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Disney Parks May Go Back to Ticket Books : New Management Considers Recall to Boost Attendance

September 04, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

Continuing a drastic overhaul of past management policies, Disneyland officials said Tuesday that they may bring back the park's famed ticket books that were scrapped four years ago.

Industry analysts said the return of the ticket books, which spawned the teen-age expression "E-Ticket" to signify someone with pizazz, would be another wise move by a theme park apparently rejuvenated under new management.

Since Michael D. Eisner took over as Disney's chairman and chief executive last year, the previously stagnant park has taken a series of bold moves to boost attendance.

Trying to broaden its appeal to teen-agers, the park opened Videopolis, a teen night club, earlier this summer and most recently signed rock star Michael Jackson to make a multimillion-dollar rock video for the park. It also introduced $99 annual passes and $40 three-month passes this year. And to boost attendance, it has been giving away millions in prizes for its 30th birthday.

Reversed Policy

These actions proved so successful that the park reversed a 30-year-old policy on Tuesday and said it would open 365 days in 1986. In the past, it has been closed most Mondays and Tuesdays from September through May.

In February, Eisner also announced plans for a new Disneyland attraction to be designed in conjunction with George Lucas, director of "Star Wars" and chairman of Lucasfilm Inc.

But introduction of the attraction, which Disney officials say will bring brand new technologies to the amusement park industry, has been delayed at least six months, Disney officials said Tuesday. Originally scheduled for June, 1986, the multimillion-dollar attraction is now expected to open in late 1986 or early 1987, they said.

Disneyland's near-legendary ticket books could make a return engagement to the Magic Kingdom as early as 1987, said Jack Lindquist, corporate marketing vice president for Walt Disney Productions. The "E" tickets were redeemable on the park's 10 most popular rides, such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

The ticket books were replaced in 1981 by so-called "passports" that allow patrons unlimited use of park attractions. Passports 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."

The coupon books were eliminated four years ago because many guests felt restricted by them, Lindquist said.

Steve Clark, partner at Management Resources Inc., 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."

Adult admission to Disneyland is currently $16.50. Prices and design of the ticket books have not been decided, Lindquist said.

Also undecided is when Disney will open its Lucas-designed Star Wars ride.

"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.

When it opens, it will be the first major new ride at the park since Thunder Mountain opened in in 1979. In 1983, Disneyland also spent nearly $40 million remodeling Fantasyland.

"The real issue is the long-term capital strategy for the facility," said Management Resource's Clark.

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 attendance at the Magic Kingdom slumped to a 10-year low of 9.9 million.

But this year, Disney officials expect to attract a record 12 million visitors, many of them lured to the theme park 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. "It's turned our main gate into an attraction," said Lindquist.

Disneyland has also set a March 14 date when it plans to premiere a much-ballyhooed Michael Jackson, 3-D video both at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The $10 million, 12-minute space fantasy, "Captain Eo", is being produced by Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Lindquist said Disney has had "discussions" with all three men about making personal appearances at the film's premiere. Next week, the park will begin enclosing its Space Stage and convert it into the 700-seat Magic Eye Theater where the Jackson video will be shown.

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