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Disney Revenue Drop By 46% -- Parks Down 12%

Walt Disney World: Company-wide profits sink 46% -- driven down by a 97% reduction in movie revenue. Meanwhile, WDW endures an attendance drop of just 1% (!!!)

From TH Creative
Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:34 PM
The Associated press: "The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday its second-quarter net income fell 46 percent, dragged down by an underperforming movie slate and the impact of the recession on its theme parks."

But ...

"But its results narrowly beat Wall Street forecasts and shares rose."

Meanwhile ...

"Disney said the recession led visitors to spend less money in its theme parks, though U.S. attendance was even with last year because of heavy discounting. Parks and resorts operating profits fell 50 percent to $171 million, while revenue dipped 12 percent to $2.41 billion."

But those dollars are representative of all parks worldwide. Meanwhile in Orlando ...

"Attendance was down 1 percent at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., but up 2 percent at the Disneyland parks in Anaheim. Spending per visitor to the U.S. parks fell 6 percent overall."

That is a HUGE contrast to Universal's 20% drop.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

From James Rao
Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:56 PM
Hmmm... at least Disney is still making huge profits, and has billions in revenue. Six Flags would sell its soul (if it hadn't already done so) for such "poor" numbers.

I think Disney has done a good job of squeezing as many "pennies" as possible out of each visitor regardless of the world's financial woes. Keeping attendance up is key, and even as in park spending goes down, Disney has done and is doing all it can to stave off disaster. I am sure they will be fine in the long run (especially with UP coming out later this month to provide some much needed income).

Universal seems to be taking it on the chin right now, but I wonder how much of that is just a willingness to take their lumps and emerge with a series for new A-list attractions (Rockit & Harry Potter) next year when (God-wiling) the economy has stabilized or even improved. Once folks start thinking they have some disposable income again, will they head to Universal to try the "new stuff" and shorten their Disney stay or (perish the thought) even skip it all together?

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:34 PM
The one thing about Disney (and probably why they do so well) is they expect unbelivable results from all of its parts whether it be parks, stores, or movies. They set their own bar high.

The results are not a suprise. All in all, they are doing much better than they thought, but like everybody else, is at a loss.

From Corey Romberg
Posted May 5, 2009 at 11:53 PM
As far as the loss in movie profits, I think Disney expected to to make a good amount of money off Hannah Montana: The Movie, The Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience, and Race to Witch Mountain, but all three of those films were quite disappointing at the box office...in a statement to cast members, Bob Iger said he was disappointed in the movie division and they are disappointed in themselves...however, I expect Quarter 3 to be better with Up coming out on May 29th...Pixar always delivers critically and financially

as for the parks, Bob noted that there was a significant loss in net profit, because of all the 7 nights for the price of 4, 2 for 1, and free birthday ticket promotions, however, these promotions have been a driving force in keeping attendance stable...so as for this quarter compared to a year ago, they are making less money (less spending on food and merch and staying off-site are factors too), but attendance is either up or stable at all the parks for this down season, at least domestically

From Don Neal
Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:58 AM
Keeping people in the parks is key. People can't buy food and trinkets if they aren't there so kudos to them for keeping attendance up over last year.

As for Universal's drop by 20%. Sure some of that is the economy but some of that is construction too. That was one of the things that drove us to Disney this year knowing that things would be torn up and some things closed.

If things do start to swing back up next year in the economy plus all the new attractions, I am sure Universal will have rediculous numbers to the positive.

Both parks will be fine. Nothing will change with them being the top parks that people flock to. Universal will get a much needed boost but always be that scrappy #2 to Disney. Which is great. Any market needs a strong #2. People like to think the big guy isn't running away with it. :)

From William Clark
Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:51 AM
This looks to be a tough summer for both Disney and Universal. Orlando International is reporting declines in passenger volume both domestic and international. An excerpt from the May 2 Sentinel:

A decline in passenger traffic at Orlando International Airport continued through March, leading to a quarterly drop in passengers so steep that Rod Johnson, spokesman for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, compared it to the slump that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. For March 2009, OIA saw 3.15 million passengers come and go, a 12.8 percent decrease compared with the same month in 2008, and the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year declines. For the first quarter of 2009, OIA saw 8.5 million passengers arrive and depart, also 12.8 percent lower than the same period in 2008.

This bodes ill for both Disney and Universal profits. My thinking is that it will hurt Universal far more than Disney. Universal already has serious financial issues including, as previously stated elsewhere, Speilberg's buyout clause. Rip Ride Rocket is delayed until summer but construction is continuing on Potter, for now.
With this is mind I fear Universal will soon be unveiling the $10 hot dog, mustard extra.

From Gareth H
Posted May 6, 2009 at 7:24 AM
First Quarter profits will certainly be down this year over last year, and 2nd quarter profits will be up this year.

Simple reason.

Easter, a big vacation period, was in the first quarter last year, this year it was in the second.

The press have a great way of making things look all gloom and doom to sell more copies.
Next quarter results will be about how the economy is recovering because the parks were up 20% over last year, yadda yadda yadda.!

From TH Creative
Posted May 6, 2009 at 7:37 AM
Considering the state of the world's economy, Disney's performance in the first quarter was not too shabby. Seems like they are holding their own. Don't lose sight of this part of this quote: "But its results narrowly beat Wall Street forecasts and shares rose."

Attendance during Spring break -- not a part of this quarterly report -- was very healthy. It's better than expected performance last quarter and potential for a rebound this quarter is certainly a tribute to Disney's marketing smarts.

Regarding traffic at OIA the silver lining is that it is keeping airfares down. A roundtrip ticket from Philly to Orlando is less than $200. Jet fuel prices are also much lower than last year which could also help keep ticket prices low.

Also there is regional traffic -- less costly for consumers -- and Disney's ongoing free on your birthday promotion.

Further (as Jim Hill reported months ago) Disney's reservation center threw up red flags about 2009 in January of 2008. They caused the company to implement immediate cost cutting measures -- including reductions in BOH management and executive staff and the national consolidation of departments like payroll. They braced themselves for the storm.

This is going to be a rough summer for the Florida parks but compared to its competitors Disney shouldn't fare too badly.

From Deidre Dennis
Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:25 AM
I've seen so many mixed reports on attendance at parks lately that you don't know what's true and what's not. Going in June, I'm real anxious to see what the crowds will be like in comparison to when we attended in '06.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 6, 2009 at 10:20 AM
NY Times article

It's good that they are keeping people in the parks, but the other number of interest is the 50% decline in income at the Disney properties. That's a lot of money. They are giving away the gate to get people in the door. They have compensated for that loss a little by making cuts. Still not the best sign in the world for Disney.

The question I've always had is this...how much can Disney cut without compromising that "magical" guest experience? People are likely not spending as much money inside the park as they once were, and many obviously wouldn't have come if there wasn't a good deal. Keeping attendance flat isn't a bad thing, but at what expense will it be worth keeping attendance at that level? It seems that they now have to play the game that all of the seasonal parks have to play every once in a while...balancing attendance with guest spending. As of now, they are losing that game...not because they are inept, but because Disney is so big, and it needs a ton of money to run their operation at a profit. Unlike most regional amusement parks, they are an expensive destination vacation, and they rely on their guests shelling out big bucks. They aren't built for that kind of game.

Disney's strength has always been in the quality of their product, and if they panic and throw that out the window with massive cuts, then they will be treading on thin ice with some of their customers...namely the repeat ones. There is a park across town that is opening a whole new themed section and a new roller coaster, and another park down the road that just opened up their own blockbuster roller coaster. Universal is taking it on the chin attendance wise, but what do their financial numbers look like? I'm also pretty sure that the new attractions coming up will help to restore some of that attendance.

Disney isn't in the greatest of positions right now, but they just have to weather the storm and take some lumps. Sacrificing quality shouldn't really be an option, but we all know what happens when businessmen are in charge


From TH Creative
Posted May 7, 2009 at 6:05 PM
Disney is poised to have a big summer. The 'Hall of Presidents' revamp will open on July 4th. Expect a visit from the first family.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 7, 2009 at 9:53 PM
That will be big!!!

Think about it: 42 or so white dudes and the one black dude and HE SPEAKS. Not to mention that he is very popular all over the world so I see this attraction being VERY POPULAR now. I remember the days where Bush was applauded/booed and there were few people in the show!

