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Universal Studios Hollywood Makes Date-Specific Ticket Prices Official

February 2, 2016, 12:25 PM · As we reported last month, Universal Studios Hollywood is implementing a new daily ticket system where prices will vary depending upon the selected date of your visit.

Under the new system, the front-gate price for a one-day ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood will remain constant. But the discounts the park makes available for buying your ticket online will vary by the date you select for your visit. Of course, this means that you will have to lock in the date of your visit when you buy your ticket online, instead of simply buying and printing a ticket for use on any future date.

Universal made the change official today, after apparently testing the system for some website visitors last month. In today's announcement, Universal also revealed that visitors who buy their tickets online under the new "EZ Rez" system will get early entry to the park starting April 7, the day that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens officially.

Given the convenience of buying online, the ability to skip an unnecessary wait at the front gate ticket booths, a discount for buying online, and the ability to get into the Wizarding World before everyone else with early entry crowds it, using EZ Rez to buy your ticket online to Universal Studios Hollywood is as close to a requirement as anything can be for a theme park visitor.

Savings for advance online purchases range from $5 to $20 off the $95 front-gate price, according to our examination of dates now available on the USH website. Universal provides a monthly calendar of available dates and prices when you click to buy tickets on its site, which should also give you a strong indication what crowd levels will be like at the park on any given day. (Cheaper ticket = smaller expected crowd.) Tickets currently are available through the end of September.

With Universal tying advance ticket sales to specific dates, it is now possible for the park to "sell out" certain dates well in advance. How that plays out remains to be seen and depends upon the level at which Universal would cut off sales for a specific date.

Update: If you do not wish to commit to a specific date for your visit, you can buy an undiscounted ticket (same as the gate price) that is not tied to a particular date. Therefore, Universal's new online ticket system ought to be considered more of a dynamic discounting scheme than a dynamic pricing one.

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Replies (12)

February 2, 2016 at 12:51 PM · This will be undone once the crowds don't materialize at USH for Harry Potter like they did I'm Orlando. Don't get me wrong. HP is not going to be a failure, but Los Angeles is a very different market, driven more so by locals and less so by tourists staying for multiple days to only visit theme parks.

So far they failed with the annual pass changes. This too is totally unnecessary.

It's funny. All of this nonsense is oddly similar to the stuff Disney was doing prior to the opening of California Adventure.

February 2, 2016 at 12:54 PM · Can we assume there are no service charges ala TicketMaster tacked on at the end?
February 2, 2016 at 1:39 PM · This is pretty concerning. By effectively forcing guests to schedule theme park visits on specific days a dangerous precedent is being set. I understand the desire to be able to manage crowds, especially with Potter-mania about to take over USH, but I think going to this extreme is dangerous. People generally plan theme park trips in advance, but the beauty of the experience is the ability to change on the fly. If the weather turns bad, many guests will be upset that they arbitrarily chose a rainy day to visit. I know when we plan elaborate theme park trips, we typically will build in a day or two to adjust for weather and crowds and keep our schedule as flexible as possible to allow for adjustments if needed. Sometimes those extra days will be spent in different parks, while sometimes those extra days may be spent doing something completely different.

The real question is, if I purchase tickets online right now for May 1, 2016, and for some reason not able to attend on that day, do I completely lose the value of that admission? Is there a "change fee" that can be paid to visit on a different day, or if I'm too sick to venture out of my hotel on my reserved day am I S.O.L?

February 2, 2016 at 2:54 PM · "like" Russell Meyer's posting
February 2, 2016 at 4:54 PM · I'm all for flex pricing but like Russell Meyer posted above, I think they should allow you to switch days if an incident arises. Like say you choose to buy a ticket on a Wednesday but an incident arose so now you can't go until Friday, than you should be able to pay the difference and switch the dates.
February 2, 2016 at 6:10 PM · If you're unsure, you buy the ANYTIME admission. It's not that complicated.
February 2, 2016 at 8:00 PM · Best to wait and see. They might over compensate for their mistakes and the great deals come rolling in.
February 2, 2016 at 9:26 PM · Honestly, I think people are interpreting this to be something different than what it really is. USH is not saying, "You must commit to a day in advance in order to visit," they are saying, "If you are willing and able to commit to a date in advance, we'll give you a discount." This is just an additional tool to help USH in estimating attendance and staffing appropriately, and the deals are the incentive for customers to go for it.

