Lines

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS -

guests’ day.”

Uni­ver­sal is also try­ing the con­cept at an­other at­trac­tion. Later this year, when Uni­ver­sal opens its new Vol­cano Bay wa­ter park in Or­lando, vis­i­tors will be given wrist­bands that will alert them when it’s their turn to get on a ride.

“I think it rep­re­sents the fu­ture of what we’re go­ing to be do­ing in themed en­ter­tain­ment,” Sur­rell said. “I kind of joke that this is the first step on a jour­ney that will even­tu­ally lead us to a gen­er­a­tion that doesn’t even know about theme park lines. It will be ‘What do you mean, wait in a queue? What’s that, Grandpa?’”

Vir­tual lines are the lat­est evo­lu­tion in theme parks’ ef­forts to shorten or elim­i­nate waits for rides, or if waits are nec­es­sary evils, to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of bid­ing one’s time.

Al­most two decades ago, those ef­forts were con­cen­trated on elab­o­rately de­signed “pre-ride” lines such Uni­ver­sal’s The Amaz­ing Ad­ven­tures of Spi­der-Man, which goes past an ex­ten­sively de­tailed “Daily Bu­gle” news­room.

A few years later came the ride reser­va­tions sys­tems of the FastPass and Ex­press Pass at Dis­ney and Uni­ver­sal parks, re­spec­tively, in which ride-go­ers are as­signed pe­ri­ods of time to show up for rides.

But those reser­va­tions need to be made ahead of time, for the most part, and vis­i­tors can only make them on three rides a day.

Uni­ver­sal opens that con­cept to ev­ery­body, not just ad­vanced plan­ners, with its two new at­trac­tions, while also of­fer­ing en­ter­tain­ment dur­ing the wait.

“Ev­ery­body is try­ing to do this, work­ing not only on the rides but how to get you on the rides,” said Den­nis Speigel, who heads the theme park con­sult­ing firm, In­ter­na­tional Theme Park Ser­vices. “Uni­ver­sal is at the fore­front right now.”

The Jimmy Fal­lon at­trac­tion and the Vol­cano Bay wa­ter park take dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to vir­tual lines.

At the Jimmy Fal­lon at­trac­tion, which opens next month, vis­i­tors en­ter an area made to look like the lobby of a Rockefeller Cen­ter build­ing. In­stead of get­ting in line, they can me­an­der through the lobby look­ing at pho­tos and mem­o­ra­bilia of past and present “Tonight Show” hosts and watch TVs play­ing clips of hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Car­son, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fal­lon. Up a flight of stairs are a lounge with couches, half a dozen con­soles with touch screens dis­play­ing “Tonight Show” videos and a the­ater stage. Vis­i­tors can hang out in the lounge area, charg­ing their phones or talk­ing while they wait. They can dance or take pho­tos with an ac­tor in the cos­tume of Hash­tag the Panda, a sta­ple char­ac­ter from Jimmy Fal­lon’s show or lis­ten to a per­for­mance from “The Rag­time Gals,” an in­car­na­tion of the bar­ber shop quar­tet that is also a sta­ple of the TV show.

When they en­ter the build­ing, vis­i­tors are given a card

Vis­i­tors to the Fal­lon ride get a card with one of the col­ors in the NBC pea­cock. Lights in the wait­ing room flash that color when it’s their turn.

with one of the col­ors in the NBC pea­cock logo. When it’s their turn to go on the ride, lights in the wait­ing area will flash their color and the singers will an­nounce the color. If they don’t want to wait in the build­ing, they can re­turn at a des­ig­nated time.

Uni­ver­sal hasn’t re­leased many de­tails about how vir­tual lines will work at Vol­cano Bay, other than to say a watch-like de­vice named “Ta­puTapu” will be given to vis­i­tors. It will flash “Ride Now” when it’s their time to go on a ride.

Tech­nol­ogy and our grow­ing im­pa­tience with wait­ing are driv­ing the move to­ward vir­tual lines, Speigel said.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of cell­phone apps, along with the de­vel­op­ment of wrist­bands that emit ra­dio sig­nals, pi­o­neered by Dis­ney and able to track move­ment, made the vir­tual lines tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble. Amer­ica’s un­will­ing­ness to wait, from speed dat­ing to Ama­zon Prime’s two-hour de­liv­er­ies makes it cul­tur­ally im­per­a­tive.

“No­body wants to stand in line. We want to be first,” Speigel said. “It’s just the way so­ci­ety is evolv­ing.”

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