The BLOG FLUME - It's a Dog Copy Dog World
The theme parks have had a couple bad years. Yet the biggies did little to change that. Now that people are returning, they are going all out. Great! But why does it all feel a little familiar?
Written by Kevin Baxter
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Orlando Sentinel - May 31
In its rush to challenge Walt Disney World's market share of Orlando tourists Universal became Universal Orlando. (Actually it became Universal Escape first, but that's another story.) But did it become UO too fast for GE?
UO has been in the red the past two years to the tune of more than $50M each. Most of that is due to debt from the $1B creation of Islands of Adventure, which could lessen dramatically if GE used its stability to lessen interest payments.
Still, barring any major disruption in the current tourist patterns, UO should boast record attendance this year, and Universal Studios Hollywood should get back many of the customers they lost last year when Revenge of the Mummy opens there. So although theme parks don't generate as much money as film studios or television networks, GE might realize there is more to the parks than dollar signs.
Of course, Disney would never admit that UO is nipping at its heels in Orlando, but it doesn't stop them from copying whatever they can. After Universal finally moved their popular CityWalk concept to Florida, the outdoor venue became THE place to be. Ex-Mouseketeer Britney Spears has even said it was hipper than Pleasure Island.
Not that PI isn't popular, but it does have nights that are a bit on the dead side. CityWalk doesn't. Downtown Disney's West Side was supposed to be what USH's CityWalk had always been, but that never materialized. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Disneyland's Downtown Disney is more popular than the original.
So WDW is opening the gates to PI to all. The clubs will still cost the same to get in, but anyone is free to wander the streets and shops. The problem I see with this idea is that people can wander in all they want, but how will PI make money off them? The shops aren't all that great and I'm not sure whether alcohol will be available outside the clubs, like it is now. Furthermore, half the reason to pay to get into PI is for the entire package. Now twenty-something dollars may seem like a bit much for the privilege of entering two or three clubs (which is probably about the average number a visitor probably visits now) while you can enter all CityWalk clubs for about $10, and less as part of a ticket deal.
Disney copied, but they didn't copy enough.
CityWalk at USH isn't resting on its very busy laurels either. The summer will be filled with films and bands... just like California Adventure last year! Okay, the films are ones people actually want to see, like Star Wars and Shrek and will play on the giant outdoor screen. And the bands will appear twice a week also, one being a tribute band, the other an actual band from the 80's. One other night will be Latin night, which about triples the number of days Disneyland devotes to its Fiesta Latina weekends.
Now Disney is copying itself! Now that the Tower of Terror hasn't made DCA popular (surprise!), Disney is looking into bringing back its two-park/one-day at the Disneyland Resort this summer. Gawd, why don't they just build a ramp between the two parks until DCA stops sucking?
Al also has some info as to why the Believe fireworks show ended so abruptly. Apparently the Air Quality Management District in SoCal manages air pollution all over Orange and Los Angeles counties and Disneyland has constantly been one of the biggest offenders. Companies get a certain amount of pollution "credits" so Disneyland "believed" (ha!) a new pneumatic launching system would get them some serious credits. Unfortunately, the new launchers didn't launch quite how they wanted to, so Disney apparently pulled the plug so quality wouldn't be affected. Are we still talking about Disney? "Disney" and "quality" haven't appeared in the same sentence in a long time. It is unknown whether the insanely popular holiday version will return. If I was Disney, I'd work on the new launchers and save a big fireworks splash for the 50th.
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