Universal Studios Hollywood, however, kept its front gate walk-up price the same for every day. Instead, Universal offered varying discounts off that price for people who bought their tickets in advance on universalstudioshollywood.com, based on the date of their planned visit. That not only allowed Universal to try to redistribute crowds to less crowded days — as Disney also is trying to do — it also created a financial incentive for fans to commit in advance to visiting on a certain date. At Disney, there's no such price incentive to buy in advance and commit to a date, as the price is the same in advance online as it is if you just walk up to the ticket booths on the day of your visit.
So how's that working out? This past weekend might have provided some insight.
Last weekend was a miserable time to be outside in Southern California. A now-30,000-acres-plus wildfire, burning just a few miles east of Six Flags Magic Mountain, darkened skies across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, dropping ash across many communities and making the whole town smell of smoke. And, by the way, did I mention that high temperatures on Saturday topped 100 degrees across much of the area?
And yet, Universal Studios Hollywood was packed all weekend.
The temperatures (and the smoke) weren't as bad down at Disneyland in Anaheim as they were up in Universal City, so it's not a true apples-to-apples comparison. But one has to wonder if so many people would have turned out at Universal over the weekend had some of them not committed to the dates by buying their discounted tickets in advance online. Neither Universal nor Disney report daily attendance, but wait times at the Disneyland parks seemed a tick or two less last weekend than the previous weekend, which offered better weather.
And, for what it's worth, various apps reported that wait times at Magic Mountain — which was much closer to the fire — were way below normal for the weekend, suggesting that crowds did bail on visiting the Six Flags park.
Weather affects theme park attendance at parks throughout the world. But the Orlando theme parks, which rely on out-of-town guests who commit to their visits sometimes months in advance, typically have been able to avoid weather-influenced swings in attendance, as people who've spent money to come to Central Florida to see the parks tend to show up, rain or shine.
Like at regional parks around the country, attendance at the Southern California theme parks is driven much more by locals than it is in Orlando. And locals can afford to be fickle about coming out the parks when the weather is less than ideal. But with its advance-purchase discount plan, has Universal Studios Hollywood found a way to bring some of that Orlando-style attendance resilience to Southern California?
That's another factor to consider as we continue to watch the effect of date-variable pricing on theme park attendance.Tweet
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