From William Clark
Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:36 AM
I doubt that Disney is poised for a big summer. Hall of Presidents, which reopens July 1 is a minor attraction. Even if the refurbishment brings it up to the level of American Adventure at Epcot,a dubious proposition, it still is not a major attraction. Also let's keep in mind that air traffic volume through the end of March, in the words of the spokesman for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, is declining at levels last seen after 9/11 as I posted recently. Further as anecdotal evidence, I was at Magic Kingdom last Saturday. Just after 10:30am my wife and I walked out of Pirates toward Splash Mountain, and I was stunned to see... absolutely no one. Not one person between Pirates and Splash Mountain. Not even a cast member. Crowds were shockingly light that sunny 85 degree May morning and throughout the day. Wishes was pushed back to 10pm from it's normal 9 because, I can only think, Disney was hoping for evening crowds to file in from AK and the Studios. With Space Mountain down until November and the Transit Authority down until August, Disney must be pinning it's hopes on the new Stitch show and Hall of Presidents. My guess? It's a good summer to experience lighter than normal crowds at Magic Kingdom.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:16 AM
I will agree that it's a good time to visit right now. Its also a good time this summer to visit Universal and Rip Ride Rockit.

From William Clark
Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:26 AM
I'm going over to Universal later this afternoon to reride Spidey while the phenomenal reviews given it, "best ride in the world," are still fresh in my mind. I'm expecting light crowds there today but the after 4 Premier Express lessens my crowd level concerns. While there I'll take a look at Rip and see if anything's happening. Last I saw the trains were not on the track yet. Universal isn't giving a hard opening date yet to my knowledge just sometime this summer.

From Don Neal
Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:50 AM
Interesting crowds are so light after the blitz that spring break brought. I was a little concerned that things might be busier in early June than we anticipated. Now I don't know what to think. :P

From TH Creative
Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:10 AM
I'd say Disney is "pinning its hopes" to its marketing strategy ... which has worked pretty well so far.

Orlando Sentinel April 9, 2009: "No recession to see here: Walt Disney World’s flagship park, the Magic Kingdom, has apparently hit maxiumum capacity several times this week. On Tuesday, for instance, the park at one point had to stop letting any guests in at all because it was so full. Disney’s other three theme parks remained open, though the parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios also filled up that day, forcing visitors there to park in the Epcot lot and ride a bus over to the Studios. There have been several reports from parkgoers that the Magic Kingdom hit capacity again yesterday."

From William Clark
Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:52 AM
Well TH your statements and opinion seem to change day to day. On May 6 you posted this
"This is going to be a rough summer for the Florida parks but compared to its competitors Disney shouldn't fare too badly."
Then on the 7th this gem
" Disney is poised to have a big summer."
This after your original post of Disney net income down 46%
Does your stand change that dramatically day to day and if so what say you for tomorrow?

From TH Creative
Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:38 AM
On the May 6 post (as you did note) I offered: "... but compared to its competitors Disney shouldn't fare too badly."

And while I think you are splitting hairs (both statements express optimism about Disney's prospects -- one does not say things look dire while the other says things look rosy) I'll concur that the May 6th post is a bit more understated than "Disney is poised to have a big summer." But I hardly think the distinctions between those two post represent a change that can be described using the word "dramatically."

As for your noting that my original post reported "Disney profits down 46%," you seem to ignore the part were I indicate that park revenue dropped just 12% and that "those dollars are representative of all parks worldwide" and not just WDW -- which is the topic of discussion.

Also you didn't remember to mention the rather optimistic spin of my original post -- which noted that while "Attendance was down 1 percent at Walt Disney World in Orlando" the drop seemed insignificant compared to other parks (specifically the 20% drop at Universal).

And I do think there is every reason to believe that WDW will have a strong summer -- based upon the Spring break crowds and the success of its aggressive marketing campaign.

From William Clark
Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:17 AM
Rough summer, strong summer, let's not split hairs over semantics. OIA's air traffic volume report, previous quarter earning reports, Spring Break traffic..etc are snapshots in time and are not necessarily determinant of future trends. Peering into one's crystal ball is far more art than science in this case. That said, I offered my take on the crowds at Magic Kingdom on Saturday May 2 as simply anecdotal evidence of a single days crowds. I'm still thinking it will be lighter than normal at the World this summer. Could be wishful thinking on my part since I stand in those lines quite frequently. Time as always will tell.

In other related news. Jason Garcia at the Sentinel is reporting profits down at Inbev parks. An excerpt:

Business at Orlando-based Busch Entertainment Corp., whose chain of theme parks include SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and eight others around the country, slowed significantly during the first three months of the year, according to financial results released Thursday by its parent company.

Global beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev said its U.S. entertainment business generated $181 million in revenue during the three months ending March 31. That is down 18.3 percent from the $221.6 million in sales rung up at the division during the same period a year ago, before Belgian brewer InBev merged with the St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos.

A-B InBev provided few other details about its theme parks, which accounted for only a sliver of the conglomerate's $8.1 billion in worldwide revenues during the first quarter.

Long term trend or not? Dust off that crystal ball and have a look.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Trends come and go like the weather, so who knows what will happen. So is the Magic Kingdom the only park filling up? If that's the case, then why would that be a good thing? I'm sure that Disney is pinning it's hopes on promotion and discount. I just think that when it's all over, perhaps they could have gotten away with not discounting so much. They seem to be fixated on that attendance number rather than revenue. I get that they are simply trying to get people in the gate, but Disney has to do more than that to maintain it's way of life. They have to have money...lots of it.

If they post the kind of loss in the summer like they did the last quarter, then they have a serious problem. People say...that's not possible, but I say it is. Given the amount of discounts and freebies they going with at the moment combined with the trend of guest spending, it's very possible that the attendance increase will only lose them more money because of their costs. If that becomes a trend, then it will be just as damaging to the future. Damaging to future attractions and their time frame, damaging to the quality of experience because of less staff...etc. It will make the recovery process longer for them. People say what if they don't come...but they should also be saying what if they do?

By the way, a little birdie told me that Universal may be interested in purchasing the A-B parks....just words mind you, but think about the concept of that happening.

From TH Creative
Posted May 8, 2009 at 1:14 PM
Regarding Disney's financial performance Mr. Potter Writes: They have to have money...lots of it. If they post the kind of loss in the summer like they did the last quarter, then they have a serious problem. People say...that's not possible, but I say it is.

I Respond: Could you please define what you mean by "a serious problem?"

Because I'm kinda giving credibility to Forbes perspective (04-09-09)

"'The Mouse Is No Louse - Buy Disney' The Disney name is one of the world's most recognized brands across all of its major business segments," says George Putnam, editor of the Turnaround Letter. "While the company's financial results have been hurt temporarily by the global economic weakness, we believe it is well positioned to prosper again when economic conditions improve."

Mr. Potter Writes: By the way, a little birdie told me that Universal may be interested in purchasing the A-B parks....just words mind you, but think about the concept of that happening.

I Respond: Considering what Mr. Clark just posted (reporting an 18.3% drop in revenue at the A-B parks) and the fact that Universal has less than a year to re-work almost a billion dollars worth of debt, that bird doesn't seem to be making much sense. I could be wrong but I don't believe Universal is going to buy another park that's losing money. I've posted that here before -- which means if I were to claim that I believe Universal is seriously considering buying the A-B parks I would be (ahem) "dramatically" changing my position.

(Chuckle)

From William Clark
Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:10 AM
Looks like tough times for Universal in the first quarter. Hard to see how they could cough up 3-4 billion dollars needed for a buyout of InBev's theme parks. Take a look at this excerpt from Jason Garcia in the Sentinel.

Universal Orlando lost almost $17 million during the first three months of this year, as the two-park resort was hurt by a deep recession, unfavorable holiday timing, and expensive interest payments.

The operating company for Orlando's No. 2 theme-park resort, Universal City Development Partners, revealed in a regulatory filing today that it lost $16.5 million during the three months that ended March 29, as attendance slumped nearly 20 percent. That was down from a $1.8 million profit during the same period a year ago.

Universal's operating profit, which strips out one-time expenses such as interest payments, totaled $6.8 million for the quarter, down 72 percent from a year ago.

