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Disney World's New $299 Trick Is Brilliant but Risky

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Aug 19, 2019 at 1:43PM

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The new Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Pass seems like a no-brainer way to boost theme-park revenue, but it could also be a lose-lose offering. It would be bad if it fails, but potentially even worse if it succeeds.

Just when you thought that Disney (DIS 2.90%) was running out of ways to milk more money out of its biggest theme-park fans, it raises the bar with a new big-ticket offering. Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party kicked off at Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Friday night. This year's after-hours event comes with a new nearly unlimited option -- but it comes at a stiff price. 

Disney is introducing Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Pass, a $299 offering that includes party access to 35 of the 36 event nights. Only Halloween itself is excluded from the new pass.

Adult tickets will set you back between $79 and $135 per night for the event, so the pass is a good deal for folks planning to attend at least three or four of the non-Halloween nights. Disney is offering folks who have already purchased a one-night ticket the option to upgrade to the new pass at a modified price. It's a smart move on the surface but could also backfire in more ways than one.

Mickey and Minnie in black-and-orange costumes in front of Cinderella's Castle.

Image source: Disney.

Boo birds can be ghosts

Rival Comcast has offered season passes to its Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando for years, but that's a more intense experience that has a cult audience for local teens and adults who come back often to enjoy the elaborate scare mazes and seasonal revelry. Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is popular -- many nights sell out -- but its appeal rests largely on out-of-towners staying at one of the resort's more than two dozen hotels or local young families who make the event a one-time holiday ritual. 

Despite the inviting reputation that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has for its generous trick-or-treat stations, it's not as if anyone outside of the family dentistry industry is salivating over the prospects of diehard fans walking away with 35 heavy bags of candy through the next 2 1/2 months. Unlike the nine-week Never Ending Pasta Pass at Olive Garden that also went on sale on Friday -- and promptly sold out all 24,000 passes -- Disney is offering a buffet that consumers may not be ready to digest. 

Failure wouldn't be too bad. Disney would just learn and move on come next year. It's the new pass succeeding that has to worry the House of Mouse.

Disney markets this as an exclusive event, and outside of some of the signature meet-and-greet experiences with massive lines, the rest of the evening goes by pretty smoothly with shorter-than-usual wait times for rides and brisk-moving candy station queues. Disney can keep guest traffic in check by limiting the number of tickets it sells, but the math gets harder when hundreds, if not thousands, of buyers of the new pass have unlimited access. It would be rough to justify the $299 passes if it creates dissatisfaction for the one-timers paying full price for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

One can argue that Disney's theme parks could use some overcrowding after the surprising decline in turnstile clicks for its latest quarter, but there's a lot at stake if the experience sours for guests at a consistent moneymaker for Disney. The new pass is a neat big-ticket treat but could also be a trick. 

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