Disney Adds Nighttime Events at 2 Florida Theme Parks

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Disney (DIS) is hoping to get its Florida visitors to spend more money by introducing park experiences that take place after the attractions close to day guests. That's on top of February price hikes that hit as much as $99 for a one-day ticket to visit the Magic Kingdom.

Epcot After Hours Wind Down, an intimate experience at four of the nation-themed restaurants, takes place after the 9 p.m. Illuminations show closes out the park. Guests can pay $35 per adult to stick around until 11 p.m., enjoying tapas-size tastings and wine pairings.

Epcot After Hours Wind Down didn't turn a lot of heads. The price is somewhat reasonable, by Disney's standards, for an after-hours experience that includes food and drinks. It also takes place after the park is closed, so it's not as if day guests feel as if they are being cheated. However, it may be a different story for the upcoming Harambe Nights.

Hakuna Matata

On Saturdays from June 7 to Aug. 9, visitors to Animal Kingdom after the 7 p.m. close will be able to pay for a three-hour party experience. It will be anchored by the park's restored theatrical performance of "The Lion King" in the new Harambe Theatre in the park's Africa section. Viola Davis, David Allan Grier and Alfre Woodard are just some of the celebrities who will narrate the 55-minute show during the 10-week run. A street party will go on when the show isn't taking place, complete with African treats, desserts and beverages. All for $119.

That's a lot to pay for a three-hour experience on top of the cost of the day's admission. Yes, food and drinks are included, but even Disney buffs who have accepted the media titan's stiff theme park admissions may have a hard time justify paying up for the experience.

In theory, Animal Kingdom is ripe for a nighttime event. The park has often been called a "half-day park" and is probably not doing itself any favors by being able to host a nightly event at 7 -- when its other three parks will be open for several more hours -- because that's when the park closes. As an animal-themed park, it may makes sense to operate during zoo-like daytime hours, but it doesn't seem right that a park now charging $95 for a one-day ticket is still closing at 7 p.m..

The early closings will end when a richly themed "Avatar" section opens in a couple of years. In fact, one of the additions is a nighttime show. The extra hours will relieve park visitors, especially in the summer heat, when the Animal Kingdom isn't a very easy park to tackle. However, it's also a fair bet that Harambe Nights will be gone by the time Avatar opens in 2016 or 2017. This will find Disney in a quandary if Harambe Nights is successful, but that's probably a good problem to have.

Party Time for Investors

Disney's rolling these days. It reported strong quarterly results on Tuesday afternoon with its theme parks division posting an 8 percent increase in revenue and a 19 percent spike in operating income. Disney scored this growth despite the shift of the seasonally potent Easter season from March last year to April this time around.

Shareholders working the math should be giddy. Including those visiting during a late Easter and the addition of hard-ticket events like Harambe Nights and Epcot After Hours Wind Down, the current quarter should be another potent period.

If Harambe Nights can get away with charging $119 -- a price that makes the $99 Magic Kingdom ticket seem like a bargain -- there's no telling what Disney will come up with next.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney.


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