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Seeking to Attract Affluent Adolescents : Disneyland Will Open Teen Nightclub

April 23, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

Launching an all-out push for the lucrative teen-age market, Disneyland officials say they will open a multimillion-dollar teen nightclub inside the park before summer begins. The club will feature rock bands, giant-screen videos and concessions geared for adolescents.

Disney officials deny that the project was influenced by the success of nearby Knott's Berry Farm's teen club. They say such a move has been considered for years but has been rejected by past Walt Disney Productions officials who worried that the park's family image could be harmed by encouraging teen-age traffic.

Now, the new corporate management of the 30-year-old Magic Kingdom is taking a more detailed look at who the park's customers are and how it can appeal to them. Park officials have discovered that Disneyland's most reliable customers are locals and have decided they need to offer more incentives to attract them back time after time. The nightclub is one of the major incentives being considered for the 1985 summer season.

The Disney executive team of Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive, and Frank Wells, president, wants to see the same kind of sharp earnings improvements at the Disney theme parks that they have recently seen in Disney's filmed entertainment segment. Burbank-based Walt Disney Productions reported record second-quarter net income and revenues Monday and credited much of the gain to a strong showing by its film division.

Anxious to bolster Disneyland's attendance, which has slipped for five consecutive years, park officials have given the go-ahead for construction of a 1,500-seat amphitheater to be called Videopolis. The open-air theater, complete with a stage and three dance floors, is under construction near the Small World ride in Fantasyland and is scheduled to open June 22, said Bob McTyre, manager of marketing and entertainment.

"Our first concern is to keep Disney a family place, but there are a lot of good kids in Orange County who want a place to go," McTyre said.

During the day, Videopolis will be used for various Disney stage shows. McTyre said he does not expect the teen nightclub to attract rowdy crowds, but he did say that when the club opens, security will be beefed up.

Disney was beaten to the punch last year when nearby Knott's Berry Farm embraced the teen market by building Studio K, which packs in 2,000 or more patrons on Friday and Saturday nights during the busy summer season.

"Obviously, Disney is doing this because of the tremendous success of Studio K," said Jim Hardiman, a Knott's spokesman.

But industry observers say that Disney has lots more in mind than catching up with Knott's. Disney has hosted rock concerts for years and is well aware that such concerts inevitably bolster attendance. Disney management is anxious to put an end to a steady attendance decline that may have bottomed-out last year when only 9.8 million guests visited the park.

Disneyland hopes to stage a major turnaround with a record 12 million visitors this year, lured primarily by splashy promotions such as free gifts, special passes and added entertainment. No costly new rides are planned, however.

Film Director Takes Role

Shortly after new management took the helm at Walt Disney Productions last September, Disney officials announced plans for major changes at the world-famous theme park, including new rides and attractions to be built in consultation with George Lucas, director of the film "Star Wars." Usually, new rides take three to five years to go from drawing board to operation at Disneyland, but in a quick turnaround, Disney officials hope to have the new Star Wars rides operating by Summer 1986.

Lucas has broad family appeal, but his most potent audience is the teen-age market. It is a market with money to spend and the time to spend it and that is why Disney is suddenly chasing 12- to 24-year-olds.

To further boost revenues, park officials have discussed selling a variety of concessions inside the new teen nightclub, including T-shirts, buttons, posters, record albums and possibly rock videos, McTyre said. Admission to the Disney teen club--as at Knott's--will be included in the price of park admission.

Although the teen nightclub will probably improve attendance, one amusement industry consultant says he is waiting for park officials to make good on announced plans to upgrade the park with major new attractions. "The real issue is how this fits into the park's overall master plans," said Steve Clark, partner at Management Resources, a Tustin-based consulting firm.

Season Passes Introduced

Clark, who formerly worked in the marketing department at Disneyland, says more is at stake than bolstering teen business. He said the park must spend many millions to revitalize. But instead of such immediate expenditures, he said, Disney is taking a number of promotional actions to try to bump up attendance.

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