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Disney World and Rivals Have New Tricks for Halloween Treats

By Rick Munarriz – Sep 15, 2020 at 11:55AM

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Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror Nights have been canceled this year, but this doesn't mean that Central Florida resorts aren't cashing in on the season.

Halloween decorations popped up at Disney's (DIS -0.63%) massive Florida resort on Tuesday morning. Disney World's Magic Kingdom canceled its Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nearly three months ago, but it's still getting into the spirit of the season. Disney characters that now entertain visitors while being socially distant are donning Halloween costumes. Guests of all ages can wear costumes for the first time during the regular operating day. Seasonal treats are also available across all of Disney World's parks. 

A few I-4 exits away, Comcast's (CMCSA -0.81%) Universal Orlando is similarly getting into the swing of things. Comcast also nixed its popular Halloween Horror Nights after-hours seasonal event, but later this week it's going to give daytime visitors a taste of what it's best known for this time of year. Living up to the buzz that was building in recent days, Universal Studios Florida confirmed on Monday afternoon that it would be opening a pair of haunted scare mazes for day guests at the movie-themed park. It's Halloween, after all, and the holiday spirit will be in the air at both resorts.

Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse dressed in Halloween attire.

Image source: Disney.

Scaled-back spooktaculars

Comcast's Universal Orlando will be allowing guests to experience a pair of haunted houses this weekend. "Revenge of the Tooth Fairy" and "Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives" will be the two walk-through attractions at Universal Studios Florida in a few days. A preview will be available on Friday afternoon for Universal's highest-tier pass holders. All guests will get to check it out on Saturday and Sunday.

This weekend's run is being described as a "test" by Universal, but it's highly unlikely that they're going this far in building out the sound stages, setting up the queues, and training its scare actors for a one-off in an otherwise sleepy holiday weekend. We don't know how tame the attractions will be, though it's unlikely to be as intense as the nighttime scare mazes that historically popular Halloween Horror Nights. It is a different clientele during the day, and you don't want unsuspecting families to storm out of the park all rattled after a series of dim-lit jump scares. We also don't know if the event -- beyond this weekend's "test" -- will be free for all visitors. Given the limited capacity of theme park attractions in the new normal, it wouldn't be a surprise if Universal Studios Florida charges extra for the two walk-through attractions to help keep crowds in check. 

At the end of the day, Disney and Comcast won't be making the same kind of money that they do during the Halloween season -- and not just because their own turnstiles are on a hard count as to how many visitors they can let in on any given day. 

Guests were paying as much as $149 for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year. Tickets for Halloween Horror Nights cost less, but by the time you tack on passes for expedited queues -- because lines for the scare mazes do get long for those in the standby lines -- the total shelled out by families climbs significantly higher. All of that revenue is gone this year. Parks closing earlier also means that the Disney and Comcast won't be raking in the kind of money that they historically make on food, snacks, beverages, and souvenirs. 

SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS -1.31%) is the only one sticking to its traditional Halloween offering in Orlando, but that has never been a needle-mover the way it is for the area's two larger players. SeaWorld Orlando offers its Halloween Spooktacular to daytime visitors at no additional cost, but this also means that its revenue is likely to take the most modest hit of the three this season.

You can't blame Disney, Comcast, and SeaWorld Entertainment for trying. They are in the entertainment business, and these are the seasonal options that they can offer in these pandemic-saddled times. With budgets tight as a result of the recession, it's probably just as well, since money for big-ticket attractions would've been a challenge. It may wind up being a forgettable season in a forgettable year for investors, but a little bit of something is better than nothing at all for theme park fans.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short October 2020 $125 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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