The resort's financial performance was hurt by the timing of the Easter holiday, a busy travel period that fell in March last year but in April this year. When the resort's results were extended through the first four months of the year -- negating the impact of the Easter shift -- Universal said its operating profit was down just 13 percent from a year ago.

From William Clark
Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:14 AM
Allow me to provide a bit of anecdotal info here. Friday afternoon May 8 I was over at Universal to reacquaint myself with the greatness known as Spiderman. Good ride. Lots of fun. Anyway, crowds were fairly light. There are still 2 cranes working on Rip Ride Rocket and the trains are not on the track yet. Mythos was open from 11:30 to 3pm. Dueling Dragons went down at 5:30 and stayed down until closing at 6.

Fast forward to Saturday morning 9am Busch Gardens. Hot 95 degree day. Crowds were moderate. Things are looking grim for the Clydesdales. They are down to only 4 at BG and the donkey, Spirit, that used to keep them company is now the personal property of Hilda, a trainer at the stables. Spirit's new home is in her backyard. InBev is phasing out the horses at Seaworld also as I learned yesterday. Seaworld is down to only 3. So if you are a fan of the majestic Clydesdales, better get over to see them soon before the stables are empty.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 12, 2009 at 6:54 AM
It seems everyone took a hit because of Easter not falling in the first quarter this year. I think that Universal will bounce back fine with the new coaster and Harry Potter...although I wouldn't be surprised if that's delayed as well. Perhaps Universal has resolved to finish those projects and take the hit for a while.

TH, I'm just saying that Disney may be cutting too deep for their own good with their discounts. Losing money on customers is just as bad as not having them. Not discounting as much might have lost them some customers temporarily, but they would have come back. I would just hate to see them mortgage the future (timeliness of attractions and improvements and maintaining high standards) to prop up an already high attendance number...which isn't always a full indicator of a park's profitablity. I think that they could have made just as much or maybe even more off of fewer customers.

If in-park spending stays down even with the discounts, and Disney continues to offer those same discounts during peak season, they could actually lose more of that profit because operating costs will go up. The less money Disney makes over time, the longer it could take for that next "uber attraction", which I think Disney will need to return to pre-recession numbers. With the competition's new and future offerings and Disney's lack thereof, they may find some of their customers traveling elsewhere in Orlando even after the economic storm has passed.

Of course that's my opinion... and paired with a token it may get you on the subway. I've been known to throw out a crazy idea now and again. I understand that Disney is trying to keep attendance up, I just don't think they need to keep 30 million people coming through the gate to survive, especially when keeping attendance flat knocks their profit down that much.

All being said, it's a hairy time to be in the theme/amusement park business, and I think even more so to be a destination such as Disney. I'm sure that decisions these days in the boardroom are tougher than ever.

From Raul Araoz
Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:47 AM
I agree with Derek. All the parks are experiencing losses in revenue due to the economy. They are largely all in the same boat. However, I fear Disney is mortgaging the future in order to keep attendance high.

Universal is logically going to take a slightly bigger hit at this time due to their multiple projects. Those developments suck up capital and reduce the number of guests, who may not want to deal with construction walls or prefer to wait till the new attractions open. All Universal needs to do is weather the storm, until Harry Potter opens in a year or two, and they will be fine.

I firmly believe that, if the economy was good, Universal would buy the Busch parks. At this time, it is impossible for them to do it. They would need a partner to even conceive of it right now.

On the other hand, Disney is wrapped up in image.

I am personally not the biggest fan of Jay Rasulo. IMHO, Mr. Rasulo doesn't give a darn about the artistry and craft of a theme park. He prefers simple concepts that can be easily sold to the masses. He likes pre-packaged events like "Year of a Million Wishes" and "What Will You Celebrate". It is why attendance numbers appeal to him.

As a life-long fan of Disney, I am troubled by the lack of big announcements from Disney for the 40th anniversary. They still have a couple of months, so I hope Star Tours 2 is not the extent of it.

One plus to come out of the recession is the removal of some of the bureaucracy in WDW management. I can only hope this will mean that WDI will have an easier time getting some of their projects approved. Looking at how many nails were pulled just to get the Space Mountain refurbishment okayed, was a bit painful. Hopefully, less cookie cutter copies of Anaheim attractions will be on the docket.

Look, both Disney and Universal will be fine. Most of the above was just personal ranting. Disney could pretty much sit on its' hands for the next decade and still be number one. It is practically a rite of passage for most families. However, if I had to bet on which company has the biggest future potential, I would go with Universal.

From TH Creative
Posted May 12, 2009 at 4:19 PM
Construction activity at WDW is currently focused on renovation and rehab. The reason: the commercial construction market in Orlando is STARVING.

As I have mentioned here before (ad nauseum) I am currently working as a project manager for a subcontractor building the new Peabody Tower and convention center on International Drive. Right now available, large commercial projects available to bid are few and far between.

What do I mean by this? Well, the contract I am working on now is worth $25 million. The contract was signed in 2007. Contract opportunities for commercial construction companies have become so scarece, our company is bidding $14,000 jobs at Kennedy Space Center and the renovation of the Tequila Bar at EPCOT.

As a result, for fundamental, basic construction (rehabbing stucco, removing damaged drywall, rehabbing air conditioning and plumbing) Disney can "buy hard" -- hammering down pricing provided by a desparate community of contractors.

Disney has been able to get work done at a fraction of the cost. And that's exactly what they have been doing.

They upgraded about 200 rooms at Caribbean Beach. They did about a dozen rooms at the Boardwalk Hotel and are currently coordinating work on a ton of rooms at Dixie Landing and Port Orleans. There also remains the build-out of the remainder of Pop Century.

A scaffolding salesman I deal with has just formulated a quote to provide access (scaffolding) to do exterior work on the back of Cinderella's Castle and on the building elevations along Main Street USA.

Again this represents BASIC CONSTRUCTION. No special effects or engineering. No expensive fabrication of ride vehicles and programing of ride systems. The advantage is that the company maintains the quality and integrity of its facillities -- and by contracting this work in such a competitive market they will complete it for a fraction of what it will cost after the economy rebounds.

Frankly that does not surprise me all that much. It makes sense not to try and build an attraction that will be up-staged by the SONIC BOOM of Harry Potter.

From William Clark
Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:29 AM
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting job cuts and layoffs at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. An excerpt from the May 15 Sentinel:

The executive staff at Orlando International Airport lost two senior directors and two department directors in recent staff cuts.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority released documents Thursday detailing staff reductions made April 27-May 9 that eliminated 50 employees through layoffs and voluntary departures.

The moves cut the agency's top staff by 17 percent. GOAA, which runs both Orlando International and Orlando Executive Airport, retains Executive Director Steve Gardner, three deputy executive directors, three other senior directors and 11 other directors.

Overall, the agency has shed at least 80 positions, or about 12 percent of the 693 jobs it had at the end of its last fiscal year, on Sept. 30, 2008.

My quick read of the tea leaves shows passenger traffic way down at OIA, layoffs at the airport and, likely, lighter than normal summer crowds at the theme parks.

From TH Creative
Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:30 AM
Jim Hill Media had an AMAZING report on a slew of new D23 club member promotions.

http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2009/05/14/d23-unveils-its-summer-2009-special-events-calendar-with-disney-related-fun-being-offered-all-around-the-country-in-the-coming-months.aspx

Disney's marketing team is still in there throwing punches! It's this type of aggressive promotion that filled the Disney parks over Spring break.

From William Clark
Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:11 AM
It's likely that Universal will be the one absorbing the financial equivalent of a vintage Mike Tyson uppercut when second quarter earnings are released.

From TH Creative
Posted May 15, 2009 at 2:52 PM
Here in Orlando, Universal is dumping coin into local advertising. They are pimping the summer concerts (LL Cool J and a couple of American Idol contestants) and the "Flex Pass" -- you can buy an annual pass and make payments of $14 per month.

From William Clark
Posted June 15, 2009 at 10:55 AM
Let's add in another bit of anecdotal evidence. Saturday June 13, Epcot. Crowds light, real light, which is unusual for a weekend day at Epcot. Crowds are down noticeably from last summer. Gone are the 90 minute wait times for Test Track and 100 minutes for Soarin. Try 30 and 60 respectively. BTW, Test Track went down with us on it. Just after you pass the truck before the crash test power went out and the cars all stopped. The lights slowly came on and everyone had to get out. We walked single file back around the track and through a door leading to lockers and the cast member break room. Got a bit of an inside tour.

