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Disney Parks May Go Back to Ticket Books

September 04, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

Some Disneyland fans still think of the Matterhorn as an "E ride." Park officials acknowledged the nostalgia Tuesday and said they may bring back the famed ticket books that were scrapped four years ago in favor of an all-inclusive admission price.

Additionally, Disney officials announced plans for other changes at the park, continuing a drastic overhaul of past management policies begun a year ago when Michael D. Eisner took over as chairman and chief executive of Walt Disney Productions.

Those changes--many designed to appeal to teen-agers--have helped rejuvenate the park and boost attendance. And they proved so successful that officials reversed a 30-year policy and said Tuesday that the park would remain open 365 days in 1986. In the past, it has been closed most Mondays and Tuesdays from September through May.

Disneyland has been giving away millions of dollars worth of prizes as part of its 30th birthday celebration this year and introduced $99 annual passes and $40 three-month passes. Earlier this summer, the park opened Videopolis, a teen night club area, and most recently signed rock star Michael Jackson to make a multimillion-dollar rock video for the park.

The park had also hoped to lure even more visitors next year with a new attraction to be designed in conjunction with George Lucas, director of "Star Wars" and chairman of Lucasfilm Inc. The multimillion-dollar attraction, which Disney officials say will bring brand-new technologies to the amusement park industry, originally was scheduled to open in June, 1986. But introduction has been delayed at least six months, Disney officials said Tuesday, to late 1986 or early 1987.

"The problem is coming up with the finished concept," Lindquist said of Disney's most secret project. "There are several ideas still to be considered."

The ride is expected to incorporate "Star Wars"-like characters and feature sights, sounds and motions that closely mimic the feeling of being in space.

But, by the time it opens, Disneyland's ticket books could be back in use. Jack Lindquist, corporate marketing vice president for Disney, said the coupons could make a return engagement to the Magic Kingdom as early as 1987. The coupons, which inspired the teen-age expression "E Ticket" to mean someone with pizazz, were matched to the rides. The "E" tickets were redeemable on the park's 10 most popular rides, such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

But some park goers felt restricted by them, Lindquist said, and the ticket books were replaced in 1981 by so-called passports. The one-price admission--which currently is $16.50 for an adult--allows patrons unlimited use of park attractions. They would continue to be sold, Lindquist said.

"For 27 years, the ticket books became a part of the American scene," he said. "Now, our guests appear to have renewed interest in them."

Steve Clark, partner at Management Resources, a Tustin-based amusement industry consulting firm, said the return to ticket books would be a good marketing move for Disney. "It would give them more flexibility," he said. "With a ticket book you can have all different price levels."

Prices and design of the ticket books have not been decided, Lindquist said.

Disneyland has posted an impressive turnaround in 1985 after a near-disastrous 1984 season, when prospects of crowding during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics scared away many potential visitors and park attendance slumped to a 10-year low of 9.9 million.

But this year, Disney expects a record 12 million visitors, many of them lured by $12 million in prizes--including 400 cars--that the park is giving away to each 30th guest who files though the main gate.

The gift program may be continued at an accelerated pace next year.

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