rating Scale:

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Lock – 79.5% – Players are never locked in at all.
  • [A] Push To Exit – 16.77% – Players are magnetically locked in and may free themselves with the push of a button near the door.
  • [B] Emergency Key – 3.73% – Players may free themselves using a spare key hung near a locked exit door.
  • [F] No Emergency Exit – 0% – Players are trapped within the game and cannot exit unless they win or the door is opened by a gamemaster

In 100% of the escape rooms we played, we could leave the room through an emergency exit at any time.

96% of games met the industry standard of an unlocked exit or a push to exit button (A+ or A rating).

The remaining 6 games had emergency keys available to players next to the exit door.

Physical Restraints

Room Escape Artist Physical Restraints Rating Scale: 

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Physical Restraints – 97.52% – Players are never physically restrained.
  • [A] Push To Release – 0.62% – Players are magnetically restrained and may free themselves with the push of a button within reach of their restraints.
  • [B] Mechanical Release – 1.24% – Players may free themselves using a mechanical release (like a safety switch on handcuffs).
  • [F] No Emergency Release – 0.62% – Players are restrained with no way to release the restraint other than winning the release or gamemaster intervention.

Physical restraints have become passé. Less than 3% of the games we played in 2019 had physical restraints of any kind. We explored the trajectory of this trend globally back in 2017: Escape Room Kink: Q&A On Physical Restraints.

Of the 4 games we played with physical restraints, only 1 game did not provide us a means to release ourselves.

Of note, while this one game absolutely failed, I will add that releasing ourselves from the handcuffs was the first puzzle. We spent mere minutes in handcuffs and as soon as we were out of the handcuffs, the exit door was unlocked. Nevertheless, we still believe that this is intolerable for an escape room in 2019.

Stylized image of handcuffs.

Data Breakdown

Safety RatingCount of Emergency ExitPercent of Emergency ExitCount of Physical RestraintsPercent of Physical Restraints
A+12879.50%15797.52%
A2716.77%10.62%
B63.73%21.24%
F00.00%10.62%
Total161100.00%161100.00%

*Some of the games we played in 2019 were situated such that they didn’t warrant a typical safety rating.

Data Bias

While this is a substantial dataset, it isn’t all-encompassing. We played a lot of escape rooms in 2019, but we didn’t play every escape room. (In fact, in some past years, we’ve played significantly more.) As noted above, this is a non-scientific study without random sampling.

This data is biased by where we played. We played mostly in the United States. During 2019, we played in 14 states, playing the most games in Colorado and Texas. We played in 4 other countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands.

When we travel, we put an emphasis on playing amazing and unusual games. We play escape rooms that are recommended by the community of escape room players. These tend to be escape games that are crafted with thought and care, which encompasses not only the gameplay and aesthetic, but also other aspects of design including safety.

A red sign reads "Exit" glowing in the darkness.

Conclusion

The overwhelming majority of escape rooms are safe for players. In all of 2019, with the exception of a few minutes at the start of one game, we were always able to free ourselves.

Anecdotally, I can add that in most games, we noticed emergency exit signage within the games, and before the game began we were briefed on how to exit the game in the event of an emergency.

We spent a lot of time in escape rooms and we always felt safe.

5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2019)

Update: This piece is outdated. We published 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report on August 24, 2020.

We’ve been tracking the escape room industry for 5 years, since launching the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory in 2014.

In August 2019, there are more than 2,350 escape room facilities in the United States.

If that number looks familiar, it’s because 1 year ago there were 2,300.

We’ve added more than 400 new escape room facilities to the directory in the last year and that’s a lot. It shouldn’t be overlooked because other escape rooms are closing.

The growth has leveled. The industry has begun to mature.

Growth Over Time

The US escape room industry has grown from approximately 2 dozen escape room facilities in 2014 to more than 2,350 facilities 5 years later.

The industry grew most rapidly in the third quarter of 2016.

Since then, the growth rate has slowed and the closure rate has increased. The net effect is that the total number of escape room facilities has plateaued.

US Escape Room Facility Graph 2014-2019.

Counting Escape Rooms

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

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 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.

Permanence

Anecdotally, we’ve seen a growing number of limited-run, pop-up escape rooms. Our directory only includes established entertainment facilities that continually operate escape rooms. While we do include a few seasonal operations, 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. We also include mobile escape room businesses.

Chains and Franchises

72% of escape room facilities in the US are single facility businesses. That said, some escape room businesses are expanding as chains and franchises.

More than 20 Locations

The largest companies don’t show a consistent trend in expansion or contraction when compared to last year’s report.

CompanyCount
Escapology46
Breakout Games44
All in Adventures28
Key Quest28
Escape the Room23

Escapology has grown substantially (from 27 locations to 46 locations). They are now the biggest company in the United States, in terms of number of facilities.

Two of the largest companies have experienced substantial decline: Key Quest (from 35 to 28) and All in Adventures (from 37 to 28).

Two are holding pretty steady. Escape the Room has grown modestly (from 21 to 23) and Breakout Games has slipped slightly (from 45 to 44).

6-20 Locations

Expansion has been pretty flat for most of the companies with 6-20 locations.

The Escape Game is the only company in this category that has grown substantially (from 9 locations to 15 locations).

CompanyCount
The Escape Game15
The Great Escape Room12
Amazing Escape Room10
Epic Escape Game10
PanIQ Room10
Great Room Escape / Mindspark9
Texas Panic Room / Project Panic8
The Puzzle Effect8
5 Wits7
60 Out Escape Rooms7
Escape INC7
Maze Rooms7
Room 52807
Escape Room Zone6
Escape Zone 606
Fox in a Box6
Mastermind Escape Games6
Red Door Escape Room6
United Escape Rooms / Entrap Games6

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

Closures

Over the 5 years we’ve been following the industry, we’ve removed more than 580 facilities from the directory.

