Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

The late summer surge returns at the Disneyland Resort

August 20, 2018, 11:57 PM · The Disneyland Resort today lifted its summer blockouts for all levels of annual passes. And, as they do every year at this time, thousands of annual passholders crammed the park as a result, filling the Mickey and Friends parking structure by early evening.

With so many annual passholders, the Disneyland Resort's crowd pattern moves as much with its AP blockout calendar as it does with holidays and the school year. That makes the weeks just before and after the summer blockout of the popular SoCal Select annual passes especially busy ones at the resort, as hundreds of thousands of those passholders crowd the parks to get in visits while schools are out of session and their passes are valid.

Even though more and more schools have been moving to earlier starts in Southern California over the past decade, the late August return of APers continues to fill the park to near capacity. But with those earlier school starts, the late August visits now tend to be after-school or after-work ones, clearing the park for vacationers who are willing to take advantage with an early arrival.

If you are looking for anther strategy for a bit of a break during the late summer season, SoCal Select passes are blocked on weekends and SoCal passes are blocked on Saturdays, so a Saturday often has some of the lighter crowds during the week. Especially if you get there early, too.

Do also remember that Pixar Fest and its special fireworks show closes on September 3 and A Bug's Land closes permanently on September 4, as Disney prepares to redevelop that land as a new Marvel-themed superhero land for a 2020 opening. So those closures should encourage some annual passholders to check them out before they go away. Join them if you wish, but maybe delay your visit until after the fourth if those attractions aren't important to you and you're able to visit later. But Halloween Time starts September 7, and that will bring out the crowds, too, so there aren't very many truly empty days to visit anymore.

Replies (6)

August 21, 2018 at 4:06 PM

I've been at Universal Hollywood the last two days and crowds were unexpectedly large. I foolishly thought things would die down today (assuming SoCal kids were going back to school) but this was not the case.

On a side note...I LOVE the DreamWorks Theater and Kung Fu Panda show. I HATE how they are loading this ride. They have a very small number of doors everyone enters into. No row regulation leads to a free for all for seats. A lot of stopping in the middle. This was also the longest thing I ended up waiting for.

August 21, 2018 at 3:20 AM

People will probably hate this comment, but I think it’s time Disney looks at removing all but the top tier annual passes. It’s just too many people for such a small park. Either that or another recession might be helpful.

August 21, 2018 at 10:40 AM

Oh, now you're going to get me going on theater loading, which is a long-standing ops pet peeve of mine. Post coming sometime this week.

August 21, 2018 at 11:00 AM

If I were going to design a theater attraction from scratch, I would have the audience enter from the back and walk down aisles on either side before filing into the seats, and then exit doors on either side of the theater. That way whoever was there first could could get the seat they want and not be forced to one side or the other. I know it could potentially be a slower load, but I think guest satisfaction would go up, and ops would get less frustrated. The last time I saw the Shrek 3D show we entered to an almost empty theater, the Universal employee up front still spieling away that we all needed to move to the far end of the theatre, which we didn't, and then an irate older woman screaming at me for not moving all the way down. The older woman calmed down when she realized there wasn't anyone behind her and it was ok to sit in the middle of the theatre.

August 21, 2018 at 12:44 PM

@Robert: when you're talking theater loading, would be great to reference conventions, too. This is where D23 expo is such a mess. They load the rooms so, so slowly (and in single file), that it messes with the idea of "plan B" for guests. They never know if they're in, if they should go elsewhere, etc. It's likely why you hear so many grumpy people from the expo.

August 23, 2018 at 8:02 AM

@ - You are so right. I don't attend conventions very much, but have heard horror stories from virtually every one (comic con, D23, E3, CES, etc...).

My experiences with theater loading primarily come from going to press/fan screenings of upcoming movies. I go to one or 2 of these every single week, but the refrain is the same. Screening organizers have absolutely no idea how many people are going to show up to a given screening. Since tickets for the screening are free, there's no incentive from ticket holders to actually show up or to make sure their schedule is clear and that they can attend. Thus, organizers send out 3, 4, or sometimes 5 times as many tickets as they have seats in the theater. For mediocre or lesser known films (like the Mile 22 screening I went to last week), even sending out 5 tickets for every seat results in a half-full auditorium. However, for the blockbusters, people are lined up 2+ hours before hand to ensure themselves a seat (even if organizers only send out 1.5 or 2 passes per seat). What ends up happening is that people line up and are slowly let into the theater a few people at a time (some will claim they have friends coming later and try to save seats for them). The process can take well over an hour sometimes with organizers going in and out of the theater to count the number of empty seats and determining how many more people standing in line can be let in. It's a painfully slow and inefficient process that has not changed one bit in the 15+ years I've been attending press/fan screenings.

Considering that most theaters now have numbered seats, and force guests to select their seat when purchasing their ticket (like a sporting event or concert), I don't understand why organizers cannot utilize a similar system by assigning seats to guests as they enter the theater. The same could be done in the theme park universe just like is done for simulator rides (like Star Tours and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem). It would require a slightly larger pre-show room to allow for guests to organize themselves (in contrast to the mob-style that now infects these theater attractions), but could prove incredibly useful in expediting load times and eliminating the constant drone of "please move all the way to the end of the row".

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