Over to Disney Boardwalk for lunch at ESPN Zone. Crowds light there as well at 12:30. Nice leisurly lunch and walk back to Epcot. Those of you who are familiar with how packed Epcot can get would have appreciated all the open space and short lines. Rarely have I seen Epcot so uncrowded. Had a moment to chat with a cute cast member in a Guest Relations uniform proudly wearing her "I represent Brazil" ribbon. She related that the crowds are down this day, 35,000 was her estimate. At peak Epcot can pack in at least 85,000 people so that may give you an better idea of the crowds. She told me that last Christmas Day Magic Kingdom packed in 90,000 folks. That's one reason why I avoid Disney Christmas Day.

Anyway, moral of the story here is that crowds were down this 95 degree sunny Saturday in June at Epcot.

Trend for summer? Could be.

From TH Creative
Posted June 15, 2009 at 10:58 AM
Meanwhile (as tipped to me by a current CM) projected attendance at MK last Friday: 44,000.
Not bad considering the northeastern schools don't get out until the end of this week.

Some years back while attending a meeting at another theme park operation in Orlando, I was told by a VP that their parks needed to welcome 8,000 guests to break even.

Not bad.

I'll be in all four WDW parks this weekend. I will report back.

From TH Creative
Posted June 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM
Just checked in with my FB pal who has been down here more than a week. She's a DVC member and comes often. She reports MK has been crowded all week. In most of the parks the crowds have thinned out in the early afternoon and have been busy during the cooler weather in the evenings. She's traveling by herself and moves around quickly so she gets to see what she wants to see.

Then I talked to my other FB pal who reported that Star Wars weekend at DHS was also busy.

Timothy (2:10 PM): How busy was DHS last weekend?

Tina (2:10 PM): huh?

Timothy (2:11 PM): Disney Hollywood Studios

Tina (2:11 PM): oh it was busy yesterday had no idea it was star wars

From Dan Babbitt
Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM
So it is raining in CT TH!

From William Clark
Posted June 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM
If another theme park operation in Florida needs 8,000 people at their parks to break even then... well, it must have been pretty dead over at Universal if they lost $16.5 million last quarter. Crowds have been light there as well so far. Perhaps LL Cool J can bring in some paying customers this Saturday. If memory serves there was a shooting at Wet and Wild last year the weekend he performed. Yep, think I'll go to Busch Gardens this Saturday.

From William Clark
Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:26 PM
It's possible that Disney profits are looking to take another hard kick in the groin this quarter,(Down 46% last quarter). UP is going to bring in a nice chunk of change both in theaters and DVD sales. Those 1700 layoffs will help too. But no question that profits will be down significantly from Disney's third fiscal quarter a year previous. All those discounts like buy 4 get 3 free and free Disney Dining Plan will have a negative effect on the bottom line when viewed against last year's earnings although Disney should succeed in preserving market share.

It's looking like a good summer to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney theme parks here in Florida.

From TH Creative
Posted June 15, 2009 at 1:52 PM
William Clark writes: But no question that profits will be down significantly from Disney's third fiscal quarter a year previous.

I respond: Time will tell, but let's not forget, spring break (Easter holiday) ocurred later in the calendar year. All those reports of Disney parks closing their gates to capacity crowds will be credited to the third quarter. But (as the article indicates) because people are spending less, revenues may well be of the mark. That is not to say, however, that Disney will not meet its own forecasts or Wall Street expectations (standards which they actually met in the second quarter).

William Clark writes: All those discounts like buy 4 get 3 free and free Disney Dining Plan will have a negative effect on the bottom line when viewed against last year's earnings although Disney should succeed in preserving market share.

I respond: Those discounts were in place since last year and the loss in revenue in the second quarter (which did not gain the benefit of Spring break (Easter holiday revenues) resulted in a loss of just 12%. And remember that was 12% WORLDWIDE not just the Florida parks.

William Clark writes: It's looking like a good summer to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney theme parks here in Florida.

I respond: Based on what? Anecdotes? While any prediction regarding third quarter attendance relies on rationalization and conjecture, I think there is every reason to be confident that (all things considered) Disney will meet or exceed expectations. First, because the hotel promotions have proven to keep people coming through the gates. Second, because there are the ACTUAL RESULTS OF THE PREVIOUS QUARTER. From the story that started the thread:

"Disney said the recession led visitors to spend less money in its theme parks, though U.S. attendance was even with last year because of heavy discounting."

Meaning just because revenue was down does NOT mean there were fewer people in the park. Even Mr. Clark notes: "All those discounts like buy 4 get 3 free and free Disney Dining Plan will have a negative effect on the bottom line when viewed against last year's earnings..." Exactly! The discounts are the reason behind the drop in revenue and NOT a decreasing number of guests.

From TH Creative
Posted June 15, 2009 at 3:28 PM
In fact, if I were a WDW exec I'd be a whole lot more worried about 2010 than 2009.

From William Clark
Posted June 15, 2009 at 3:43 PM
I'll give Mr. Creative a little longer to consider if he would like to re-edit his posts. My response will come tomorrow

From TH Creative
Posted June 15, 2009 at 4:13 PM
Nah, I've tightened it up enough. I think third quarter revenue will be lower than last year, but attendance will remain steady -- which is consistent with the second quarter.

From William Clark
Posted June 16, 2009 at 11:12 AM
Well it seems the original post has provided grist for debate here. Let's have a look at the facts.

Airport traffic down substantially (12.8%) at OIA resulting in layoffs at Orlando International.

U.S. Department of Labor unemployment report for May 2009-9.4%. 20 year high.

Disney stock trading at $23.59, off from 52 week high of $34.85 but above 52 week low of $15.14

1700 people laid off at Walt Disney Company, 1400 in Florida.

Crude Oil trading at $71 a barrel.

Firsthand eyewitness accounts of smaller crowds at Disney parks. (Also known as "anecdotal evidence.")

Well, looks like Disney is fighting some pretty strong headwinds. Could this result in lighter than normal crowds at Disney parks this summer?

Yeah it could.

Is it likely to?

Yeah.

Will Disney meet it's own and Wall Street's lowered expectations on revenue and profit?

Likely yes, but even that remains to be seen.

From TH Creative
Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:10 PM
Since its first day of operations Walt Disney Disney World has been fighting strong economic and operating cost "headwinds."

(Edited for Spelling)

From William Clark
Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:09 PM
From a guest's point of view lighter than normal crowds equals a more enjoyable experience. I know personally that I would rather be looking at moderate crowds and shorter waits for attractions and restaurants and snacks as well as shorter Fastpass return times.

Many days have I spent waiting in long lines at sick packed Disney parks. Had a great time too don't get me wrong. Given the choice though I'll take lighter crowds and more rides with less hassle over fighting my way out of Magic Kingdom through massive throngs of people at the conclusion of Wishes.

From Don Neal
Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:20 PM
Hey guys, just got back from the land of mouse and Spidey. Trip report will be out later this week but figured I would weigh in on the topic.

First off, we spent 6 days at Disney, Sun-Fri. Sunday at AK crowd was good sized but the longest we waited was 55 mins for Kilimanjaro Safari. Everest was at 70 mins mid-day but we rode first thing and waited only 20 mins. The rest of the rides were all under 30 mins. The week day visits (Mon-Thur) all avg'd out to be about 70 mins at most mid-day for the top rides. RRC at DHS was at 110 mins at one point but even that subsided. Most rides were 30-50 mins at most. Even Toy Story was 40-50 most of the day topping out at 70 mid-day.

Friday was another story at DHS. The crowd was super packed. 95 degrees and waits all 70-110 mins for the top rides. We left around 2 pm. Just wasn't worth it in that heat.

I don't know what is normal for this time of year but that's what we observed. We spent 1.5 days at each park to fill out the 6 days and got to ride most everything we wanted. Missed out on a few at Epcot but that's mostly because we didn't know our way around and the heat slowed us down.

We didn't do the Universal parks but did stop by City Walk Sunday night for dinner and a movie. The place was a ghost town. One of the parking garages were completely closed down. We walked right into Hard Rock and got seated for a party of 6 at 5 pm. Never had that happen before. And at the theater, we were one of only 4 families watching a 7:45 show of Pixar's Up.

