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Right before Christmas, Comcast, the parent company of Universal Orlando Resort  made a huge move, finalizing a deal that adds 450 acres of land to the resort. While Universal still hasn’t made any comments regarding this land acquisition, another game-changing development happened over the Christmas holiday, this time at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Though we know that Disney is at least considering demand-based “surge” pricing, it was reported late Friday evening (by Inside Universal, Theme Park Insider, among others) that Universal Studios Hollywood went ahead and flipped the switch on its own demand-based pricing scheme on Christmas day.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s new pricing structure discounts the price of a one-day ticket purchased online from $5 to $15 off original front-gate price of $95. The amount of the price cut depends on what day tickets are being purchased for, with the biggest discounts mostly falling on the slowest weekdays for the park; Tuesday and Wednesday.

Though this change will of course be immediately felt for guests going to Universal Studios Hollywood, this new move changes the game in a big way, and could have implications reaching all the way to Walt Disney World. 

1. First is the worst 

Image: Universal

Earlier this year Disney sent out a survey that indicated they were considering surge pricing at Walt Disney World. However, Disney has yet to implement any such pricing scheme, and while there are likely a multitude of reasons why the most-visited theme parks in the world aren't immediately pursuing a demand-based ticket pricing structure, one likely factor in their decision to hold back at least for now has been the fact that no other theme park in the world uses such a structure.

However, now that Universal Studios Hollywood is now offering multiple pricing levels for guests that visit the park on different days, Disney could be looking to follow their lead here and finally introduce their own system. Only time will tell if guest response to this new pricing scheme in Hollywood will be positive, but if it is, we’d wager that demand-based pricing will come to Disney parks sooner rather than later. Even if response is tepid, chances are good that Disney parks will use this development as a springboard to launch their own tiered pricing structure sometime in 2016. 

2. The Harry Potter effect

Image: Universal

When Universal Orlando Resort first debuted the Wizarding World of Harry Potter back in 2010, the response was overwhelming, with guests lining up for hours outside the gates of Islands of Adventure on opening day. Though the response to the Diagon Alley expansion was a little less intense, fans still showed up in droves to be among the first to experience more of the magic of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort last year.

With Universal Studios Hollywood only a few months away from opening its own west coast version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the park is likely implementing this pricing scheme now in an effort to help curb attendance during the first few months after this new land opens. Interestingly, April's pricing scheme looks very similar to previous months, but as with all demand-based pricing schemes, prices are subject to change, and as we get closer to this new land's opening in April 2016 it wouldn't be surprising to see prices shift for this spring and beyond. 

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Comments

Great article. Demand pricing for theme parks is really nothing new. A note that millions of theme park fans already know, Six Flags parks have been using demand pricing since 2011 with online tickets offering variable discounts depending on the day of visit. Discounts ranging from $10-$25 dollars with the better discounts on the slower days of the week. All parks except Six Flags Magic Mountain have demand pricing for the regular season and Fright Fest. This has been used successfully for millions of ticket sales for over five years. Merlin parks have also used this pricing strategy for several years in Europe.

This does sound mighty confusing. As an annual pass holders for the Disney Parks in Florida, where do they price annual passes? Also, for the international tourists that typically buy tix well in advance and sometimes as part of a hotel package,this new pricing structure could be detrimental.

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