DCA attendance


Efficient Oxygen Exchanger<br><font color="#0080c0
Jul 18, 2000
The Orange County Register just did a story on DCA after one year. Paul Pressler said that there would be changes made and that he would be happy to put 2001 behind him. I would argue that all the problems with DCA were easy to anticipate and it seem to only be a surprise to Pressler and the boys. They cut corners and built it cheap and people responded by not going.

Now, this was very interesting. They list the attendance figures for the countries busiest theme parks. Magic Kingdom is first and Epcot is second. No surprise there....the surprise is the attendance figures that Disney put out for DCA. They list the attendance at 5 million! A quick calculation (5,000,000 divided by 365 days) comes out to an average of 13,699 guests at DCA per day. WHAT?!? I have been there when they were lucky to have 1,000 people there. It goes on to say that Disney expected 7,000,000 guests to come to DCA the first year so, 5,000,000 wasn't that bad. Oh, and Walt is cryogenically frozen at Club 33. Hey, why not REALLY impress the stockholders and tell them that there were 40,000 people a day at DCA making the yearly total 14,600,000. Or, as Steve Martin used to say, how about 200,000 people a day making it 73,000,000 annually. That outta get that stock price (and corporate bonuses) up!

I don't know how they call these things out in CA, but out here, 13k is a pretty slow day.
Very true Steve. Also, remember that 13k in a day is for everyone who passed through the gates during the entire day, not how many were there at any given time. So that 13k average could just as easily mean that there were only 4-6k in the parks most of the time, as people came and went.

Still, from the bits I've read, that still seems a tad high. I guess "creative calculations" is what Pressler is good at?

Personally, I still say Paul Pressler should be flogged! :jester:
Those numbers seem consistent with other independent estimates I have seen.

Steve and Floydian make very good points about interpreting them.

Also, 13k is the average. I was at DCA on a weekend over the summer and there were quite a few people there, though it was nowhere near as busy as DL. There were probably 20k in the park at some point during the day. But of course, that means weekdays are far below 13k, and since those aren't all full day guests, its easy to see that 13k is not what they wanted.

There were also discounts available for locals much of the year.
is that for most of the year DCA has been pretty empty. I have been there many days when there couldn't have been more than a couple thousand people there. There is NO WAY that the park brings in anywhere near those numbers during the week. When weekdays are five days a week and weekends are only two, I don't think that there enough weekend days to pull the weekday numbers up to 13,700 a day. There probably aren't 13,700 people there on WEEKEND days so, I don't see where the numbers are coming from. If I had to guess how many people average were at DCA for the first year, I would say 5,000 or 1.8 million people.
Also, they're reacting to DCA with discounts, ride additions and promotions like a company who missed the mark more than just the little bit they claimed. (They estimated 7,000,000 and they're saying the actual is 5,000,000)

The history of California Adventure’s “Five Million” guest number will be studied one day in business schools as a classic example of corporate spin.

The 5M number didn’t come from Disney directly; it came from an amusement park industry trade publication. The publication makes an annual guess at attendance for all the parks in the country – and it’s little more than a guess. Their numbers are known to be inaccurate, but it’s the only set the industry has so everyone uses them. Including reporters who find it easier to quote from a published source than try to create their own calculations.

It also appears that the publication’s “guess” was based on a late spring internal Disney forecast for DCA attendance. It was the first revision of the seven million estimate when it became all to obvious that The Company had a major problem on its hands. The 5M they can up with assumed that the Electrical Parade and the ‘Millionaire’ show would fix all the problems and have people lining up at the gates all summer long. Needless to say, the five million estimate got thrown away in July even after all the super heavy discounting. The real attendance figure is substantially lower.

Fortunately for Disney, they’ve lucked into a wonderful situation. When asked for the real attendance, a Company spokesperson just needs to smile and say that “Disney doesn’t release attendance figures”. They know full well that the reporter will go ahead and quote the Five Mil number (and the reporter looks all the more crusading because they’ve managed to uncover one of Disney’s secrets). Disney’s able to let favorable, but incorrect, information spread without the risk of actually lying about it. If only Enron knew these tricks…

There’s also the entire matter about how to count. If I park hope from DCA to Disneyland and back to DCA – do I count as:

- one guest to the park that I visited first?
- one guest to DCA and one guest to Disneyland?
- one guest to Disneyland and two guests for DCA?

In short, given enough accountants and even spreadsheets, you can just about create any attendance number you want to please the stockholders and/or Wall Street. Revenues, however, are a whole different game.
yeah it was low but I love DCA! I bet Im the only one,but my family and I enjoyed ourselves...we stayed there all day and still didnt get to do everything
AnotherVoice. That's probably EXACTLY what happened. Disney got to just sit back and play the "no comment" thing knowing full well that the only number out there was the 5,000,000 quote. Pretty corporate slick. Now maybe it's time for a little truth.

Yes, a detailed and possibly true explanation that can be neither proven nor dis-proven. I suppose this leaves everyone free to put DCA's attendance as high as 10 million, and as low as 134, provided it fits the arguement.

Sorry if I'm sounding a little too sarcastic, but what the first part of this explanation tells us is that Disney's numbers, and in reality, all theme park numbers that are published are completely useless. So, conveniently, if/when attendance figures rise, they can still be discounted by saying they are bogus anyway. One can never be wrong.

