PENNIES FROM KEVIN - Nostradumbass 2005 - Disney's Theme Parks
In the first part of a six-part series, Nostradumbass will peer into his crystal ball at how 2005 might treat Disney's theme parks.
Written by Kevin Baxter
People were wondering where I was for so long... now they'll be wishing I would disappear again after this semi-exhaustive six-part look at Disney and NBC Universal in 2005Tweet
Okay, it's almost April and Nostradumbass is just now predicting what 2005 has in store for the two big park operators? I had actually planned on doing this two months ago, but Disney was being so pokey with its constantly-shifting film roster AND in rolling out ABC's midseason programs, that I figured it best to wait. Which is why I am starting with the easy stuff first:
See, that was easy! And for the first time in years and years! Disney parks, with questionable upkeep and sporadic updating, have often been practically impossible to forecast. Take last year, for example. Disneyland and Magic Kingdom usually coast along, but after horrible summers on both coasts, decent increases were more than a little shocking. In fact, all Disney stateside parks had decent increases, including the perennial failure Animal Kingdom. California Adventure continued upward, even though the new Tower of Terror showed no increase at the turnstiles. On the West Coast, much of this was explained away by constant discounting and ridiculously low Annual Pass prices. But what about on the East Coast, which had low hotel occupancy yet increased attendance? Many on TPI are now questioning Amusement Business's estimates, especially after AB reduced Universal Orlando's attendance in 2004... for 2003!
Still, that is neither here nor there nor anywhere else for that matter. Nostradumbass is focused on 2005. Which will be huge. And not regular huge, but Donald Trump yooge! Disneyland, with loads of paint and two new rides, could actually take back its attendance title from little sister MK. That would take about two million extra guests, but Disney Dorks take their Anniversaries seriously, and the park's 50th will be the biggest thing to hit any Disney park for the next decade.
Will this Disneyland frenzy help DCA? Absolutely. Unlike DL's usual attendance, which is boosted by more than 600,000 APs, DL's 50th Anniversary will bring in people from all over the country, not to mention more international guests than the park has seen in years. Unless AP sales can be seriously curtailed - and recent price increases haven't done the trick - Disney's flagship park will probably have to close its gates to guests many times this summer. And those guests will have no choice but to head over to DCA until DL visitors get sick of the crowds and escape the park - probably for DCA!
So what about on the other coast? Who knows? The parks are all getting something new, but will tourists be fooled into celebrating Disneyland's 50th at WDW? If you lived in Chicago and you knew DL was having its big 50th, would your first thought be "Let's go to the Magic Kingdom!"? Especially if you had been to WDW recently and hadn't been to DL in a while??
Disney did what they could by introducing new attractions to each park, but are they enough? Epcot's Soarin' may be, especially considering Mission: Space is still fairly new. But will a stunt show at Disney/MGM Studios? What about a friggin' Cinderella show at MK? Or better yet, a mechanical dinosaur at Animal Kingdom?? Except for the questionable 2004 figures, at least one WDW park has suffered every year since AK opened. That park is usually never MK, so even though the Cinderellebration and the newish Stitch's Great Escape are getting rotten reviews, don't expect WDW's signature park to fall apart this year. An E-Ticket at Epcot is a rare event, so that park should continue its climb back out of the gutter that began last year.
Which leaves Disney/MGM or AK. Or D/MGM AND AK. Both parks are hanging by a thread. D/MGM has stopped seeming fresh for years. Star Tours, MuppetVision, the Great Movie Ride, the Backlot Tour, Sounds Dangerous, all old and all greatly ignored most of the time. Will yet another show - another STUNT SHOW - change this? Possibly, since AK still doesn't offer even a half-day of entertainment. Expedition Everest won't change that, but it is definitely a ride they needed this year, not next year. In fact, many people may just wait for next year to head there, since they already know the handful of offerings there.
Nostradumbass would normally predict small gains, if any, for the two parks, if Universal and Busch weren't helping out so much. This would have been a perfect year for Islands of Adventure to add the long-proposed Jurassic Park coaster, but we'll be lucky to get that next year. Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld Orlando are both adding shows - Fear Factor Live for USF and a new dolphin show for SWO - which shouldn't strike fear in Disney's heart. Still, the continued competition from these three parks, and unusual competition from their Anaheim sibling may hurt them. In a weeklong vacation, something usually has to go, and of all the Orlando parks, I think it will be AK that is dropped from many itineraries.
The most difficult to figure out right now is the Tokyo resort, but since Disney doesn't own them, Nostradumbass doesn't have to make any predictions. The Paris resort is third-owned by Disney, and another third or so is owned by Euro Disney, which is still basically Disney, so Nostradumbass will have to make a prediction there: It will suck. Seriously, they are so in debt, it would take zillions of people through the gate to get them out of trouble. Fortunately, Iger's recent restructuring means the American parks shouldn't be affected much by the problems on the other side of the pond.
Hong Kong Disneyland should open in September, and this one is really difficult for Nostradumbass. Will people show up? Or do they know this is yet another California Adventure/Walt Disney Studios disaster in the making? Disney seems to be expecting this, and they have created a price scale, with prices being much cheaper on weekdays. It could help, but Disney's investment is so low here that they won't lose much, if any at all, if things fall apart. So no prediction here.
Those are Nostradumbass's two pennies... give him yours!
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