Until recently, our nation's theme parks were Socialist hellscapes, with very rich people forced to stand in close proximity to, and enjoy similar experiences as, not-very-rich people. Thankfully the patriots at Universal Studios Hollywood have put a stop to all that with their $299 VIP ticket. They say they've "experienced rising demand for special access and price distinctions," according to the New York Times (Regular tickets start at $80, which is so cheap buyers oughta feel embarrassed about it!). In other words, rising demand for "don't have to mix with the plebes." Here's how Universal's making its new VIPs feel special: -- The tickets come "with valet parking, breakfast in a luxury lounge, special access to Universal's back lot, unlimited line-skipping and a fancy lunch."
-- "V.I.P. visitors also receive 'amenity kits,' which include mints, a poncho to wear on the 'Jurassic Park' water ride and bottles of hand sanitizer."
-- A hero and media company CEO named Mark Lieber says "'If Universal didn't offer a V.I.P. option, I wouldn't go ... I just don't have the time to wait in a line, and I want a certain level of service.' (He did feel a twinge of guilt, however: 'They should give deserving students access to the V.I.P. tours once a week. That way it's not just for the privileged.')"
-- The tickets are a way to "expand profits without introducing costly new rides every summer." NBCUniversal is planning on adding a Harry Potter world and all kinds of other new development, but until then, it's "a relatively low-cost way to generate revenue and send a message of bigger and better into the marketplace."
-- The VIPers travel on 20-person trolleys (as opposed to 175-person trams) and are allowed to take their time snapping pictures of the backlots and such; the regular tram only stops for "about 30 seconds."
-- Lunch on the VIP ticket comes "in a private, quiet dining room" and includes "items like sake-poached shrimp, New Zealand mussels and New York sirloin from a lavish buffet."
-- Good old Disney still has only one class of ticket, but does offer guided tours at $380 an hour, with a six-hour minimum (so at least $2,280).
-- Also Disney had that horrible thing where "a few wealthy Manhattan parents had paid a disabled stranger more than $1,000 a day to pose as a family member, allowing the whole group to skip Disney World's often exhausting lines."
-- One Universal VIP ticketholder, a healthcare company head, says "It was expensive, but we saw much more than other people, and the guides really treated us royally."
-- A rep for the theme park says they're not concerned about "creating a sense of class warfare": "People who come on a regular Joe ticket give us really good ratings."
· At Theme Parks, a V.I.P. Ticket to Ride [NYT]