All in all, the stores were all stocked, restaurants did not have long waits at all.

Now here's something to contrast against...we went to Cocoa Beach on Saturday and the place was a madhouse. It was like Spring Break in June. Part of it was the launch that got cancelled I am sure but Ron Jon had people coming out it's ears, traffic was terrible, all the food joints were packed, and the beach was full. Totally different feel from the parks.

More details to come in the trip report but I thought I would offer the observations on crowds and such.

From TH Creative
Posted June 16, 2009 at 1:42 PM
So Don Neal reports "The week day visits (Mon-Thur) all avg'd out to be about 70 mins at most mid-day for the top rides." He adds, "Friday was another story at DHS. The crowd was super packed. 95 degrees and waits all 70-110 mins for the top rides."

Then there's my CM friend who reported last Friday's projected attendance at MK to reach 44,000. Then there's my DVC friend who reports that the MK is "always crowded." Then there's my DHS friend who echoes Mr. Neal's reports about DHS during Star Wars Weekend.

That anecdotal evidence sure seems to fall in WDW's favor.

And (again) the full to capacity crowds reported over Spring break fall in the third quarter. Orlando Sentinel: "No recession to see here: Walt Disney World’s flagship park, the Magic Kingdom, has apparently hit maximum capacity several times this week. On Tuesday, for instance, the park at one point had to stop letting any guests in at all because it was so full. Disney’s other three theme parks remained open, though the parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios also filled up that day, forcing visitors there to park in the Epcot lot and ride a bus over to the Studios. There have been several reports from park goers that the Magic Kingdom hit capacity again yesterday."

And there are reports about the success of Gay Days last month -- also a third quarter event. Orlando Sentinel: "Despite the ongoing recession, attendance at this year's Gay Days is expected to be up, and the Gay Days Expo is scrambling to find space for exhibitors. Alexander-Manley estimated that the expo — in the Royal Plaza Hotel, part of Disney World's hotel plaza — will be about 10 percent larger than last year's."

I'm telling ya, don't be surprised to find out that while revenue for the third quarter might be down from the previous year, attendance might actually be (gasp!) a bit higher.

Considering the success the company has enjoyed in the face of tough economic times and the preponderance of anecdotal evidence, I find it more than reasonable to make the argument that WDW attendance during the summer of 2009 won't be (ahem) "light.”

Then again, I could be wrong. :o/

From William Clark
Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM
Wow!! Those are some impressive figures Mr. Creative. Disney truly must be a very magical place!!

Consider this excerpt from Jason Garcia Orlando Sentinel June 10 2009:

Tourist-tax revenues will plummet 18 percent in 2009 and not fully recover for several years, Orange County budget officials said Tuesday, adding the drop will affect everything from tourism promotion to the $1.1 billion plan for downtown arts and sports venues.

If the drop actually is that steep, it would be the worst fall-off in tourist-tax receipts ever, easily eclipsing the 12.6 percent decline that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Hmmm.. if memory serves, Rod Johnson of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority recently likened the steep drop off in air traffic at OIA to the period following 9/11 as well.

That leaves the question of how these "super packed" crowds are getting here and where are they staying?

Disney magic or Figment of Imagination?

From Derek Potter
Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:43 PM
Attendance is only part of the issue. The question is how much are those guests spending? The economic state of the country suggests that they aren't.

Disney can pack the park as full as they want, but they are heavily discounting hotels, and if guests aren't really buying stuff, eating at the restaurants...etc, then attendance actually means very little. In fact it would make it tougher because higher attendance also means higher operating costs. If guests are spending money, then great. Does anyone have any numbers or educated guesses (aka visual data)

Cocoa Beach was packed because it's the beach...aka low cost vacation. Grabbing a hotel for a few days on the beach in places like Cocoa or Daytona is a cost effective alternative for Florida residents (and others as well) to shelling out at Disney. The name of the game this year is budget vacation or staycation. Disney doesn't really fit into either of those categories.

While on the subject of Orlando, how bout the Magic coughing it up. It went exactly like I said it would. Howard was contained and the shooters went cold. I've one word to sum it all up...clank

From TH Creative
Posted June 16, 2009 at 4:24 PM
That's actually pretty simple to understand, Mr. Clark. They're going to Disney and they're staying at Disney.

Use these hypothetical numbers. Let's say in previous years 10 million tourists came to Orlando. Let's say 5 million visit Disney, 3 million visit Universal and 2 million vist Sea World.

Suddenly the economy goes south and the number of visitors drops 30% to 7 million.

5 million can still go to Disney while only 1 million go to Universal and 1 million go to Sea World.

And, again, while those numbers are hypothetical, the fact that the Universal park attendance dropped 20% in the second fiscal quarter while the WDW parks dropped only 1% in the same quarter demonstrates how the scenario is viable.

So fine, the number of passengers drops -- but those that arrive are still going to Disney. And while the tax revenue from off-property hotels has dropped, the Disney hotel discounts keeps heads on beds.

Further, you ignore the reports of high crowds during Spring break -- causing the parks to close to capacity, and the multiple reports from visitors saying the parks are busy.

And while you offer statistics about unemployment, oil prices, and Disney stock prices (which has NOTHING to do with attendance) you have yet to offer a single prognostication from any business analyst or credible, objective third source that claims the summer attendance of 2009 is going to be "light."

And I'm not looking at this through rose-colored glasses. I imagine that attendance will wane in late August and early September, pick-up in November and December and then (come next January) WDW may be looking at a VERY HARSH second fiscal quarter.

(Edited for spelling and correcting fiscal quarter)

From William Clark
Posted June 16, 2009 at 4:42 PM
Please feel free to edit for content as well.

From TH Creative
Posted June 16, 2009 at 4:57 PM
Don't need to.

(Chuckle)

From William Clark
Posted June 16, 2009 at 6:38 PM
Okay Mr. Creative, let's recap.

Labor Dept. reports 9.4% unemployment in May 2009.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority reports 12.8% drop in air traffic at OIA, a drop of this magnitude last seen after 9/11.

Sentinel reporting record drop in tourist tax revenue (18%) in Orange County, comparable (in Jason Garcia's words) to 9/11.

Oil rising, again.

None of this will have any relevance to Disney attendance you say.

Gay Days will make the difference.

"Super packed" at Disney, Swan and Dolphin booked full.

Okay, I can only offer my opinion based on what I have seen personally.

Epcot was light last Saturday and believe me I've seen the place packed.

My prediction:

It's a good time to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney this summer.

From William Clark
Posted June 17, 2009 at 4:43 AM
Interesting front page article in today's Orlando Sentinel:

Is Orlando on the convention blacklist?
Business travel to Central Florida is expected to decline 11.2% this year according to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Sentinel further reports:

According to a spokeswoman for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, the hotel had been courting a Department of Defense conference which would have generated 5,000 room nights. The Dept. withdrew it's offer without giving a reason.

The full article can be viewed on the front page of today's Orlando Sentinel or on the Sentinel's web site, orlandosentinel.com

From Don Neal
Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:18 AM
I think TH's assessment of volume being down across the board but Disney's much larger beginning volume still gives them the appearance of being "busy". Universal was a ghost town. Only one garage open. No waits for restaraunts.

And I think Derek's point about purchases within the parks was dead on. Our kids got into the pin trading thing while we were there. And we saw almost NO ONE with them on. And all the pin trading places were all fully stocked with every kind of pin, lanyard, and such you can think of. There were no lines at the check outs and I saw a lot of people come in, look, and leave. And the counter service places were all much busier than the table service places. However we didn't wait long for any of them.

In contrast the ocean front restaraunt we ate at in Cocoa had a 2.5 hour wait. Which further backs up the cheaper beach vacation assessment.

Lastly, we always stay offsite at a condo we found a few years ago in a nice community off of 192. And out of the 60 units, probably only 20 or so were being used. 192 was still pretty busy but very manageable compared to past visits.

So the real recap I think would be:
- Crowds and attendance are up at Disney compared to other parks.
- Universal and Sea World attendance is significantly down.
- Universal most likely due to the construction of new rides and areas.
- Overall Central Florida tourism is down. Layoffs and flight volume relfect this.
- Disney is ok for now but how long can they keep this up? TH's point about a rough Q2 2010 is probably dead on.