In 2019 alone, we removed more than 240 facilities. Stated differently, 42% of the US escape room facilities that have closed their doors did so between January and August of 2019.

Bar chart of US escape room closures by year.
There has been a significant increase in closures in 2018 and 2019.

At year 5, we are seeing a lot more companies close than we saw in previous years.

“Thankfully Closed”

When readers send us directory updates, they sometimes send in commentary. In the last year, we’ve received an increasing number of messages telling us that a company “has (mercifully) closed” or “has finally (and thankfully) closed.” Yes, those are direct quotes from a consistent map contributor in Pennsylvania.

It isn’t necessarily bad for the industry that a large number of companies have closed. Readers like this one are happy to report the closure of a low-quality escape room operation.

Bad escape room businesses shrink the market. They turn your would-be customers away by giving them a bad first impression of the entire industry. When this type of escape room facility closes, it can be a good thing for the industry in that region.

Small Business Trends

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy’s Frequently Asked Questions, about 80% of small businesses survive the first year. About 50% of small businesses survive year 5.

This is year 5 for the escape room industry in the United States.

Of the escape room facilities that have been a part of our directory for 5 years (added before July 2015), only 1/3 have closed. 2/3 of those facilities are still operating, as far as we know.

As an industry, we are doing better than average.

Reasons for Closure

Our directory doesn’t track why an escape room facility closed. Anecdotally, however, from our travels throughout the country, our conversations with owners, and information from those who report the closures in their local markets, we have a sense of why most escape room businesses close.

Reasons for closure include (in no particular order):

  • lack of business acumen
  • poor product quality
  • strife between partners
  • legal troubles
  • building or fire code changes
  • lease termination by landlord
  • investor drama

Many closures result from some combination of these, and other, factors.

Acquisitions

Of the escape room facilities in our directory, we’ve confirmed 2 dozen acquisitions over the last 5 years. We expect that the acquisition rate is quite a bit higher. This data is hard to track, as it is not always readily apparent to customers, even the type of customers who send updates our way.

We’ve also tracked more than 50 name changes. We expect that many of these indicate acquisitions or mergers as well. In other cases, ownership hasn’t changed, but a company has rebranded to reflect their growth or to escape being confused with other similarly named facilities.

By State

The state metrics remain similar to those in our July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study.

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

Colorado remains the state with the most escape rooms per capita.

For the most part, the states with the smallest populations remain those with the fewest escape rooms: Wyoming, Vermont, District of Columbia, and Alaska.

Many of these states, however, rank pretty high in escape rooms per capita.

States with the fewest escape rooms per capita include Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and New York. This list is almost entirely different from last year’s report (with only Alabama on both reports.)

Increasing Interest in Escape Rooms

The number of facilities is not a measure of interest in escape rooms or the size of the player base.

Watching the Google Trends data on the term “escape room,” we continue to see steady and healthy growth:

Google Trend data for "escape room" 2014 - 2019. The growth is steady with one outlier spike in Q1 2019.
Google Trends – “Escape Room”

That outlier spike in Q1 2019 correlates to two events:

Analysis & Conclusions

In our talk 4 Years of Escape Rooms: A Data-Driven Look that we delivered at the Room Escape Conference in Nashville in July of 2018, we warned that the closure rate would increase. Expansion and contraction are inevitable in any industry.

For years, we’ve hypothesized that following the July 2015 MarketWatch article The unbelievably lucrative business of escape rooms, which falsely framed escape rooms as a low-barrier-to-entry get-rich-quick scheme, encouraged entirely too many companies to open without the tools to succeed. Those expectations were not founded in the realities of the escape room business, and many of those businesses have languished.

We’ve long believed that a substantial number of zombie escape room businesses have been doing just enough in sales to keep the lights on while riding out 3-year leases. Those leases are ending and the companies are closing.

There is money to be made in escape rooms, but escape rooms are not a rocket ship. It takes skill, labor, and love to create and sustain a strong escape room business. Near as we can tell, the folks who are succeeding in the escape room business have a passion for this industry and the skills to back it up, not just for business in general.

Our confidence in this medium remains strong. We’ve witnessed it evolve from a 1-dimensional puzzle game to a complex medium for storytelling and adventure. We believe that the core concept is more durable than other forms of entertainment that have come and gone as fads. Escape rooms have changed more in 5 years than bowling has changed throughout recorded history! Escape rooms continue to evolve.

In 2019, although some escape rooms businesses are closing their doors, new businesses are opening. They are opening with data and resources that their predecessors didn’t have. We are excited to see where they take this industry next.

Methodology & Data Caveats

Directory vs Report

The data used in this report only includes escape rooms in the United States. While the Room Escape Artist escape room directory includes escape rooms in Central America, the Caribbean, and some Canadian escape rooms that are just across the US border, the data for those locations is not included in this study.

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: 

About 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, our add date doesn’t necessarily correlate exactly with when they opened their doors for business. It can take us a while to confirm whether a company has actually closed, and we do try to confirm each one before removing them from the directory, so those dates may not align as closely with when the business folded.

Spikes on the Graphs

Some of the spikes on the graphs can be attributed to our process for updating the directory. We batch updates by type and will do a few sessions of additions or changes or removals at once. Given our busy travel schedule, it can also sometimes take us a few weeks to get to an update. Therefore, some of the graph spiking can be accounted for by when we spent a lot of time on directory updates. In reality, the curves are smoother than you might see in the graphs.

Thank Yous

Thank you:

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

Theresa for many hours of rigorous data updating.

Jason for building us the tools we needed to work more efficiently and produce a more accurate directory.

And 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.