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Jan 15, 2021
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Todd Martens
Fri, January 15, 2021, 5:18 AM·4 min read
ANAHEIM, CA--MAY 29, 2019--Sleeping Beauty Castle, at the end of Main Street, in Disneyland Resort, on media preview day of the new "Star Wars: Galaxy?s Edge," in Anaheim, CA, May 29, 2019. Members of the media roam the new territory, positioned beyond "Frontierland," at the back of the property. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Disneyland is using the pandemic to rethink its annual passport program. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, closed for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are ending their annual pass program as we know it.

The popular multitiered ticketing system, which shifted the culture of the two Anaheim theme parks in a way that it became a daily, weekly or monthly hangout for many Southern Californians, is being axed. The annual pass program will eventually be replaced with new membership offerings, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock told reporters Thursday.

Potrock offered no timeline for the future offerings, citing the unpredictability of the current environment. The surge of COVID-19 cases gripping Southern California prevents theme parks from knowing when they will reopen or what restrictions they'll face once they do.

In ending the annual pass program — refunds will be given automatically to those who paid for days beyond the parks' closure last March — Walt Disney Co. is looking ahead to operating the parks at a reduced, reservation-only capacity when California lets them reopen.

But the move hits the parks' most dedicated and loyal fans with uncertainty. Although Disney does not release attendance figures, the annual pass program has long been believed to hover around 1 million. Those fans who have been wanting and expecting a "Disneyland fix" now face the prospect of no longer being given priority access when the park reopens, and holding their breath to see how the reimagined membership program will look.

A replacement for the annual pass program is not expected to be implemented until the pandemic recedes enough for Disneyland Resort to welcome guests at or near its pre-coronavirus levels of attendance. Potrock said that, long-term, he believed this move would be a "silver lining" of the pandemic for Disney — an opportunity to shape a program better suited to many of Disneyland's fans, whose financial circumstances may have changed recently, while also potentially having more flexible tiers for those who don't necessarily consider themselves park regulars.
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