A different calculation on the $150 Disney Nights upcharge event

Like many people, when I heard of the $150 upcharge event called Disney Nights (which gives you three hours of extra time in the park after everyone else leaves), I was bowled over by the sheer gall of the pricing. What a money grab! This is $50 more than the typical Magic Kingdom ticket for an entire day, and you’re supposed to pay it for just three hours?! It seemed impossible, a joke.

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For one thing, who would pay that much for such a limited benefit? Surely it’s something for the 1%, the truly rich who don’t read price tags, and for whom time is more important than money. Your first thought, like mine, was likely that this whole plan was doomed to failure.

But hold on a second. As a staff member at www.thedisneyblog.com pointed out to a mutual friend, Disney doesn’t need *everyone* on board to make this work. If they only had a fraction of their visitors – say, 1% – pay that price, then it just might work.

That got me thinking. Let’s do some math here. $150/person means that 1,000 people brings in $150,000 of revenue. A crowded day at Magic Kingdom is 80,000 people, or maybe as few as 60,000 (it’s hard to tell these days because Disney has recently made it a science that the so-called “off season” will feel just as busy as high season). Could they entice 1/60th of the visitors to pay the upcharge? Would $150,000 pay their operating costs for those three hours?

At this point, I was still thinking the answer was “no”. But let’s pause for a second and talk numbers. In a given day, most visitors to Disney ride 7.5 rides (that’s the actual internal statistic), so it’s their expectation for an entire day. Given that logic, they are paying about $14 for every ride they go on.

Suddenly, the three hours of just 1,000 guests feels pretty different. If there are really only 1,000 people in the park, you can expect that the rides are basically “walk on.” You can spend those three hours moving giddily from one ride to the next, waiting in no lines at all, and racking up the ride count pretty quickly. From a friend’s recent experience when it was empty in the park, in three late-night hours you can get in perhaps 13 E-ticket level rides when there is no wait. But let’s take the conservative view–let’s say it’s only 10.

Ten rides in three hours for $150 is $15 per attraction — basically the same value you get with a one day ticket.

But hold–the Disney Nights ticket lets you do a “mix in” starting at 7pm. If you constructed a touring plan that visits the no-line attractions from 7pm onward (say: Mickey’s Philharmagic, PeopleMover, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Steam Trains), then the ride count rises a lot more.

Suddenly, the Disney Nights ticket looks cheaper *per attraction* than the regular day ticket.

It might actually be “cheaper” to pay for the $150 Disney Nights ticket, skipping the day ticket, and do something else for the first few hours (Universal? Fun Spot? There are a million and one choices in Orlando).

You can bet the Accountanteers ran all these numbers. They likely came up with the hefty $150 price tag on the basis of what people would like and find value in. What they didn’t count on was the initial sticker shock everyone seems to be feeling.

To my mind, that MIGHT mean the first few evenings of this will be even MORE deserted than usual. Maybe only 500 people will show up?

The rumor is that the “cap” is at 1,000 people, and if so, the rides will DEFINITELY be walk-on. And that just might be the key to making this work, both for the company and the visitors with enough money to take this on (and think this through).

3 thoughts on “A different calculation on the $150 Disney Nights upcharge event

  1. If you’re going to Disney just to hit the maximum number of rides, you’re missing out on much of what makes Disney World different. You may as well go to an amusement park.

  2. The math here is much too simple. For example, there is a large chunk of people attending with multi-day tickets. They are paying much less than $105. Many of those people would need closer to 15 attractions to see an equal return. Not to mention shows and parades that are not included in the evening ticket. Basing this all on attractions does not tell the tale. Still interesting, though.

  3. When I read the release I did not see where all rides would be open. It only listed 4 rides “and much much more” If all rides are not available then….? My fear is that this will be a success and the park will be open even less hours. I agree Disney is meant to be experienced, soaked in, not a rush from one ride to the next.

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