Kind of, but not as much as expected.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in early April of this year to thousands of potterheads visiting within its first four months alone. The new land was predicted to make a heavy impact on Disneyland’s numbers, but now that we’re away from opening day, we can ask – did it succeed as expected?
We talked to an expert, Jon Fu of Inside Universal, to find out whether or not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had an effect on Disneyland.
“Overall, I firmly believe that Universal had the opportunity to take a decent chunk of guests from the Disneyland Resort as a result of the Wizarding World.” said John. “I think it’s a given that Southern Californian locals have a sizable impact on attendance, and Universal had a good chance at absorbing some of Disneyland’s guests who may have been disillusioned by the resort’s consistent price hikes.”
Even we at DisneyExaminer expected that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter might lure away even the most dedicated of Disney fans – with low ticket prices and rave reviews, it seemed a given that guests would be swept away by The Wizarding World.
Jon, however, pointed out to us that the success of The Wizarding World still did not meet expectations for one simple reason: pass price hikes by Universal Studios.
“While Disneyland fans like to chastise the company for implementing yearly price hikes, I think it’s also worth noting that Universal implemented a price increase of 300% on their highest tier pass in less than a year – $199 to $599 for 365 days of admission with parking. On top of that, the company also eliminated the option for year-round parking from their pass structure for several months, scrapping the option altogether for passholders who wished to renew due to the impending opening of Wizarding World. That – coupled with several ongoing pass changes that have left some passholders paying more for less dates – have all but squandered any goodwill left in their pass program.”
Unfortunately for Universal Studios, the potential of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was squashed by their optimism about price hikes (and yikes – I can’t even imagine Disney increasing their pass prices 300% in one go!)
Jon did point out that guest spending has gone up – no doubt from the excellent quality of Harry Potter-themed merchandise now available at the park – but in the end concluded: “I think the land is doing fine as-is, but Universal definitely hurt themselves attendance-wise by implementing draconian changes to their annual pass program.”
“At this point, changing their annual pass structure seems to be the only solution Universal has left,” Jon responded when I asked a final question about Universal adding more dates to their passes. “To my knowledge, their numbers are better, but I’m not sure if they can recoup their initial losses. As an alternative, they’ve also been releasing low-priced Costco passes in hopes of recapturing the locals market.”
So there you have it – there’s no doubt that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is major competition for local Disney parks, but price hikes and pass changes have definitely lessened what would have been a more critical blow to The Walt Disney Company’s earnings.
Special thanks to Inside Universal’s Jon Fu, who was kind enough to share more about the news that informed this article!