The new “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” musical is packing ’em in at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure. With fans claiming all the Fastpasses for the day’s showings early each morning and every performance playing to a full house, you might ask why theme parks don’t stage more of these types of large-scale musical productions.
I managed to grab a seat in the third row from the stage on the show’s opening day, and it’s always impressive to look back at the full house of 2,000 people in the audience from that perspective. There’s a good reason why some people suffer stage fright ... and why some actors feel that live performance is an unmatched rush. That number of people in one place generates an energy that’s palpable.
It opened with three shows a day; the plan is to run five shows a day when the production hits full stride later this summer. That means the show will eventually play to 10,000 people each day.
Pretty impressive? Broadway’s biggest hit – the mega-smash “Hamilton” – plays just eight shows a week in a theater that seats about 1,300 people. That means “Hamilton” plays to about as many people in a week as “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” will seat in one day at peak operation.
People love Broadway shows. And theme parks have the capacity to deliver Broadway-caliber productions to more people on a daily basis than even Broadway itself. So why aren’t we seeing more of these shows? Why couldn’t we have the old “Aladdin” show and the new “Frozen” production?
Because, while these shows do big numbers in comparison with actual Broadway productions, their performance relative to other theme park attractions isn’t all that impressive.
Summer hours at the Disney theme parks run about 15 hours each day.
Some of its rides, such as Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, have a throughput of 2,000 people per hour. That’s a total of nearly 30,000 people riding it in a day. Add in other large capacity rides and it makes for a large number. A daily total of just 10,000 people for the live show is relatively weak in the theme park business.
A lightly themed carnival spinner ride could handle that many people per hour at a fraction of the cost of mounting the “Frozen” or “Aladdin” shows.
You could argue that a Broadway-style show such as “Frozen” is a loss leader for the Disney theme parks, as it gives Disney California Adventure a unique attraction that no other park in the region can match. But Disney’s management has shown little patience in recent years for things that don’t add to the bottom line. Disney executives have said that the company’s focus with films, TV, and theme park attractions, is developing and nurturing brands and franchises. Disney doesn’t do one-offs and loss leaders.
It’s been a wildly successful strategy for the company. But if Disney isn’t into developing high-cost, low-capacity theme park attractions, why did it create this new “Frozen” show, anyway?
Again, it’s all about the franchise. If you walk toward the Hyperion, pushing through the crowd of youngsters dressed as their favorite “Frozen” characters, you’ll see Disney selling plenty of other “Frozen”-themed merchandise. Hardly anyone was buying “Aladdin”-themed stuff anymore. There was no business case for Disney continuing to pour money into the “Aladdin” show – not when it could switch to far more lucrative “Frozen” franchise, instead.
Disney needed big, new “Frozen”-themed attractions on both coasts to cash in on one of its most popular franchises, and it wanted to develop them in the most cost-effective way possible. With the Hyperion Theater in place, developing a new “Frozen” musical – as expensive as it might have been – probably was cheaper for Disney than building a new ride from scratch. (At Walt Disney World, “Frozen” is taking over the old Maelstrom ride in Epcot’s Norway pavilion.)
That’s why “Frozen” replaced “Aladdin” in the Hyperion. And that’s why “Frozen” will keep playing there – until Disney develops a new, more popular musical franchise that one day will take its place.
Source: OC Register
Banner Photo Credit: Disney