From TH Creative
Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:24 AM
The Sentinel always does a great job covering the tourism business.

But just to be clear, the so-called "blacklist" references only federal government conferences (subhead reads: "Tourism officials worry government has travel ban on leisure destinations.")

From William Clark
Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:39 AM
Well, the totality of available direct evidence, including air traffic at OIA off 12.8%, tourist tax revenue in Orange County off 18%, business travel to Central Florida down 11.2% (all record or near record numbers), Swan and Dolphin with 5,000 room nights now available; plus direct firsthand eyewitness accounts (anecdotal evidence) but not including second hand accounts from various "friends" (hearsay), leaves me comfortable in my original prediction of over a month ago.

It's a good time to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney this summer.

The defense rests. :)

From TH Creative
Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:39 AM
The defense rests? I'm finding it hard to believe that the defense has been awake.

From Mr. Clark's quoted Orlando Sentinel article: "Orlando's convention-and-meetings business has been reeling for months from corporate cutbacks and negative publicity that followed the federal government's bailout of large financial-service companies last fall."

Months, eh? And yet attendance at WDW was only down 1%?

From William Clark
Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:17 AM
In early May I posted a (seemingly) innocuous remark stating my opinion that it's a good time to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney this summer.

You took issue with it, repeatedly.

I offered quite a few facts to back up my prediction since that time.

I still stand by my prediction as stated.

Direct verdict for the defense.

Take your issues up on appeal Mr. Creative.
Case closed.

From William Clark
Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Coda to this little tete a tete.

I had to laugh when Mr. Creative mentioned his FB pal, a DVC member, who "gets around and sees what she wants to see."

I suspect Mr. Creative does as well.

:]

From TH Creative
Posted June 17, 2009 at 12:20 PM
July 30th, 2009. Disney releases its performance for the third quarter. A performance that will include Easter Break [when the parks closed to capacity], Gay Days, and Star Wars weekend -- the kind of sizable events that did not occur during the second quarter (when WDW attendance dropped just one percent while [in the same market] Universal dropped 20%).

When the numbers are unveiled, I'm betting that any drop will be as insignificant as the one in the second quarter -- determining that attendance at the parks could not accurately be described as "light."

From William Clark
Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:07 PM
Hit the showers Creative, it's over.

From TH Creative
Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:55 PM
Why, are you giving up already?

One would assume that you are considering the fact that WDW attendance dropped a mere 1% in the second quarter (although Easter break came late and in spite of the fact that [as your own article pointed out] convention traffic was suffering for months).

Contentions you have never once addressed directly.

I was also amused at you crowing about the Dolphin losing 5,000 room nights (nights they were courting -- not reservations that were cancelled. Considering the fact the the hotel in question has over 1,500 rooms the quantity of nights lost that you have brought up represent less than 1% of the total room nights available over the year. Further, you never give the date of that particular convention. Meaning if it was slated for next September then it would have exactly ZERO impact on the summer attendance at the parks.

But (typically) I imagine you won't respond to that directly.

Just like you ignore the capacity crowds at Easter (that will be reported in the second quarter results on July 30th). Just like you ignore the marketing success that held Disney attendance to a mer 1% drop in the second quarter -- while Universal dropped 20%.

But why not cut to the chase. I predict that the third quarter results for attendance at WDW will be equal to or greater than the same period last year. Of course I could be wrong.

Are you willing to predict that Disney will report lower attendance this year than the same quarter in 2008?

From Derek Potter
Posted June 17, 2009 at 7:09 PM
is it 100 yet?

Attendance means nothing if guests don't spend money. Until there is evidence of that happening, I don't buy that Disney is doing ok.

The year isn't over for Disney yet, but they can't keep going at this pace. They have no new attractions coming up, and cutting back is the order of the day. They are giving themselves a chance by getting people in the gate, but I don't think it's working like they hoped, and I think they are doing more long term damage in their attempt to maintain that massive attendance number.

If you predict a rough future ahead for Disney, then how can you defend the shape of the company? Unless economic conditions change relatively soon and people once again start shelling out their kidneys during their visit to the Magic Kingdom, Disney is on a crash course with reality. The company is a master of illusion with their rides. I think that their "success" this year is also an illusion...at least so far.

From TH Creative
Posted June 17, 2009 at 7:56 PM
I hope it is 100 soon. And while I agree with everything you have posted Mr. Potter, the disagreement between myself and Mr. Clark is over attendance, not revenue.

Tomorrow, my son and I are hitting all four WDW parks.

Stay tuned kids!

From TH Creative
Posted June 18, 2009 at 4:02 PM
The Theme park Insider site serves a much greater purpose than debating what the next attraction concept should be or providing a platform for "Disney Jeopardy." People have turned to Mr. Niles' site to gain some insight on the world's theme parks to gain a greater understanding about which parks are operating the most entertaining attractions and which parks provide families and friends the greatest "bang" for their (sizable) buck.

Today (6/18) I visted all four of the theme parks at Walt Disney World. And having visited each of the parks, I wanted to take the opportunity to inform the dads and moms that they should NOT plan a trip to WDW under the illusion that crowds this summer will be "light."

They won't.

Before noon today the wait time at Big Thunder Mountain was more than an hour. As of 4 PM the wait time at Toy Story Mania was just shy of two hours. Soarin' was more than two hours. The line to get photos taken with the characters from Pixar's 'Up' would have (easily) surpassed 45 minutes.

When you read the missives of TPI posters who advise "It's a good time to experience lighter than normal crowds at Disney this summer" be skeptical. Be aware that when you are dropping the considerable cost associated with a WDW vacation, (based upon today's volume) the crowds you will see will be significant -- not "lighter than normal."

From Don Neal
Posted June 18, 2009 at 4:19 PM
Sounds like you experienced about the same wait times we did TH. I didn't have a lot of history to draw on for perspective but it sure seemed busy to us. Looks like your visit confirms this.

You want lighter crowds, go visit Universal! ;)

From Derek Potter
Posted June 19, 2009 at 7:11 AM
That sounds good to me. I prefer Universal anyway

From Don Neal
Posted June 19, 2009 at 7:50 AM
I do as well Derek. I respect Disney more after this latest trip. But my heart is still with Universal. I think it's my strong affection for the movies and thrills. But I did enjoy our visit to WDW. I am looking forward to visiting Universal in a few years. Also my kids should be ride height for the big rides and ready for them as well! It was a lot of fun waiting in line and riding with my kids on the bigger rides. For years I have had to go sneak in a ride or two while they went to get an ice cream or rode another ride in kiddie land.

From William Clark
Posted June 22, 2009 at 7:02 PM
Okay Mr. Creative, the appellate court will now consider your appeal. First up, we find it difficult to believe that you went from Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios and then to Epcot by 4pm.

Second let us consider the crowd level at Hollywood Studios on Sunday, June 21 2009.
Tower of Terror was a walk on at 2pm, 3:30 and 6pm. Cited as evidence is a direct firsthand account by the defense. We submit; Dan was nowhere to be found that brutal 95 degree day but we did speak with Bill, Mike, Jason, Darius, Kayleigh and my man, Chinese Charlie. All report a walk on in the afternoon. Leigh Anne, who looked absolutely adorable in her bellhop uniform, loaded us into a nearly empty elevator at 6pm.

Hmmm... no Fantasmic that Sunday night either.

Nice chocolate chip cookie at the Writer's Stop. Watched a Silly Symphony cartoon while sitting on the sofa, enjoying a cold Dasani water.

Know what else?

Crowds were lighter than normal this hot summer Sunday.

Want to hear my prediction?

It's a good time to enjoy lighter than normal crowds at Disney this summer.

Challenge to Mr. Creative:

I will be at Magic Kingdom this coming Sunday June 28 along with my beautiful wife. Hall of Presidents passholder preview.

I get there at opening, 9am.

Care to join me and settle this?

We can even ride Jungle Cruise.

From TH Creative
Posted June 22, 2009 at 7:10 PM
I am sorry, Mr. Clark. But I already have plans on that Saturday.