The second part of the explanation makes perfect sense, and was already mentioned by Floydian. This would easily explain by itself why Roy would have thought attendance was 4k on a day when it could have been counted as 8k. Folks jump in for Screamin' or Soarin', then head over to DL. Or maybe they spend the day at DL, then come to DCA to catch the Electrical Parade. I'm sure Universal counts their "hopping" guests the same way. You go to two parks, you count as one in each.
Actually there is an “official” number that’s circulated within The Company. Even on the inside there’s considerable confusion and spinning going on because of the problem about how do you count a guest. One group will throw out one number; another will counter with yet another number – which ever figure supports their point at the moment. Attendance numbers published in trade magazines really are pretty useless and serve only as spin material for the Internet. Using the trades to prove the success or failure of a particular park is rather foolish.

In short, no one KNOWS the exact attendance at California Adventure or any other park.

Instead, look at the actions. Kid’s get in free, adults at kids prices, two for one, extra days, parking hopping, revisions to annual passports, panic construction, parades from the past, panic cost cutting and flimsy holiday shows didn’t come because the attendance was five million happy paying customers.
Instead, look at the actions. Kid’s get in free, adults at kids prices, two for one, extra days, parking hopping, revisions to annual passports, panic construction, parades from the past, panic cost cutting and flimsy holiday shows didn’t come because the attendance was five million happy paying customers.

I understand completely. Parks don't offer discounts and quickly try to add attractions unless they have to. My issue is with how this is portrayed differently depending on which park it is. When Universal starts offering varied ways to get into their parks cheaper, many proclaim that Universal understands their customers, and is giving something back to build long-term relationships. When DCA does it, many of these same people put a different spin on it, saying its panic.

Nobody ever claimed that the 5 million number consisted of full-price all-day customers. It was only said that the number could very well be accurate based on the way any resort would count attendance: You walk in the gate, you count for that park. You have basically verified that logic could very well be true. The original post (hi, Roy) panned Disney for reporting 5 million, and said they sometimes drew less than 1000 people.. As you pointed out, Disney did not report the numbers. As several of us pointed out, the 5 million would include those who walked in for 1 or 2 rides, or a parade, and then left. We are all in agreement that:

Attendance at DCA is poor.
Disney did not report the 5 million number, as Roy originally stated.
The 5 million could be accurate, depending on how attendance is counted.

So why, my good man, is it so difficult to just say that even though you may philosophically agree with Roy about Disney in general and specifically DCA, his original criticism of Disney for reporting false numbers was off-base?
What’s wrong with all these numbers? Just this, Disney is intentionally letting a false picture be painted about California Adventure that hurts the park and The Company. The implication that Disney is sending out is that there were five million happy paying customers to the place. That’s a far cry from five million clicks of the turnstile, and even farther from the actual number of tickets that were sold to the place. In a post-Enron world, lying to the public and your stockholders isn’t quite the sport it used to be.

It was the Orange County Register, the L.A. Times and others that are reporting the five million figure, not Disney. But The Mouse isn’t correcting anyone and it’s giving more than winking approval when a reporter quotes them that figure. Disney use to release attendance figures. I have no doubt if the real number had been five million or higher we’d have seen press releases praising the park’s success. Silence on the issue is being taken as approval of the published numbers.

More important, however, the attendance figure feeds into the self-delusion that still grips The Company about DCA. One of the reasons that Euro Disney was turned around was that Frank Wells instantly recognized the problem (too much money spent on too many empty hotel rooms would cause the entire project to collapse) and demanded that the problem be fixed permanently and as quickly.

There’s no sense of that urgency or determination about DCA. The Company seems to blame the public for the park’s failings and seems only interested in waiting for the stupid public “to get” what a wonderful place it is and to bring their wallets. Bigger projects than California Adventure have been brought down by that kind of corporate arrogance; when was the last time you bought a can of New Coke or bought the latest album released on Minidisc?

In the meantime, DCA will continue to flounder despite the spin, the money will continue to pour down the drain despite the claims of success, and The Company will turn more and more against theme parks in the grander scheme of things.
Well, I think they made such a gigantic, irrecoverable error in the opening week of DCA, that they might as well have told people to stay away. In fact, they DID tell people to stay away. Incredible as it seems now, when the park first opened, Annual Passholders were told they could upgrade to a 2-park pass. Within a couple of days of opening - or was it the first day? - they reneged on that and said that no more 2-park-pass upgrades would be allowed. They said they didn't want the park to be too crowded,, that it would spoil the experience... uh... why not just shoot yourself in the foot with a bazooka? Stupid, Stupid, Stupid move on the part of the beancounters and planners. When I went to DCA the first time last February, as an AP holder, and found out I couldn't upgrade as had been promised in teh promotional newsletters, our DCA visit was limited to that one day even though we were in Anaheim staying onsite for 4 days. We paid $160 for a family of 4 for one day in an unfinished park, with no way to credit that to an AP? It was just jarring to us. Very bad idea.. Until we were able to upgrade to a 2-park pass, we did not return. They were quite literally telling us to stay away! Mind-boggling.

They restricted AP's at DCA because they don't pay $43 to get in every time. They were so arrogant to believe that the public would flock to DCA, that they shot themselves in the foot and told AP'ers to stay away. Teri's right on, I remember the opening day "stay away" speech on the radio. My wife and I don't live too far away, so we meandered over there on Feb 8th to see how close we could actually get to the park. We kept thinking "any minute now, the police are going to wave us off or we're going to hit big time traffic."
Well, as history has already documented, we were one of about 25 people there at the park. Most of the people walking around had Disney name badges and were there to make the park look less empty. Greed and arrogance got them to this point, now money and humility is all that will fix-it.



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