With the end of 2020, we compiled a data-driven look at how COVID-19 has impacted the US escape room industry, based on the data we have from maintaining the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory since 2014.
As of February 2021, there are 2,080 escape room facilities in the United States.
In comparison, in August 2020, there were 2,250 escape room facilities in the United States. In the past 6 months, we’ve experienced a 7.5% decrease in the number of facilities.
It is critical to note that the number of facilities does not indicate the size of the industry at large. 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.
Since our report in August, we’ve removed 180 escape room facilities from our directory.
This is on par with the closure rate we saw in the first half of 2020 (also 180 facilities).
In fact, the total facility closures in 2019 (315) was slightly more than in 2020 (300).
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.
Of note, 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.For a more nuanced understanding of how we count escape rooms (and it’s the facilities that we’re counting), please refer to 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020).
The Delta Widens
Closures aren’t new, but in past years, they were eclipsed by new companies opening.
In 2017, more than 75 facilities closed, and in 2018, more than 250 facilities closed. These numbers, however, were offset by many new business entering the marketing:
In 2014 there were about 2 dozen escape room facilities in the US. This was followed by exponential growth in 2015 and 2016, which had leveled off by 2019, when the number of facilities in the US increased by just 2%.
For more details on these periods of growth, read our past industry reports.
In the last 6 months, only 25 new escape room facilities opened, while 180 closed.
Chains & Franchises
For the most part, the largest companies (in terms of number of facilities) have not experienced a substantial drop in number of facilities.
The two largest companies, Escapology and Breakout Games (46 facilities and 39 facilities, respectively, in August 2020), each closed 3 facilities.
The exception among the chains is Key Quest, which closed completely in 2020. This company was a branch of the laser tag company Laser Quest, which had 21 facilities operating escape rooms in August 2020 (and additional facilities without escape rooms), and now has 0 open facilities. The closing of a large chain certainly impacts the closure rate.
For many years now, Colorado has had the most escape room facilities per capita of any US state.
Colorado had a high per capita attrition rate in the time of COVID-19 through the publication of this report (April 2020 – February 2021). And yet, Colorado is the state with the second most escape room facilities per capita today, second only to New Hampshire.
Other states with high per capita attrition include North Dakota, Wyoming, and Delaware.
This report is just part of the story of 2020 for the US escape room industry. A count of open and closed facilities cannot tell us about the impact of the pandemic on the businesses that remain open.
This report does not unpack the financial health of these companies. Even the information on PPP Loans linked above doesn’t give us much insight into the debt assumed by the majority of these businesses – the single-location, small businesses.
We predict that the financial hardship of 2020 will affect future investment in new games. In the near future, we don’t expect to see the same volume of new games or high-budget, blockbuster games that we’ve seen in the past.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice quality.
As in-person business reopens in 2021, we expect to see more creative escape rooms. Less investment yields more constraints, and constraints force creativity. We see this as an opportunity for creators to experiment with new ideas, and continue to push the boundaries of this medium of entertainment.
If you heard us on stage in 2019, you heard David outline the risks of high-investment games. We’ve known for some time that raising that particular bar wasn’t the long term future for most businesses. If anything this pandemic will speed us along a more sustainable path.
Because this report is just part of the story, today we are asking for your help in painting a more complete picture. We’re looking to learn more from you, the business owners and players, so that we can, in turn, share more information about how COVID-19 has and continues to impact our industry.
It’s a group effort, and we’re asking everyone who is reading this report to contribute. Please click the button below and fill out your survey as completely and honestly as you can. This survey is anonymous.
This annual report isn’t enough. It’s based entirely on publicly available information.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 to 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 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.
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 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.
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.
All In Adventures
Escape The Room
The Escape Game
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.
The Great Escape Room
Amazing Escape Room
Great Room Escape
Puzzle Room LLC
Red Door Escape Room
Texas Panic Room
60 Out Escape Rooms
Brainy Actz Escape Rooms
Escape Room Zone
Escape Zone 60
Fox in a Box
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.
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.
The Escape Game
All in Adventures
Escape the Room
Escape the Room**
Red Door Escape Room
Mastermind Escape Games
NetherWorld Haunted Attractions***
*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.
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.
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.
Percentage of Market
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.
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
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.
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.