Some weeks ago, Disney announced a $300 price tag to watch the magic of Pixar Pier a few days before normal guests. It includes meet & greets, riding the attractions, enjoying the scenery and some exclusive meals. This isn’t the first time that Disney does a ticketed event, but it is the first time in a while to make a prominent event out of a park expansion.
In the past years, ticketed events around the parks have started to pick up more steam. From villains, to Star Wars, to an event that is just about visiting the Magic Kingdom at night, the experimentation keeps on going. After all, these are easily justified by management when you already have the resources to pull out these kind of activities without much of an investment.
For Pixar Pier, the $300 price tag on your eagerness to be the first to enjoy the reimagined space is a bit too far. The land only has one new-ish attraction with few things to enjoy. But as always, these kind of events are only beta testing future options for management.
With the rising costs of park expansions, Disney needs to think about which options do they have to make that return of investment in less time. Ticketed events might be the answer. Imagine a $300 event next year on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, much like Galactic Nights, but for the first three months of the land’s opening. It would give an option to the many Star Wars fans that will be attracted to the park, giving different experiences from normal guests, enjoying the attractions with shorter wait times, delivering exquisite Alderaanian food and unique meet & greets from more obscure characters that the normal theme park goer wouldn’t appreciate. Now that is an irresistible event for many fans that want to enjoy this land during its first year.
Doing the math with 2000 guests per night, this hypothetical Star Wars event would bring $600.000 per night, $18 million per month, $54 million for 90 days. These numbers look good even if the event lasts one month prior and during the opening of Galaxy’s Edge.
This is the reason that more ticketed events are part of the Disney experience. It is just a way to bring more income without doing that much of a complicated planning process. Once Galaxy’s Edge winds down, they could keep doing Galactic Nights at select days during special events, like film releases or TV series launches. The Pixar Pier event is just a proof of concept: if people are willing to pay that much for such a small expansion, they will quickly open their wallets once Galaxy’s Edge opens.
The ticketed events is a balancing act, were parks management sees something the hardcore fans want out of their park experience and they give it to you with a hefty price tag. And that’s ok as they deliver good experiences for those people who pay for that. What worries me about this event driven strategy is the boundaries between the benefits of the full day park goer vs. the hardcore time paying twice as much for a 3 hour or 6 hour ticketed event.