A survey of Disney and Universal theme park pricing shows whether admission prices are keeping up with inflation.
Everyone is talking about price inflation after consumer prices increased 8.3% in the 12 months through August, the highest level in about 40 years. Core prices, excluding food and energy, jumped 0.6% in August from July and 6.3% in the 12 months through August.
Fans of Disney (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report and Comcast’s (CMCSA) – Get Comcast Corporation Class A Common Stock Report Universal theme parks are always concerned about prices as a visit to a Disneyland Resort, Disney World, Universal Studios Hollywood, or Universal Orlando Resort has become an activity for well-to-do families or just wealthy people. The average person can, of course, visit a Disney or Universal theme park if they are willing to go into debt on a credit card, or they can save for many months to afford a trip.
Admission Prices Rising Over the Years
A survey of admission prices for Disney and Universal theme parks since each of them opened show there has been significant increases in the cost over the years with increases applied in most years. Inflation in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator, has been about 29% in the last 10 years through August. In that period, the lowest adult admission prices at Disney parks have actually been lower than inflation, while Universal Hollywood prices have been higher than inflation and Universal Orlando has been a pinch below.
A Disneyland Resort park admission in 2012 was $87 and rose 19.5% in 10 years to $104 by 2022 for a low demand date on the calendar, such as a Tuesday in late September, according to the Disney website. But if you want a high-demand Saturday admission during the summer, the price rises to $164, or a whopping 88.5% price increase over 10 years. That $87 admission price in 2012 amounts to $111.85 in 2022 dollars when adjusted for inflation.
Disney World prices are only slightly higher than Disneyland, with 2012 admission priced at $89 and rising 22% over 10 years to the lowest price for 2022 at $109. The high-demand ticket is the same price as Disneyland’s at $164, or an 84% increase over 10 years. The $89 price in 2012 equals $116.29 in 2022 dollars when adjusted for inflation.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s 2012 admission price of $80 spiked by 36%, much higher than inflation over the last 10 years, to $109 in 2022. However, the 2012 value as adjusted for inflation at $102.85, is lower than today’s price of admission.
Universal Studios Orlando parks cost $85 to enter back in 2012 and that price rose by 28% over 10 years also to $109, almost keeping up with inflation over that period. The cost of admission in 2012 is slightly higher than the 2022 admission when adjusted for inflation at $111.06.
Theme Parks Were Reasonably Priced
The Disney and Universal theme parks were reasonably priced in their early years, allowing middle class and lower income visitors to enjoy the parks. When Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955, the admission price was only $1, which would be $11.05 in 2022 value when adjusted for inflation. Of course, Disneyland and Disney World, when it opened in 1971, required guests to purchase ride tickets for attractions in addition to their admission ticket.
Disneyland gradually raised prices, according to jansworld.net, with admission rising to $2.60 by 1965 and $5 in 1977, then to $12 in 1982 for an all inclusive ticket that would no longer require the purchase of ride tickets. Admission was $28.75 in 1992 and $45 in 2002.
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Admission to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1971 was $3.50, an Allears.net survey showed, or $25.24 in 2022 dollars when adjusted for inflation. When Epcot opened in 1982 and Disney World also adopted the all-inclusive ticket, admission was $15. Tickets also gradually rose to $34 by 1992 and $50 in 2002.
Universal Hollywood was just $2.50 to enter in 1964 for the tram tour, according to Theme Park Insider, which amounts to $23.81 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation in 2022. That price was affordable for the average guest. When Universal Orlando opened in 1990, admission was $30.74 according to insideuniversal.net, or $70.09 in today’s value adjusted for inflation.