There sure has been a lot of heartache in the attractions world within the last few months. Between the announcements of Terminator 2: 3D, The Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy and more being closed there has been a lot of heartache and shock. Especially amongst the fan community, emotions run high. I’ve seen many fans and even friends shed a few tears over these recent announcements.
Because I’ve got my ear to the ground, I can tell you that there are several other attractions that are on the chopping block within the near future. For fear of bodily harm, I can’t say which rides and shows will be getting the ax just yet. However, I have devised a list on how to tell if your favorite attraction is either on the chopping block or might be someday. Here we go.
#1 Are there butts in the seats?
Say what you will about Pleasure Island before it closed. The Disney favorite was host to the most eclectic collection of nightclubs in place the world has ever seen. At the end of the day, the place had to make money. I spent quite a bit of time at Pleasure Island during its final years and I can say with certainty, with rare exceptions, the place was generally pretty dead. Especially if your goal is to generate revenue, you can’t hold on to an ideal if it’s not making the kind of money it could or should.
Let’s say an attraction does not rely on direct ticket or food and beverage sales to keep it afloat. What is the overall utilization compared to what it could do? You know what I’m talking about: Carousel of Progress, Enchanted Tiki Room, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Liberty Square Riverboat, Circle of Life, Horror Makeup Show… and on and on. If every time you visit an attraction, you see 50% or more of the seats empty every single time you go… I promise you that there have been dozens of pitches to replace, enhance or scrap that attraction completely.
#2 Does The Park Own the Intellectual Property?
Times have changed. When Disney/MGM Studios and Universal Studios Florida first opened, both needed to partner with other studios in order to create a well-rounded park that families would find value in. All deals regarding movie and television franchises that are not associated with the park are structured differently. They can range from an annual fee to a percentage of the merchandise/food and beverage and some can even take a percentage of the ticket price at the gate if they are strong enough. However, if the franchise or brand doesn’t connect with audiences anymore and you’re not filling the seats? Why lose any additional revenue?
In addition, there is something to be said about synergy. Having The Wizard of the Oz in The Great Movie Ride might have been the biggest draw to get people on the ride. However, does Disney really benefit from it? They weren’t allowed to sell merchandise from any of the films represented in the attraction unless they owned them. On the flip side, could families come off of a Mickey Mouse attraction and want to buy a t-shirt, plush or even a DVD with the new Mickey Mouse shorts on it? That’s very possible. Plus Disney is allowed to sell that merchandise.
#3 How Valuable Is The Land The Attraction Sits On?
Let’s use the Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for this example. In this case, Disney owned the rights to everything seen on the tram tour. Generally speaking, there were butts in the seats throughout most of the day. On the other hand, the ride took up an enormous footprint at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That space is now being converted into not one, but two new lands for the park with multiple attractions, retail and food and beverage within it.
Indeed, there are several other areas within current parks that have a very large footprint and are highly underutilized. I’m looking at you Liberty Square Riverboat/Tom Sawyer’s Island at the Magic Kingdom or Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Which leads me to…
#4 How Much Of The Day Is The Attraction Utilized?
Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios absolutely checks all of the boxes we have talked about so far. All of the characters and franchises within are owned by Disney and the shows typically fill to capacity every night (or close) and the land the attraction sits on is somewhat valuable in the sense that it does generate a lot of revenue for the company. Between dining packages, light up toys and people just staying in the park later (which means they’ll most likely eat dinner in the park) to see the show means it’s safe, right? Kind of.
Considering that land is only used for typically one show a day, it can absolutely be utilized by a new land that is open from park open to park close. Right now, guests can’t even gain access back there until about 90 minutes prior to show time. Imagine if an entire land was back there with more attractions and a nighttime show that can be viewed when the sun goes down. Think World of Color at California Adventure. More importantly, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has proven that they can utilize the Chinese Theater pretty well with projection and fireworks shows. Long term… does the park need to run two expensive night time shows when it can only run one and have an entirely new section open all day?
#5 Exceptions To The Rule
Before some of you start hyperventilating, there is hope. Some attractions are getting and will continue to stick around for the foreseeable future. Maybe they are considered a “classic” that Walt Disney or Stephen Spielberg touched. Maybe the land they sit on would be cost prohibitive to excavate. Maybe the footprint is too small for the type of attraction that is being proposed for the replacement. Plus, there is value in attractions (especially shows) that you can walk into with zero waits and cost very little to operate. At the end of the day, nothing is safe though. As generations get older and the sense of nostalgia for attractions like The Enchanted Tiki Room fade away, it may be harder and harder to justify keeping them around. Your thoughts?
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