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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