Are After-Hours Events a Solution to Disneyland Ticket Problems?

December 11, 2022, 11:13 PM · Disneyland After Dark is coming back in 2023. Disneyland fans concerned about the price of Disneyland tickets and availability of its park reservations probably ought to hope that Disney adds even more after-hours, hard-ticket events in the new year.

Tickets will go on sale on Disneyland's website tomorrow no earlier than 9am Pacific Time to Magic Key holders for the first of two Disneyland After Dark events in 2023: seven nights of "Sweethearts' Nite" in January and February, and two nights of a new "Princess Nite" event in March. Tickets will go on sale to the public starting Wednesday, December 14, again, no earlier than 9am.

After-hours, hard-ticket parties such as Disneyland After Dark allow theme parks to expand their capacities by effectively adding dates to the calendar. Universal officials have called Halloween Horror Nights their "13th month" due to all the extra operating sessions - and corresponding ticket sales - that special event provides. Disney has its own holiday parties in Orlando and Anaheim, but Disneyland After Dark - and the corresponding Disney After Hours at Walt Disney World in Florida - allow Disney to expand its operating calendar beyond the Halloween and Christmas holiday seasons.

With Disney seemingly able to raise prices at will and keep its parks filled, demand clearly continues to run ahead of supply for the Disney theme parks. Adding capacity by expanding parks' footprints or replacing lower-capacity older attractions with higher capacity newer ones can cost millions or even billions of dollars and take years to complete. But adding after-hours events allows parks to sell more tickets and welcome more visitors quickly while making more money up front. That makes these types of events perhaps the best short-term solution to Disney's long-term capacity problems.

Disneyland After Dark tickets will start at $129 per guest, which makes them more expensive than a regular one-day ticket to Disneyland on some event dates. But Disneyland is promoting After Dark as more limited-capacity events with special programming (most character meets) and a green light for adults to wear character costumes (within some limits). That makes these events more appealing than a daily visit to some fans.

If all Disneyland After Dark tickets end up going to Magic Key holders, then the events won't have any value in extending park availability to more casual Disney fans. But if Disneyland could add enough of these events, perhaps it could get to the point where local Disneyland fans could buy tickets to some after-hours event nights on a walk-up basis, rather than hoping to get lucky in the online sales lottery, as it usually the case with such events now. And that could mean we finally would have gotten the point where Disney would have reached the limit of its pricing power on Disneyland admissions.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. And, of course, after-hours event nights usually mean earlier closing hours for Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, since there are few early-close nights on their calendars anymore. So not all the capacity added for these events is on top of regular park capacity. Some of it is a swap at the expense of regular ticket holders, at least until Disneyland has the ability to staff its parks for overnight operation into the post-midnight hours for more of these events.

But in theory, extending park operations by day-parting provides the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way for a theme park to expand its capacity and meet unmet demand for admissions. If Disneyland prices are not to continue rising to the point where only wealthy Californians and tourists may hope to visit, after-hours events may provide part of the solution for making Disneyland more accessible and appealing to more visitors.

What would you like to see Disneyland do next with its after-hours events?

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Replies (7)

December 12, 2022 at 10:03 AM

They're a great solution for Disney, but in admittedly limited experience, I am not convinced they're much of a solution for guests. We went to one of the Star Wars Nights last year and while crowds were surely limited, we still experienced lengthy wait times for anything with "Star" or "War" in the title — and they closed Rise of the Resistance midway through the night. Not exactly worth paying the premium this costs.

I enjoyed the specialty food, drink and character greets — but I wouldn't recommend someone use these as a vehicle to get short wait times.

December 12, 2022 at 10:47 AM

I agree Jacob, they're a great solution for Disney to pad their coffers, but not so much for guests as tickets will always get gobbled up by locals.

December 12, 2022 at 10:07 PM

I went to the first Disneyland After Dark and it wasn’t worth it. These events are mostly for photo-ops and special food offerings…which always have insanely long lines.

These events are mostly fueled by FOMO from locals and influencers who most of the time always state any given Disneyland After Dark event is a disappointment, but yet will be ready to go to the next one.

December 12, 2022 at 11:13 PM

"What would you like to see Disneyland do next with its after-hours events?"

Cancel them.

Personally, I'd much rather pay $~150 to spend a full day at Disneyland than I would $~130 for one of the evening events. Despite the crowds, I can still typically experience 25-30 attractions on a full day Disneyland visit, and I doubt the same would be possible at one of these. I see them as solely for uber fans who are not interested in the traditional Disneyland experience and want to do something different with their time at the park. For those who aren't interested in the specific bonuses offered, it's a waste.

I will say, however, that I am not all that against the idea of more strategic day parting to increase revenue. The parks of the Disneyland Resort are open for 13-16 hours most operating days as compared to the 8-12 hour operating days of most other theme parks. As such, I don't think it would be unreasonable to split the day into 8-10 hour blocks. For example, let's split it into three blocks: daytime (opening to 5 P.M.), afternoon (12-8 P.M.), and evening (4 P.M. to close). If tickets were sold with one block for $110-120, two blocks for $140-150, and all three for $160-170, it might result in greater revenue by selling more tickets at a lower price without causing too much inconvenience for guests. Yes, it would require adding a way to verify when guests have exceeded their block so they can be encouraged to leave the park, but that doesn't seem to be too much of a challenge with existing after-hours events. It's a novel way to operate a theme park, but isn't that dissimilar from the way somewhere like a ski area operates.

December 13, 2022 at 8:57 AM

AJ - I think your "block" idea has some merit, and if coupled with some type of reservation system for APs/Magic Key, it would prevent parks from getting mobbed with locals in the late afternoon/evening hours on weekdays. I don't think it would be too difficult to manage since Disney already has mechanisms to "kick" guests out of the parks when they transition to evening/after hours events. Disney probably wouldn't be able to use wrist bands like they do now, but it would be pretty easy to do random ticket "spot checks" and force guests to tap tickets at attraction entrances to confirm their ticket is valid for that particular block.

December 13, 2022 at 11:00 AM

These events are beyond obnoxious for regular guests. Before the pandemic, we booked in February for a September visit, and several weeks after we purchased our tickets, Disney announced one of the nights we would be visiting was now a Halloween party, so we'd have to exit the park by 6pm, or whatever time it was. I called customer service, indignant, and was told that all park hours are subject to change, so tough patootie. You can go to California Adventure that night, they told me, and I reminded them that CA sucks for little kids, which we had at the time.

I battled them for hours until I finally got free tickets to the Halloween event (and some amazing skip the line passes for Peter Pan and Indy), but if it had not been for my perseverance they would have screwed me royally. Tickets for family of four are $500 a day, at least, and you're going to cut that day in half but charge me the same price? Oh no you're not!

December 14, 2022 at 11:27 AM

As P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

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