There are two things I would like to see, however, in order to avoid mass complaints:

1. The number of advance tickets is only a portion of the total available for that day (probably 1/2-2/3). If it was impossible to go to the park and purchase a ticket day-of, it could be a PR nightmare for USH after so many people were turned away.

2. If you decide you can't use your ticket on the scheduled day BEFORE that date arrives, you can upgrade to the $95 Anytime ticket by paying the difference. Although most people would probably be certain they can go before purchasing a date-specific ticket, it would be good to have a "just in case" option and fewer people trying to get refunds.

I'm becoming increasingly curious how everything is going to play out over the coming months. My guess is that USH is preparing for the worst case scenario and then will scale back restrictions later instead of adding restrictions as needed. Only time will tell whether this was the right approach.

February 2, 2016 at 10:49 PM · At the website, the tickets cannot be exchanged. You're stuck if you can't go unless you buy the most expensive anytime ticket.

The park doesn't offer two or three day tickets. This forces you to get an annual pass if you want to visit a few days. The ticket options are really bad.

February 3, 2016 at 7:24 AM · You make some good points AJ. I think USH is only selling a relatively minor percentage (probably around a third) of the daily maximum capacity through this mechanism. However, by sweetening the pot with the early admission, it's almost imperative for any non-AP visitor to purchase the date-stamped tickets even though the monetary discount is not that much of an incentive. Buying a ticket at the gate is going to be a non-starter for serious fans during at least the first few months of WWoHP as the IOA opening showed with 6+ hour waits just to enter Hogsmeade, let alone to experience any of the attractions.

The other thing that worries me is that essentially the only way to get an admission discount is by reserving your day. You don't get any other discount for simply reserving online (like for USF/IOA), and I'm guessing there won't be any other discounts available (perhaps the discount through the City Pass will still exist...I do know that other City Passes can force you to lock in dates for certain attractions at the time of purchase). So if there's no reason to purchase a ticket in advance if you can't or are unwilling to lock in your date in advance, the lines at the park ticket windows are going to be insane.

It's clear USH is trying to avoid the debacle that occurred when WWoHP opened in Florida, but I think they're going a bit too far in trying to control people's visits. They've already restricted APs to the point that very few are buying (they tweaked the structure in the hopes of selling more), and now with this new policy, I wonder if they further depress what would have been a 6-month money machine once WWoHP opens.

February 4, 2016 at 3:00 PM · I'm sure that there is an elephant-in-the-room cash flow in unused tickets that have simply expired. I have seen multitudes of people purchase multi-day tickets only to not use them fully. I'd be interested to see the flow chart of funds generated from people who never made good on their intent to visit but purchased an expiration date specific ticket. How much have the parks pocketed without ever having to provide the experience that the customer originally intended having? How many unused or partially used tickets will Disneyland be able to cancel on when the Resident Ticket expires at the end of the day on May 21st? That's a number we never hear about.
February 5, 2016 at 11:28 AM · It's great that people are optimistic for Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, but it's doubtful that there will be six-hour waits to enter WWoHP at USH. California is a very different market and while I expect that USH will see some attendance gains they're unlikely to be as significant as they were in Florida. Also, the California version will be open well before the busy summer season.

@Russell and @AJ you're stating assumptions as if they are fact. Universal has not stated that tickets offered through their website are limited.

Also, the moaning about a lack of discount is kind of ridiculous. Disney offers very few discounts on their gate and it appears that Universal is trying to move away from discounting. They're basically saying the experience we offer is worth the posted one-day price. So you haven't lost any flexibility to come and go as you please and weather is rarely an issue in Southern California. However, if you're driven by discounts, then you'll have to commit to a specific date in advance.

I respect a theme park that doesn't have to resort to discounting to get people through their front gate. Six Flags is still stuck in the discount marketing hell. It's a nasty addiction that's hard to break.

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