In Florida, Walt Disney World announced that it is waiving blockout dates for annual passholders to allow them to ride The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Ellen's Energy Adventure at Epcot before those rides close permanently on August 13. Silver AP holders had been blocked out through Aug. 10, but were able to return to the parks on Aug. 1 this summer.
Meanwhile, in California, Disneyland is bringing back its Blockout Day tickets for annual passholders, allowing AP holders to purchase a $79 one-day park-hopper on a day their pass is not valid. Those tickets typically sell for $165. The offer is effective through Aug. 20, which is the day that the Main Street Electrical Parade wraps its run at Disneyland.
Okay, so annual passholders at Disney World get extra days for no extra charge, while APs at Disneyland get to pay $79 to visit an extra day on their passes? As a California resident... ouch!
Why would Disney treat its most loyal fans so differently on each coast? Let's consider some context. First, Disneyland revealed the Aug. 20 closing date for the Main Street Electrical Parade months ago. In fact, Disneyland originally announced an earlier closing date for what it always had promoted as a limited engagement for the returning parade. So Disneyland's SoCal Select Annual Passholders had an opportunity to "say goodbye" to the parade before their summer blockouts started last June.
But Disney hadn't announced the closings of The Great Movie Ride and Ellen's Energy Adventure until the D23 Expo last month, well after the summer blockout period had started for Disney World's annual passholders. Those fans hadn't had a chance to get a last go on those rides, so presumably there would have been a rush of those fans to get on in the three days between their blockouts lifting on Aug. 11 and the rides' closures on Aug. 13.
By shortening the blockout period, Disney World hopes that the AP crowd trying to get on those rides will spread across nearly two weeks instead of being concentrated on three days. Selling Blockout Day, a la Disneyland, tickets wouldn't be nearly as effective in accomplishing that goal. Disney needed to offer extra free days to disperse the crowd.
In California, Disney's just trying to bank a few extra bucks by selling its lower-tier annual passholders on an extra day at the parks before the parade "glows away again" (and school starts). There's no real crowd management need here like in Florida — just a marketing opportunity. In fact, Disneyland just reopened its Rivers of America attractions and Disneyland Railroad after a 15-month hiatus, so crowds at the park are already quite robust. There's no business case for Disneyland to be giving away extra "free" days to anyone at this point.
But at Disney World? While Pandora: The World of Avatar drew huge crowds to Disney's Animal Kingdom at the beginning of the summer, Walt Disney World has so many other new projects debuting in 2018 and beyond that it's becoming harder to sell to people on visiting this year... rather than put off a vacation until Star Wars land, or many of the attractions announced at D23, open. So why not goose the attendance numbers with a show of goodwill to the annual passholders the resort will be looking to to keep spending as out-of-market visitors postpone their trips?
And, of course, Disney World sells nowhere near as many annual passes in Central Florida as Disneyland does in the far more populous Southern California. So the expense to Disney from increased park load and potentially lost ticket revenue in lifting a blockout day in Florida is much less than it would be in California. Of course, more people in the park means more money on food and merchandise sales, but Disneyland's per guest spending by lower-tier APs also is said to be slipping, too, so there's less upside to letting them into the park in the hopes that they spend a lot while they are there. (FWIW, Disney officially doesn't release any of these numbers.) At Disney World, the parks are hawking a line-up of new merchandise themed to the closing attractions, so the resort clearly is hoping that it can entice its APs to spend more on their "free" days there.
So... different situations on each coast help explain the different approaches to managing the last days of these attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.Tweet
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