Will Harry Potter Cast a Spell Over Disneyland Fans, Too?
Walt Disney World's attendance slid while Universal Orlando's surged when the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Orlando in 2010. When Harry Potter debuts at Universal Studios Hollywood next spring, will the same thing happen in Southern California?
That's the question I asked in my Orange County Register column this week: Will Harry Potter magic steal Disneyland's crowds?
In it, I look at industry attendance numbers to show how Harry Potter has helped push Universal's theme parks in Orlando and Japan to record attendance. I also note that Hollywood's park has been doing quite well over the past few years, despite all the construction in and around the park. (For comparison, Universal Orlando's attendance tanked in the years leading up to Potters' opening. But the recession then didn't help, either.)
Of course, Walt Disney World's attendance rebounded nicely after Potter's opening, and ultimately the addition of the Wizarding World brought more visitors to the Orlando area, helping both Universal and Disney.
What will happen to the Disneyland Resort's attendance in 2016, and beyond? Keep in mind that several attractions in the park will close in January, for Star Wars Land construction. That, plus the end of the Diamond Celebration and the recent annual pass price increases, could serve to depress attendance at the same time that Potter is luring more and more visitors up the 5 toward Universal City.
So let's put the question to you, theme park fans: Are you planning to visit the Disneyland Resort more or less in 2016? Are you planning to Universal more or less often, as well?
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Put me down as a maybe. I am thinking more people will go to USH that are locals just because it is a nice addition to the park. However, I do not think it will really matter for the out of LA visitors. Disneyland and USH do not compete the same way as WDW and USO. They both offer different experiences. USH's big draw is still the Studio Tour.
There's a sizable audience of locals closer to Hollywood than Anaheim. They might consider visiting Universal more frequently than Disneyland from convenience. I'm sure Harry Potter alone isn't sufficient to keep people from Disneyland.
Of course Potter will be popular at USH, but it won't have quite the same effect
You what is interesting to think about - I'm hoping Disneyland attendance does drop. Why? Because then the park will be less crowded on a regular basis. And slightly more enjoyable.
Without a second gate Universal Hollywood will never be a threat to Disneyland. It just doesn't have the space to compete with Disneylands 2 parks (and maybe even a 3rd in the future). If anything I think it could hurt Knotts, 6 flags, Legoland, Sea world or the San Diego zoo, those other major So Cal destinations.
Mr. Niles writes that the closing of attractions like Rivers of America will probably be a bit of a turn-off for Disneyland fans, but I don't really think so. When I visited Disneyland, it was during the Rivers's last major refurb, where they were completely drained. And despite having to see those big ugly construction walls, it had no effect on my experience. I still did so many things and had lots of fun, and the park was filled with many other visitors as well. And, from my understanding, only a small handful of attractions will be closed for 2016, and the most major one of those attractions is Jungle Cruise. No big E-tickets or anything like that. If that's the case, then that means there's still plenty to enjoy at Disneyland, and most of it is the stuff that the people have come to see anyway. Lastly, Tomorrowland has it's temporary Star Wars overlay happening. That's probably really gonna help attendance, especially if Force Awakens does really well.
Two of WDW's parks, DHS and DAK, are very weak parks and were therefore very susceptible to IOA's Potter expansion. DL and DCA are easily the best 2 SoCal theme parks, and even after Potter I'd still rank DCA above USH. DL is obviously several levels above.
I think everyone expects (with good reason) that Universal Studios Hollywood will have huge attendance numbers next year because of Harry Potter, but I predict that their annual passholder numbers will drop off significantly because of their new pricing structure. All three levels of annual passes available have plenty of blackout days and no parking included on the pass.
Some interesting points raised in the comments. I agree with Daniel that it will hurt Knotts, Six Flags and SeaWorld significantly more than Disney. I also agree with others that Disney will only lose visits from local South Californians (the visits it is probably most content to lose).
I would really like to try the Star Wars version of Space Mountain, but that's not enough for my family to make a trip to Disneyland (we're locals who live in greater L.A.), either to buy day tickets or to buy annual passes.
I agree with Spaceman Spiff. I will probably only get a one day ticket for USH because of how expensive the pass is. I went to USH 3 or 4 times in 2015 and expect to only go once in 2016.
My gut feeling is that we'll be looking at something like this in So Cal for 2016:
If anything Disneyland's attendance is going to rise. As people flock from all over the world to WWoHP, Disneyland is going to be a guaranteed stop. All the parks in SoCal are competing to be a second stop after Disney and USH has finally created an attraction that will draw visitors.
My Disneyland attendance certainly won't be affected by the opening of WWoHP, but my bank account will be! While Harry Potter is an incredibly consuming world, Disney Parks simply have more quality stories to draw from. Of course, the powers-that-be actually have to follow through with integrating those stories into the parks, but there's no shortage of creative minds to do it.
^yup pretty sure one butterbeer is going to wipe out internship money.
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