To make way for "Star Wars," Disneyland is about to launch its largest expansion ever, which means shutting down a significant chunk of the Anaheim theme park.
In January, 10 attractions and eateries will close — some temporarily, some permanently — only a few months after the resort hiked the price of annual passes as much as 31%. This spring, Disneyland's biggest rival, Universal Studios Hollywood, plans to unveil a widely anticipated Harry Potter attraction.
For any other operation, charging customers more and giving them less would be a perilous business strategy, especially if the competition is upping its game. Not so at Disneyland.
"At the end of the day, you won't see any attendance drop," said Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati. "The tourists will come, hell or high water."Disney officials won't say whether the announced closures and the annual pass price hike have affected pass sales so far. During the quarter that ended Oct. 3 — before the closures and the price hikes were announced — Walt Disney Co. reported a 15% jump in attendance at all domestic parks.
Instead, the construction project to build a new "Star Wars" area is likely to demonstrate the devotion of hard-core Disney fans.
Daniel Bowmen of Sylmar, who has owned a Disneyland premium pass for 24 years and visits at least twice a week, said he is disappointed that the park is closing so many attractions during construction. But that won't keep him away.
"I just renewed my annual pass, so I'll be going to Disneyland," he said.
Disney officials won't say whether the announced closures and the annual pass price hike have affected pass sales so far. During the quarter that ended Oct. 3 — before the closures and the price hikes were announced — Walt Disney Co. reported a 15% jump in attendance at all domestic parks.
Orange County, home of the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, is expected to be the country's fourth-most-popular destination for Christmas travel, according to a study of hotel reservations by the travel website Priceline.com.
Park executives don't seem worried, noting that Disneyland has added several new features in recent months to appeal to devoted "Star Wars" fans. Disney acquired Lucasfilm, along with the "Star Wars" franchise, in 2012 for $4 billion.