But then I am wondering why I should actually write that, because I am not sure whether or not you can actually read. Because if you could read you would have responded to this from a previous post:

>> But why not cut to the chase. I predict that the third quarter results for attendance at WDW will be equal to or greater than the same period last year. Of course I could be wrong.

Are you willing to predict that Disney will report lower attendance this year than the same quarter in 2008? <<

From Dan Babbitt
Posted June 22, 2009 at 8:00 PM
William just to give you some advice DO NOT look at the Tower of Terror as an indicator to see if the park is busy or not. You really have to look at restautants and fastpass usage.

At of all my years working there it has natutally low wait times. The ride has a very high ride capacity and the name actaully scares people sot to do the ride! The ride is more popular during the morning to about 1pm where everyone eats and use there fastpasses on RnR Coaster and Toy Story Mania.

Also I wasnt working that day! Did you ask for me?

From Derek Potter
Posted June 23, 2009 at 4:19 AM
71...

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:15 AM
I think Mr. Clark just copies and pastes the same post over and over with a few word replacements. LOL

70...

From Karin S
Posted June 23, 2009 at 9:38 AM
The Magic Kingdom was CROWDED yesterday...and HOT. Splash Mountain felt good at 9:30 am. In speaking with a friend who works at one of the resorts, she said you'd never know there was recession. They have been very busy.

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 9:56 AM
Thank You Ms. Karin S.

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 10:26 AM
Sara K. Clarke Orlando Sentinel June 23, 2009:

No relief for hotels as summer approaches.

Orlando area hotels experienced their worst May in more than two decades last month, struggling to fill rooms amid a nationwide travel slump.

Through the first five months of the year, average occupancy is down 11 percent compared with 2008.The average price for a room dropped 11.3 percent.

"I don't think any June, July or August is going to be able to bail us out," said Scott Smith, a lodging instructor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

The full article can be viewed in the business section of today's Orlando Sentinel as well as online at orlandosentinel.com

The weight of the evidence is becoming overwhelming Mr. Creative.

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 11:27 AM
Dan, nah I didn't ask for you although I would have said hello and introduced myself had you been there. Sunday was a walk on with 40 minute fastpass return waits. Odd that Mr Gareth reports 60 minute waits and 3 hour return times for the Tower on Fathers Day. I was there that day and well... I walked right on. Ask any of the cast members I mentioned seeing there that sweltering afternoon. Surely you recognize the names.

In any event this discussion is proving to be a fool's endeavor.

I strongly suspect that Mr. Creative is intentionally providing false and misleading information. No amount of evidence can change that. Only Mr. Creative knows his own motives and I don't believe that they are altruistic.

From James Rao
Posted June 23, 2009 at 11:36 AM
Worlds of Fun has been dead almost every day I have gone this season, including Father's Day when everything was a "walk-on".

13 to go...

From Dan Babbitt
Posted June 23, 2009 at 12:13 PM
William mornings are a lot busier at the Tower with days like ESPN the Weekends, Star Wars and of course all holidays are very busy no matter what time! I can garauntee(sp?) you that after 3pm the lines are way down at that attraction.

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 12:23 PM
Time of day, day of the week, special event going on. One day of observing a park does not a proper Theme Park Attendance Report make.

And pointing to reports in Orlando regarding poor hotel sales doesn't count for much either. The place is GLUTTED with hotels. Plus that doesn't take into consoderation the Disney resorts which aren't in Orlando. People that are staying at condos like we did. I have other friends that stayed at a time share. Or people vacationing in Cocoa or Tampa that will drive over for the Disney parks.

Airport Traffic + Orlando Hotel Sales does not = Disney Attendance

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:10 PM
Okay, just so we get this straight.

Air traffic volume at Orlando International down 12.8 percent.

Tourist tax receipts in Orange County down 18 percent.

Hotel occupancy in Orlando area down 11 percent in May.

Business travel down 11.2%.

Florida unemployment rate in May 10.2 percent, National rate 9.4 percent

Yet you would have us believe that none of this affects Disney attendance?

Fact is these cold hard numbers are having a serious effect on Disney.

This is the inescapable conclusion supported by the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

Appeal denied with prejudice.

From James Rao
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:23 PM
Anyone care to debate me on the lack of attendance I have seen at Worlds of Fun? I double dog dare you....

18....

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:28 PM
Dan, the Tower of Terror is one of my, and my wife's, all time favorite rides. Something unusual there though last Sunday. We rode the Tower 5 times and every time the tower dropped first. Usually it will initially drop sometimes and go up other times. I know that a computer changes it up so that you experience a slightly different ride each time. I wonder if it's not normal for the Tower to drop at first every time. You can tell when you're outside in the elevator shaft because you can feel the outside heat. It's then that the car either drops initially or goes up and then drops. I know it goes up and down a few times, I'm talking about the initial movement of the car. I don't know if this makes any sense to you but we found it unusual.

BTW, the groupers and loaders there are indeed very efficient. I remember when Aaron was working there, he would try to creep us out before the ride. That's always fun. I think he's been promoted though because we saw him in a white shirt and tie over at Aerosmith.

Can you tell I go over there frequently? LOL.

Anyway, you guys do a great job over at the Tower and I want you to know that we appreciate your efforts. Thanks!

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:40 PM
Worlds of Fun was packed full on Fathers Day. I went over there right after the American Idol finale show at Hollywood Studios. Yep, I was waiting 3 hours to ride Patriot and 5 for Mamba.
The line for Prowler went out the front gate, through the parking lot and out onto the interstate.

LOL :]

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:32 PM
Mr. Clark quotes the Orlando Sentinel: "Orlando area hotels experienced their worst May in more than two decades last month, struggling to fill rooms amid a nationwide travel slump."

I Respond: Notice how the article references ORLANDO hotels and not DISNEY hotels. Specifically, the article notes "In some parts of Orlando, hotels filled fewer than half their rooms last month. North Orlando, for example, had an average rate of 44.1 percent." Just to remind Mr. Clark, Disney is SOUTH of Orlando (Chuckle)

And here's an article from the Orlando Sentinel that Mr. Clark did not reference (also from June 23, 2009):"Disney earlier this year stopped accepting bookings for the popular promo -- which has...

(HERE IT COMES)

... HELPED DISNEY WORLD PROP UP ITS ATTENDANCE BUT AT THE COST OF PROFIT MARGINS."

Please Note: I readily ADMIT Disney's profits will continue to suffer. This discussion is about whether or not park attendance will be LIGHT -- as Mr. Clark has asserted.

Mr. Clark writes: I strongly suspect that Mr. Creative is intentionally providing false and misleading information.

I respond: Of course he writes this without identifying any SPECIFIC information that he can PROVE is "false and misleading." Can you please be specific Mr. Clark?

But the interesting thing about Mr. Clark's posts is that while he will quote economic stats, spin newspaper articles and offer up anecdotal reports HE HAS COMPLETELY FAILED TO STEP UP AND ADDRESS MY SIMPLE CHALLENGE:

>> I predict that the third quarter results for attendance at WDW will be equal to or greater than the same period last year. Of course I could be wrong.

Are you (Mr. Clarkl) willing to predict that Disney will report lower attendance this year than the same quarter in 2008? <<

Let's see if he dodges the challenge ... a THIRD TIME.

(Chuckle)

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:48 PM
I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Clark is trying to wait out the thread without having to accept the aforeposted (chuckle) challenge.

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:39 PM
Well maybe we are all caught up in semantics here. My Day 3 MK Trip Report should show up any time now and in it I reference that the wait times weren't bad at all that day and would even call it a "lighter" crowd. But I am comparing it to what Spring Break or Christmas must be like. We still waited 20-40 mins and had NO walk ons. So it was still very busy. Is it lighter than holiday and peak season? YES. Is it light as in you could walk right on? NO.

But we did see packed parks on Sunday and Friday with excessive wait times. So they are definitely doing well.

So is the ecomony effecting Disney. Yes, in some way, it has contributed to a possibly lighter crowd. How much lighter? We don't know. Our only data is based on the subjective observance of many people. The newspapers print what they want. I hardly would call that reputable these days. Market reports, companies personal quarterly reports, and such are generally much more concrete.

Is the economy effecting Disney as bad as it is Universal? Obviously not. Universal is posting some really bad numbers. Construction, economy, better Disney deals, staycation, pick one.

