The world's busiest theme park is going to be open a bit later than usual tonight. Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Magic Kingdom is kicking off Disney After Hours after the park closes to day guests today, giving guests willing to pay as much as $119 a few hours of exclusive access to many of its most popular attractions.
Keeping more than two dozen attractions open for three hours isn't the no-brainer that it may seem to be. Disney World's most popular park averages more than 55,000 guests a day. Staffing it to entertain thousands of guests -- knowing that they won't be spending much once inside because bottled sodas and ice cream treats are included -- isn't an easy financial decision.
The media giant launched the event last year to critical reviews. The high price at the time with guests paying as much as $149 and reportedly lackluster paid attendance seemed to have doomed the hard-ticket offering. Disney has historically thrived with themed late-night events, particularly during Halloween and Christmas. It also offers exclusive nighttime park outings on select nights to its Disney Vacation Club timeshare members. Disney After Hours, though, didn't seem to click during last year's springtime run. The House of Mouse is still giving it another shot.
The sun will come out tomorrow
Disney has likely learned from the market's chilly reception to Disney After Hours. Shaving $30 off will go a long way to cool down the sticker shock. Disney is also letting annual pass holders and Disney Vacation Club members get in for just $89 a ticket.
You obviously can't blame Disney for trying. The Magic Kingdom is Disney's most complete park. It even charges more for single-day tickets than Disney World's three other parks. It's where it hosts the successful Halloween and Christmas after-hours parties. If Disney can't make this work it will be hard to justify porting it over to its other gated attractions.
Epcot with its extensive food and wine offerings is a natural location. Disney's Animal Kingdom should be more inviting at night once the Pandora-themed expansion is complete and the Rivers of Light lakefront show gets under way later this year. Disney's Hollywood Studios is sorely incomplete these days, but that will change once Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land open in a few years -- likely with the park renamed at that point.
Disney After Hours came at a terrible time, launching during a quarter that wound up being a rare instance of an overall year-over-year decline in attendance at Disney World. The climate is gradually improving, and with Disney fortifying the value proposition and tweaking things that may not have been optimal the first time around it wouldn't be a surprise to see Disney After Hours overcome its predecessor's shortcomings.