Saturday, June 7, 2014

A little "Price" Perspective

Chicago's Sherman Hotel
The December 4th, 1954 Issue of Billboard Magazine reported on a National Association of Amusement Parks Pools and Beaches Convention session held on December 1st and hosted by Harrison Price and C. V. Wood that included the owners of the four largest amusement parks in the country; William Schmitt of Chicago's River View Park, Pontchartrain Park's Harry Batt, Ed Schott from Coney Island and San Francisco's George Whitney, founder of Playland at the Beach.

The gathering was held in a suite of rooms at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. Along with Price and Wood were Disney's Dick Irvine, Bill Cottreall, the President and Vice President of WED Enterprises and Nate Winecoff, the man who had recommended Harrsion Price to Disney. During the meeting, C. V. Wood disclosed some financial projections for what was coming to be called Walt's Folly. The event was reported in the next issue of Billboard Magazine; I've highlighted some interesting phrases in the story.

Park Operators Hear of Disneyland Plans

Chicago, Dec 4th. - The new Disneyland, now under construction in California, will open in July with a layout differing from a usual amusement park in that it is not primarily to make money, according to C. V. Wood Jr., of Disneyland, Inc. He spoke at the NAAPPB convention here this week and showed colored slides of Disneyland plans.


Original Concept Drawing of Disneyland
Disneyland is owned by Walt Disney, the American Broadcasting - Paramount Theater organization and the Western Printing and Lithograph Company. It will be used as the site for telecasting the “Disneyland" TV show. The printing company expects it will increase comic book sales. In addition, about 35 major national companies will have promotional and advertising arrangements with the park. Wood said it was seen as more of an exploitation medium than a direct money maker. A survey, he said, showed world’s fairs have "too many” exhibitors, and visitors do not see all the displays. But Disneyland is planned so that 5,000,000 visitors there will equal 50,000,000 at a world’s fair.


Walt Disney, CV Wood and Harrison Price
Disneyland expects $5,000,000 <annual> gross. About 55 percent will come from rides and other park operations, with 25 percent from leased food concessions and 20 percent from novelty and merchandise leases. It will take a family of four about four hours to tour the spot and they will spend about $2 per capita. Wood said if that figure goes up, prices will be cut, so Disneyland will not be termed too expensive for families.


1955 Ticket Book

There will be 29 rides with an hourly capacity of 18,000 persons.  Tickets will be 25 cents for the gate, 10 and 20 cents for some rides and and 15 and 25 cents for others. Parking for 5,000 cars at 25 cents is to be provided.  Food facilities will handle 6,500 hourly. Employees will include about 350 for Disneyland, 300 for concessions and merchandizers and 350 for exhibitors.

Those cost and revenue projections were probably developed by Buzz Price, who went on to do hundreds of feasibility studies for Walt on a wide range of project proposals.

The average wage in 1955 was about $4400, roughly $17.50 per day. So, a family of four was projected to spend $8, on a  four hour long visit to the park, or 45% of a day's wages, for access to 29 rides.

Let's compare that with current ticket prices and attractions;  

The average wage is currently about $200 per day. All day adult individual passes cost $105 and children are $99.  For a family of four, that $408 gets 10 hours of access to 53 attractions.

That's 204% of a day's wage to get access to 182% more show - and don't forget, the attractions are not what they used to be.  Space Mountain, Pirates, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Railway all make the opening day offerings seem like "A Tickets".

Clearly, times have changed. Perhaps you think that we're not getting twice the fun that we did in 1955. Imagine going to the park and finding that all the big attractions were down for refurbishment. No Space Mountain, No Pirates, No Indiana Jones, No Haunted Mansion, No Big Thunder Railway or no California Screamin, Hollywood Tower of Terror or Cars Land. What would you be willing to pay for that experience?

 By the way, inflation makes one 1955 dollar worth $8.70 today.

Maybe things aren't quite as bad as they seem.

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