Mr. Clark, your argument would be far more interesting if you would present Disney data to predict the parks' welfare instead of it's neighboring city. I find your inability to respond directly to challenges posted by other TPI members poor forum behavior. You seem to be a pot stirrer and not a contributor to the community. But I detect a hint of sarcasm and wit from time to time so maybe you mean all of this in jest and just execute it all very poorly. :D

From James Rao
Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:16 PM
Prowler hasn't seen lines that long since opening night. Maybe not even then! In fact, I am not sure there are enough people in Kansas City to make a line that long. This thread is a sham. I demand a recount!

This just in from the Kansas City Star: "....LIGHTER....USUAL...CROWDS....FUN...."

I hope that clears up the matter completely!

12....

From Tony Duda
Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:46 PM
88 (My second 88 this week)

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 4:05 PM
Would Mr. Creative be good enough to provide a byline for his aforementioned article? I suspect that the article exists only in his head.

BTW, Disney is west of Orlando not south. Notice how the signs say I-4 west?

From Dan Babbitt
Posted June 23, 2009 at 4:06 PM
William, Thank You for your comment! I will tell the rest of the gang they will appreciate it as much as I do.

The reason for the drop first these ;ast couple of days is becuase of the heat. We are trying to keep the "Horton" open as much as possible because of the heat outside plus the the natural friction that the ride creates. So the engineers wanted to let the heat escape as much as possible. Just to let you know the "Tower" chooses your drop sequence when the elevator reaches the "Star Field" doors. You will notice a hiccup or a pause in the ride when the "Tower" finally decides.

I'm glad Arron did get a leg up and I know BIll and Leigh Anne very well and they do do a great job there and the rest are new CP's and cant get a feel yet on them.

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:05 PM
I'm just wondering Mr. Creative, can you provide any actual evidence, anything at all, to support your position? Simply offering your false and misleading opinion does not qualify as evidence. I mean, what I'm asking to see is some actual evidence. Because, as of now, all you have provided is your own opinion. How about hitting us with some facts?

I don't think that you can.

Know why?

Because all available evidence shows lighter than normal crowds at Disney.

Profits will be in the toilet, although Disney should remain profitable. I can certainly understand why you don't want to discuss profits.

Also did you notice how Disney did not sell even one new DVC membership during the previous quarter? Not one.

Yeah, I am quite comfortable stating that crowds are down, way down, from last year.

Do us all a favor and provide some references, some actual evidence, something besides your own delusional opinions.

Can you do that?

Nope. I don't believe that you can.

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:06 PM
Memo to Mr. Neal. After reading your previous posts, you can take your concerns and shove them up your ...

;-)

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:16 PM
Haha, looks like I hit a button. ;)

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:21 PM
Is it possible that I am dealing with people who don't even know where Disney is?

Mr. Creative states with authority that Disney is "SOUTH" of Orlando.

Mr Neal doesn't have a clue as to anything. No wonder he pays a small fortune to come here.

In any event, as I previously stated, this discussion is a fool's endeavor.

The lines at Prowler on Father's Day went from Kansas City to St. Louis down to Oklahoma and back; my friend, B.S., waited 17 hours. My DEA pal, a CIA member, confirmed this. 4 little green men from Mars also concur. :)

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:29 PM
Mr. Clark Writes: Would Mr. Creative be good enough to provide a byline for his aforementioned article? I suspect that the article exists only in his head.

I respond: So now my credibility is being called into question?

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/business_tourism_aviation/2009/06/could-disney-bring-back-its-7for4-hotel-deal-later-this-year.html

Could Disney bring back its 7-for-4 hotel deal later this year?

Posted by Jason Garcia (Sentinel's Theme Park/Tourism Reporter) on Jun 23, 2009 9:34:43 AM

Could Walt Disney World bring back its seven-for-four hotel-night promotion later this year? One analyst thinks so.

Disney earlier this year stopped accepting bookings for the popular promo -- which has helped Disney World prop up attendance but at the cost of lower profit margins -- and replaced it with a free dining offer that travelers can book until late July. But Richard Greenfield, an analyst who follows the Walt Disney Co. for Pali Capital, wrote in a recent post on the firm's research blog that "we sense" that the free dining promo has not been as successful as the hotel discount was.

The seven-for-four travel window runs until mid-August; the free dining travel window is from mid-August to early October.

"We suspect Disney will need to go back to a 7 for 4 or better promo in the near future to sustain attendance levels" for the final three months of 2009, Greenfield wrote. The final three months of the calendar year are also the first three months of Disney's 2010 fiscal year.

Greenfield added, "Our thesis remains that without a notable pick-up in the economy, Disney will need to significantly discount pricing in 2010, further pressuring margins…or experience a substantial decline in attendance given how much vacation share they took within the Orlando market over the past year and how many vacations they have pulled forward by aggressively discounting."

It seems, Mr. Clark, you unfounded accusations related to my credibility says more about your integrity than it does mine.

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:21 PM
The announcement related to third quarter attendance is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2009.

When the numbers are released, I predict that the third quarter results for attendance at WDW will be equal to or greater than the same period last year.

Based upon his assertion that crowds will be "lighter" this summer, is Mr. Clark willing to predict that Disney will report lower attendance this year than the during same quarter in 2008?

It's a simple enough proposition. I realize I may be wrong, but I am willing to stand by that prediction.

What say you, Mr Clark?

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:46 PM
Can you address the fact that you stated with authority that Disney is "SOUTH" of Orlando?

Blogs you list as evidence? Blogs??

Yeah, Disney crowds are lighter than normal this summer. Without question. Can I be any clearer than that? Lighter than normal.

I stand by my all of my statements, in full.

From TH Creative
Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:55 PM
Mr. Clark asserted that an article I posted "exists only in his (my) head." Of course I prove him wrong by posting the blog by Sentinel Tourism reporter Jason Garcia. So his accusation that the article "exists only in his (my) head." was WRONG.

And here's the KICKER! Check out Mr. Clark's post on this thread on May 8, 2009 at 11:17 AM where he also uses Mr. Garcia as a source!

Nice, eh?

Mr Clark writes: "Can you address the fact that you stated with authority that Disney is "SOUTH" of Orlando?"

I Respond: Yes. Your claim that WDW is west was based upon his (chuckle) claim "BTW, Disney is west of Orlando not south. Notice how the signs say I-4 west?" For the federal interstate highways (highways with the red, white, and blue shields -- like I-4), even numbered highways run east/west and odd numbered highways run north/south.

Mr. Clark writes: "Yeah, Disney crowds are lighter than normal this summer. Without question. Can I be any clearer than that? Lighter than normal."

I Respond: Sure you can! Simply answer this question "yes" or "no": Do you believe that Disney's quarterly report covering the results of the third fiscal quarter will report a drop in attendance compared to the third quarter of 2008?

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:28 PM
TH Wrote: "And here's the KICKER! Check out Mr. Clark's post on this thread on May 8, 2009 at 11:17 AM where he also uses Mr. Garcia as a source!"

I might be clueless but that right there is downright hilarious! :D LOL

From Don Neal
Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:29 PM
Isn't Disney located North of Orlando in Sanford? :D

The Jury has found Mr. William Clark guilty of pot stirring. We sentence him to 24 hours of It's a Small World, 8 hours riding Jungle Cruise with the same CM, and finally to live under the hat at DHS for 1 week explaining to everyone it's place in theme park history as one of the greatest central elements of theme park design! Case closed!!! :D

From William Clark
Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:17 PM
I offer as admissible evidence actual articles that appear in print in the Orlando Sentinel. I stand by every word I have posted and I do not need to rely upon hearsay, blogs, friends..etc.

As to whether Disney is "SOUTH" of Orlando as Mr. Creative insists or whether it is west of Orlando as it actually is...well, know what? It's west.

In any event, it appears that Mr. Creative uses his own "facts" evidence and atlas.

I offer, as proof positive, the simple facts.

You are indeed entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.

But know what?

When I am walking onto Aerosmith without much wait, Tower of Terror without any wait, Test Track with 20 minute wait, Mission Space no wait, Pirates of the Caribbean with 15 minute waits, Dinosaur, Everest 20 minutes at best, I will take some measure of comfort knowing that, in your own mind, you have stood there waiting 2 hours.

Have a great summer at Disney if you can find it.

"Who is more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?"

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