Opinion: Disney price hikes about more than profit

Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2015 10:27 AM | Contributed by Jeff

From the piece:

While profits are undeniably at the heart of these changes, they’re also about simple crowd control. If you glance at many of the negative reviews of Walt Disney World or Disneyland at sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you’ll see that people complain nearly as often about the parks being overcrowded as they do about them being overpriced. Maddening crowds and long lines can make theme park visitors miserable, and the “solution” Disney seems to be settling on is a win-win for the company: Raise prices so high that the parks will be full (but not overfull) of just the right (high-paying) customers.

Read more from Time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 1:31 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

Travis, one variable left out of your Coke analogy is what the people do after they buy the Coke. To really draw parallels to an amusement park business, the customers would be required to remain on Little Johnny's sidewalk while they drink their Coke, and only on the part of the sidewalk that is on his property. (And let's assume that these Cokes take anywhere from 5-10 hours to drink as well) Now, another factor in the equation becomes: Do you want 20 people standing on your sidewalk drinking Coke or 40 people? Even if Little Johnny turns more profit, the customers might get discouraged. That sidewalk might get a little crowded. Should you pay to have your sidewalk widened? Will the city give you permits for that? Should you buy your neighbor's house so your customers can stand on that sidewalk too?

(Disregard this next paragraph, I typed it only for my own amusement:

After a while Johnnys customers might notice Little Suzie down the block selling Pepsi for 50 cents per can. Sure, she runs a single-cooler operation even on crowded days, and her stand has a horrible line-jumping problem from all of the neighborhood hoodlums, but Johnny had certainly better take his competition into account.)

Not trying to crap all over your analogy, but the Disney problem is a complicated and fascinating one. And probably will make a great project for many Economics classes.

Personally, I'd love to see the MK grow to twice its size. More is more, right? But even that is not that simple. Cedar Point builds new rides all the time. New rides = more lines to control crowds, yet the crowds seem bigger every year as more people want to experience them. Expand the MK to twice its size and it will just attract that many more guests who maybe wouldn't have taken a Disney vacation otherwise.

Rambling, yeah, but like I said, interesting discussion.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 1:55 PM
Jeff's avatar

If you were suggesting that CP keeps growing attendance, that hasn't been the case at all. It has been relatively flat for years. But the lines overall are most certainly shorter than they used to be. Sure, Dragster may still have long lines, but overall the park is manageable most of the time. You were lucky to get Millennium Force for under two hours any time of year when it opened, and full Magnum queues were common place. It's not that there are newer, "better" rides, it's that there are more places to put the people.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 1:57 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

The first time I was visiting my friends in Windermere and we entered Disney World the "back way" from Reams Road, I was struck by how hemmed in the Magic Kingdom is with Seven Seas Lagoon out front, Bay Lake and the monorail spur to the east, and assorted buildings northeast-ish. An expanded Magic Kingdom would have to grow northwest-ish* to have any room to expand significantly.

I agree, building a bigger Magic Kingdom would lead to a bigger park with many more people in it rather than a bigger park with more manageable crowds.

*Hoping I have my directions right. Apologies if I don't.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 2:24 PM

You're referring to "induced demand". It's regularly used as an argument against widening roads. Adding more lanes may result in traffic flowing faster in the short term, but it almost always ends up with more traffic on the road. I've always felt it applied to theme parks, especially those with very high attendance. Expanding MK may initially spread out the crowds at first, but it will ultimately result in bigger crowds.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 3:39 PM
LostKause's avatar

I oversimplified my analogy on purpose because it was getting ridiculously complicated. I deleted half of it in the final editing process. It's nice to read so many opposing opinions.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 3:45 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

That's the thing though, it IS ridiculously complicated and your simplified example gave the impression (to me, at least) that you don't get it.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:32 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

Jeff said:

If you were suggesting that CP keeps growing attendance, that hasn't been the case at all. It has been relatively flat for years. But the lines overall are most certainly shorter than they used to be. Sure, Dragster may still have long lines, but overall the park is manageable most of the time. You were lucky to get Millennium Force for under two hours any time of year when it opened, and full Magnum queues were common place. It's not that there are newer, "better" rides, it's that there are more places to put the people.

