The title pretty much says it all – for the duration of the Food and Wine festival Epcot is open until 10pm on Saturdays with a few Fridays thrown in for good measure toward the end of the festival.
But it doesn’t the explain why/how. The festival this year has proven very popular, but the change in hours seems to have slipped under most radars. Epcot normally sticks to a very strict 9am to 9pm schedule, with the exception of 9:30 pm closing during the Candlelight Processional period.
During the peak attendance periods while the Magic Kingdom and even Hollywood Studios sometimes were open to midnight or later, Epcot would quietly be shuttered nightly at 9pm. On the other hand, while the other parks would close as early as 6 and 7pm in the off season, Epcot would remain open until 9pm – this allowed the restaurants of World Showcase to operate and make profits. In the big picture the steadfast hours evened out any fluctuations in park crowds because Epcot was physically capable of handling surges in crowds without much change in operation.
This is different. Epcot is having to add park hours for capacity and crowd reasons. It has not done that in literally a decade. All the other parks ebb and flow but Epcot has remained steady – all because it was built with dozens of attractions and areas meant to handle 2000+ guests an hour. A capacity limit number the park simply hasn’t been seeing in normal daily operation since it first opened in the 80′s.
This bodes extremely well for Epcot’s future if the crowds keep up. The reason Disney has been closing Epcot attractions without replacements is because the park just didn’t need them to operate. Guests attend and do a defined number of “things” each day in the parks. Epcot just had too much capacity for post 9-11 crowd levels and many attractions became virtual walk-ons all the time. When resort-wide belt tightening measures went into place, Epcot took the brunt of operational changes due to simply not needing the extra capacity or the related workforce. The major rides had their CM’s cut to skeleton crews – the amount needed to handle the lesser number of guests (and trust us they tried for even less but had to increase the levels) – and the park has operated for years under the premise of “too big, use for overflow as needed.”
So while it’s just an hour on a few Saturday nights in October, it’s a big step for Epcot in general. It takes a lot of people to rebound from where the park was in 2002 – barely reaching 10k guests by midday and CM’s notified that Casual Regular and Casual Temporary positions were no longer needed. And just to note – why is 10k guests important? It’s the minimum number of tickets sold in a day for Epcot to be considered in the black. There were in fact days back then where Epcot was operating in the red – it was that bad.
So, good for Epcot! Here’s looking forward to a full parking lot (we’ve heard they’re using the Wonders section more frequently now) and a full and bright future. Because, afterall, more people means more capacity needs.. which means new attractions!