In a move that was clearly long overdue, Disney's
Over the weekend, the park launched HalloweenTime. With thematic touches scattered through the resort, Disney is hoping to cash in during what has traditionally been the sleepy month of October. Banking on more treats than tricks during the season, Disney just couldn't keep turning a blind eye to the success that Cedar Fair's
Knott's has been turning up the frights for 34 years now with its Halloween Haunt event. Disney's fare will naturally not be as jolt-inducing as the elaborate scare mazes at Knott's. It doesn't have to. In two weeks, Disney's California Adventure will begin hosting a special four-hour private costume party event after the park closes. Who would pay $29 a head for a limited event at a park that was notoriously unpopular early in its tenure? A lot of people. As of yesterday, all but one of the nine nights of Mickey's Halloween Treat were already sold out. Over on eBay
The beauty of the beast
Even if you deplore Halloween for its pagan roots, the holiday is doing just fine without your blessing. Kids love getting dressed up and walking away with bags of free candy. Teens love the creepy nature of haunted houses and horror films that hit the multiplex. Specialty retailers also sell a lot of adult-sized costumes, so it's clear that even grown-ups can get into the mood for the eclectic holiday.
Halloween has been a natural fit for regional amusement park operators. For seasonal attractions that used to lock their turnstiles in September once the kids returned to school, the holiday has helped extend the park's calendar.
The masquerade nature of the holiday allows us the opportunity to cut loose for a change. Conservative dressers will go for plunging necklines. Adults will eat Smarties. The same goes for the amusement park industry during that one time of the year when it can be as edgy as it wants without alienating next summer's traditionalists. Even the otherwise stodgy General Electric
A ghost by any other name
I took my son to Horror Nights at Universal Orlando last year. He was ready and I hadn't been there since the creepy offering made its debut at the Florida park 15 years ago. I was blown away by how lavish the scare mazes had become. We're talking about fluorescent ghosts gliding above acrylic glass ceilings and entering a haunted foam party illuminated by a flickering strobe.
It's a costly production but, then again, the tickets weren't cheap. More importantly, it reaches out to an audience that may feel as if it has outgrown the park. It then reintroduces the park on their level.
Knott's did start the trend. It has evolved over the years, now promoting a dozen different scare mazes, several more scare zones, and armed with a thousand costumed characters aiming to scare you when you least expect it.
Yes, there is money to made in scaring people. It may never replace the seasonal industry's dependence on the September quarter to carry the year, but it does give investors a good reason to tune in to gauge a company's financial performance three months later.
Trick or treat? Let's see what the major chains have in the bag after Halloween has come and gone.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family to amusement parks of all sizes, all over the country. He puts his money where his rides are; he owns units in Cedar Fair and shares in Disney. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.