The Walt Disney Company's decision to mark flagship theme park Disneyland's 50th anniversary with newly installed shows and attractions at all its theme parks around the world paid off with significant attendance gains. Amusement Buisness magazine's annual estimate of global theme park attendance gives Disney's parks in the U.S., Japan and France the top 8 spots.
In North America, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued to lead the nation, with an increase of 6.5 percent, pushing the park's 2005 attendance to more than 16 million visitors. Nationwide, attendance at the nation's top 50 parks increased 4.2 percent.
The big loser in this year's report was Disney's archrival, Universal, which saw attendance at all three of its U.S. parks decrease, led by twin 8.5 percent slides at Universal Orlando's Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Apparently, new "Fear Factor" shows on both coasts weren't anywhere near enough to draw fans from the competing Disney parks down the road.
Universal's Islands of Adventure lost the top spot in the annual Theme Park Insider Awards to Tokyo DisneySea this summer, in part due to a lack of new attractions at the Orlando park. Now IoA has suffered the further indignity of dropping behind Disney's California Adventure in annual attendance. (Though it must be noted that DCA's attendance was helped greatly by sopping up the overflow crowds from Disneyland's blockbuster 50th aniversary celebration.)
Here are the numbers for the top 25 parks in North America, courtesy Amusement Business:
However, I simply don't get the public's fascination with the Florida Disney parks. They haven't added anything really significant (unless you count Soarin' at Epcot) in years, yet their attendance is booming. At what point will Magic Kingdom simply reach capacity for the year? As it is, MK is packed much of the time, which really diminishes the experience.
Also, why are the 2005 numbers already out? The Christmas-to-New-Year's week is by far the busiest time of the year for the Florida parks, so to get accurate numbers, they should really wait until the end of the year. Providing the numbers now as as useful as if retail stores estimated their annual sales before Thanksgiving.
I also think that Universal hurts themselves in the long run by not catering more to children. Kids can do something over and over (and over and over - trust me on this one) and they will love it even more. Adults, well, not so much. They will only repeat visits if there is something new. A theme park will increase its shelf life by being more family balanced. This is why Six Flags is in the toilet and Disney reigns high.
As for Florida, there's nothing special about the parks necessarily. It just has a greater concentration of parks than most places (8 parks and 4 water parks). Also, they are open year round - constant revenue.
Which makes Universal's dismal performance all the more surprising. Clearly, the parks' new owners need to reinvigorate Islands of Adventure with a new ride (or three), and find more evening entertainment to keep people in the parks throughout the day (instead of heading back to Disney at night).
Finally, the Amusement Business numbers came out a couple weeks later this year. (In fact, they will appear in the magazine's January issue, rather than the December one, as they have in the past.) Don't know why the reason for the switch -- perhaps the point above was part of the reason. But let's not forget that these *are* estimates -- most parks do not release official attendance data.
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