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Disney World bests Disneyland in attendance

Published Oct. 2, 2005

Talk about your East Coast-West Coast rivalries: California's Disneyland has been unseated as the most popular theme park in North America by Florida's Walt Disney World.

Disneyland's attendance slid by about 6.5 percent _ roughly 1-million patrons _ to 14.25-million this year after the Anaheim park axed the intensely popular Main Street Electrical Parade in 1996 for the critically panned Light Magic Show.

Walt Disney World in Orlando, however, sold 17-million tickets this year, according to today's edition of the trade journal Amusement Business.

Disneyland had captured the top ranking from Disney World in 1995 when the Anaheim park opened its Indiana Jones Adventure thrill ride.

The popularity of the Main Street Electrical Parade pushed Disneyland to its best year ever in 1996, when 15.3-million people visited the park.

It had hoped to generate the same interest with the Light Magic Show, which featured dancing elves, fiber-optic and laser lights and other special effects. But the show opened to poor reviews in May and the attraction closed.

Despite the attendance drop, Disneyland had one of its best years ever.

"We did our best year in 1996, our second-best in 1995 and our third-best this year," park spokesman Tom Brocato said Friday.

Disneyland's attendance will rebound next year with a rebuilt Tomorrowland, which is scheduled to open May 22, Brocato said. The refurbished area will include several large new attractions, including the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" 3-D movie and the Rocket Rods XPR thrill ride.

Overall, Disney-owned theme parks dominated the industry this year, selling about 54-million admissions _ nearly two-thirds of the tickets sold by the continent's top 10 theme parks.

Meanwhile, Disney chairman Michael Eisner's salary rose 23 percent from a year ago to $10.65-million in fiscal 1997, up from $8.65-million in the last fiscal year, according to the company's proxy statement filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

The total doesn't include Eisner's exercising of options on 7.3-million Disney shares, which were worth a reported $565-million.

In 15 years at Disney's helm, Eisner transformed it from a theme-park-and-movie company with $1.7-billion annual revenue into a worldwide entertainment giant with an annual revenue of $22.5-billion.