It was business as usual inside the Star Trek attraction at Universal Studios. Volunteers from the audience had taken the stage dressed as Starship Enterprise crew members, Klingons and other aliens. The Enterprise was about to be attacked, as it is four to six times every Saturday and Sunday.
"Admiral, estoy detectando una nave Klingones (Captain, I am detecting a Klingon spaceship)," a crew member said.
The Spanish-speaking director kept up a rapid-fire stream of instructions to actors and jokes to the audience. In the dressing room backstage, Spanish-speaking Universal staff members looked after costume and wardrobe problems.
When the show was over--\o7 "Hasta la vista, Kirk," \f7 said the Klingon commander--the actors gathered at the stage apron. Clearly, they felt a post-performance exhilaration.
"I saw that program many times at home and it was a lot of fun to be in it," Claudia Reyes of Los Mochis, Mexico, said through a translator.
The Spanish-language Star Trek adventure is part of a growing campaign by Universal Studios Hollywood to attract Latino customers. Each weekend for the past three years, several of Universal's tram tours have been conducted in Spanish. The amusement park in Universal City drew large crowds with an international mariachi festival in August and an appearance in March by stars of \o7 telenovelas\f7 , or the Latino soap operas that appear on Spanish-language stations.
Universal also built a theater for production of the television show "Hablamos de Cine" ("Let's Talk About Cinema"), a program of movie reviews broadcast on KMEX--Channel 34. Park visitors can watch as the show is taped.
David Weitzner, worldwide head of marketing for Universal Studios Hollywood, said the special attractions are working.
"Our Latino attendance so far this year is up 67% from the total for all of 1988, and we only expect that to increase," he said.
The potential for growth appears to be enormous. Last year, 65,000 of the park's 4.2 million visitors were Latino, Weitzner said, a scant 1 1/2%. Meanwhile, Latinos make up an estimated 2.6 million, or 30%, of Los Angeles County's 8.5 million population. Weitzner expects the park to draw 5 million visitors this year, with Latinos numbering 100,000, or 2% of the total.
With such a large market to tap, other amusement parks and attractions are tailoring events and marketing to the Latino community.
This year the Joffrey Ballet, with help from the service organization Plaza de la Raza, sent representatives to a meeting of a Latino business association to promote its "Billy the Kid" program and distribute half-price ticket coupons. The Joffrey held a cocktail reception at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for those who attended the show.
"Four hundred people came," said Nancy Neal Davis, the Joffrey's West Coast general manager. "That's how you build a following. They had a great time, and they'll tell others."
The Joffrey also invited Latino schoolchildren to rehearsals, where principal dancer Beatriz Rodriguez spoke in Spanish about the various jobs available in ballet and theater.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art offers tours in Spanish by appointment and, as part of its "Sundays in the Museum" program, buses in families from community centers in Latino neighborhoods.
Some attractions have not done extensive tailoring of programs to bring in Spanish-speaking patrons. Magic Mountain in Valencia has only a Father's Day promotion featuring Latino bands and disc jockeys.
"Our basic philosophy is we market the park to the Southern California community and a lot of that community is Spanish-speaking," said Courtney Simmons, the park's public relations manager. "We advertise in their newspapers and on TV and radio."
The leader in the effort clearly is Universal, where admission is $21 for adults and $15.50 for children 3 to 11.
Ron Bension, president of Universal Studios Hollywood, said the campaign began because Latino visitors asked to take the tour in Spanish. Universal has expanded its foreign-language program to include, by appointment, tours in German, French, Japanese, Hebrew and American Sign Language.
In December, the park hired Valdes Zacky Associates, a Century City advertising and public relations firm, to improve its Latino attractions and marketing.
"The Spanish language like any language has a unique culture and a unique sensitivity, and you have to take that into account," said Dolores Valdes Zacky, the firm's co-owner. "For the international mariachi festival, we did a talent search for \o7 la nueva voz ranchera \f7 (the new ranchera voice). There are many ranchera singers and their dream is to be accompanied by mariachis of top quality."
Amateur singers performed with Mariachi Vargas from Mexico City, Los Camperos from Los Angeles and other well-known groups. The mariachi festival's five concerts drew 6,000 people.
Valdes Zacky said Latinos can be a boon to a theme park not only because of their numbers, but also because of their life style.