Really not trying to thread drift, but...

Well I don't have access to the numbers, but yeah, I kind of was suggesting that. But I was going by more of a "seat of the pants" feel than actual numbers, so I could certainly be wrong. It sure seems though, being passholders for 16 years, that there are more days with large crowds and longer lines than there used to be. Of course ride waits can dwindle over time, but I just seemed to notice a more crowded feel to the place over the last few years.

But I'm sure Fast Lane has nothing to do with longer waits....

Hey... I said no thread drift...

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 9:13 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

I don't understand why raising prices and still having a full park at Christmas is a problem. Sure, it doesn't address the overcrowdedness, but you still have the same problem you originally had (an overcrowded park) and you have more money. How is this bad?


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 11:51 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Meandering back to that particular point, any entertainment venue -- amusement parks, Nutcracker ballets, movie theatres, Chuckie Cheese's -- is going to be very busy over the holidays. I'm always amazed, over at the theatre, by customers who are flummoxed when those shows between Christmas and New Years are almost sold out.

It's in no way bad. We crank the prices up 10 to 20 bucks per seat for those shows and happily count the profits.....


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 6:42 PM
sirloindude's avatar

I actually think that expanding the Magic Kingdom further is a bad idea given that you don't just walk from the parking lot into the park. At night, you can wait a substantial amount of time just to get to the parking lot. 15-minute waits aren't bad, but the psychological effect of knowing you can't just walk out the front gate to your car can be frustrating. Putting more demand on the monorail and boat systems doesn't seem as prudent as increasing the attraction count at the other parks.

Perhaps I was a bit hasty in suggesting a fifth gate, but I feel like Disney probably let themselves get a few years behind on increasing the attraction count at the resort, at least in the parks that needed new rides the most.


13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

www.grapeadventuresphotography.com

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 7:06 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

I actually agree, Magic Kingdom probably shouldn't be expanded significantly.

One thing I like about MK is the "process" of getting to and from the park. For me, it emphasizes the idea that the park is a break from reality. Whether by boat or monorail, I enjoy the anticipation of approaching the park and the "breathing space" leaving the park. But that's me, and I'm peculiar.

I wouldn't be surprised if Disney added a fifth gate down the line, but with third, um, facilities for Toy Story Mania and Soarin' as well as Star Wars Land, Toy Story Land and Avatar Land coming I think WDW is making strides in addressing some capacity issues.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 8:45 PM
Jeff's avatar

Too late, they're expanding the parking lot! :)


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 9:06 PM

Jeff I am not trying to give you a hard time, and I know you live in Orlando. Why has Coasterbuzz turned into another Disney site? I enjoy Coasterbuzz because just as the name implies it about coasters.

Look at the News discussion and 9 out of 21 posts are Orlando news. I'd like to see other posts about amusement news other than Disney.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Orlando theme parks, but I joined Coasterbuzz because it covered more than Disney. We'll be in Orlando in November and I am looking forward to the the trip.

I want to join the Coasterbuzz club again but need a reason to do it.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 9:19 PM
Jeff's avatar

Are you kidding me?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 9:33 PM

How dare you. Who do you think you are, ignoring real industry news so that Disney dominates the news forum?


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Thursday, October 8, 2015 10:33 PM
Jeff's avatar

It's almost as if most of the industry outside of Orlando was seasonal, or Disney parks account for more than half of the attendance in the top 20 North American parks.

Maybe I can just make up some news he'll like in the hope that he'll give me $25?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 11:00 PM

You could just start linking to CoasterStudios for up-to-date "news" about amusement parks. I just saw a great story about a Squirrel on a Carousel at Kings Dominion. It's quality material like this that is really lacking from the news feed. ;)

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Friday, October 9, 2015 12:06 AM
Tommytheduck's avatar

I for one welcome Octobers transition to "Disneybuzz."

I was getting downright sick of "Valravnbuzz" last month.

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Friday, October 9, 2015 12:25 PM
Vater's avatar

What has happened to CoasterBuzz?

High five!

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Friday, October 9, 2015 1:17 PM

I for one don't think we're discussing the really important parks here. I mean I haven't seen anyone say anything about Sea World San Antonio or Wild Adventures ever. ;-)

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