Disney theme parks to raise ticket prices; Avatar, Star Wars lands openings slated

  • Mon Feb 13th, 2017 10:00pm
  • Life

Orlando Sentinel and

Los Angeles Times

If you have saved all year to strap on your mouse ears and go crazy on the teacup ride at Disneyland, you are going to need to save a bit more.

Starting this week, the admission prices for Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., are going up $2 for daily passes and as much as $20 for some multiday tickets and annual passes.

Similar price increases have been announced for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Daily tickets for the Anaheim theme parks vary in price, depending on daily demand. On peak-demand days, a one-day adult ticket to Disneyland or California Adventure climbs to $124, up from $119. On low-demand days, a one-day adult ticket jumps to $97, from $95.

The biggest price increase will be for a three-day ticket to both parks, which climbs to $315 for adults, from $295.

“Our pricing provides guests a range of options that allow us to better manage demand to maximize the guest experience and is reflective of the distinctly Disney offerings at all of our parks,” Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said.

The increases come despite the closure of several attractions in Frontierland to make way for construction of the $1 billion, 14-acre Star Wars expansion, which won’t open until 2019.

Starting in January of last year, the park permanently closed Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. Disneyland also temporarily closed nearby attractions on the Rivers of America — mainly Fantasmic, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, the Disneyland Railroad and the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes.

Still, Disney has offered something new to go with the higher prices.

In January, Disneyland re-launched the classic Main Street Electrical Parade, the cavalcade of blinking lights and relentlessly cheery electronic music that was born in 1972. The parade returned to its home park after running for several years in Disney parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo and at California Adventure Park. The nightly parade runs until June.

At California Adventure Park, Disney is remodeling its popular elevator-drop ride, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, to become an attraction based on Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” superheroes. The new ride is expected to open this summer.

Avatar, Star Wars lands

Walt Disney World will open Pandora: The World of Avatar on May 27, while its 14-acre Star Wars land will debut in 2019.

The Walt Disney Co. this week gave analysts the details of the highly anticipated openings during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings. During that call, Disney said year-over-year attendance fell at its theme parks for the quarter ending Dec. 31.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told analysts that the Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has “an extremely unique design and architecture. It really does make you feel you’re in Pandora.”

The area will be “the biggest new land we’ve opened in Florida in a very long time,” he said. “I think that’s good for the whole business down there.”

Some experts have expressed skepticism over the choice of “Avatar” as a franchise. The original movie came out in 2009. Several sequels are planned beginning in 2018.

“We really believe in the coming years, the interest in Avatar is only going to grow as those movies enter the marketplace,” Iger said. “We can’t quantify it but we think this is big potential.”

There seems to be general agreement that Disney will have a hit on its hands with its Star Wars land at its Hollywood Studios theme park near Orlando, Fla. Another Star Wars area will open the same year at Disneyland in California.

“One thing you know, it’s going to be very transformational,” said Tuna Amobi, an analyst with CFRA Research. “I’ve heard comparisons to (Universal’s) Harry Potter attractions in Orlando. Really, expectations are sky high.”

Disney’s theme parks saw a 5 percent decline in attendance in the quarter. Hotel occupancy was down “modestly,” the company said, to 91 percent.

Disney said much of the decline was because of Hurricane Matthew, which forced Disney World to close for a day and a half, and the timing of the Christmas holiday that reached into the company’s second quarter.

At Disney World, the drop could be influenced by an overall decline in Central Florida tourism. Overall, Orange County hotel taxes dipped 3.5 percent in December, according to an industry report.

Analysts said they were not alarmed by the decrease. Disney’s chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, noted that seasonal pricing implemented in 2015 and 2016 gives people an incentive to visit during less busy times.

Parks-and-resorts revenues still increased 6 percent because of visitors spending more on tickets, food and hotel rooms. Operating income growth jumped 13 percent.

One analyst asked if there was potential for more ticket-price increases. Iger’s answer: “Yes.”

“We do take ticket pricing up typically on an annual basis and we do so in a variety of different ways,” he said.

Overall, The Walt Disney Co. reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.55, a 5 percent decrease from the previous year. Revenue decreased 3 percent to $14.8 billion.

Revenue decreased in other segments — including media networks, consumer products and studio entertainment.

“Theme parks were by far the standout,” said Robin Diedrich, an analyst with Edward Jones.