Butterbeer tops souvenir list at Wizarding World of Harry Potter [VIDEO]
This is way more elaborate than thrill rides and pretty facades. Wizarding World is a retail juggernaut, stocked with an array of special products that every Potter fan will insist on buying. It's an adventure in retail that no theme park has attempted before. Even a moderate shopping spree will add hundreds of dollars to Universal's take.
An example of the popularity: While the line at the Dragon Challenge roller coasters had a wait time of 5 minutes, the line at Dervish and Banges wand-and-schoolwear shop was 25 minutes long, and spiraling higher as the day wore on.
It's a good thing the land has these souvenirs, then, because until Wizarding World is expanded, it's going to be unpleasantly swamped with visitors who are looking for something to do besides wait for the marquee ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The other two rides are repurposed from existences before Harry Potter land, and return guests have already ridden those.
There may be no bigger product launch smash this year than Butterbeer. This summer, every kid in America is going to clamor for a taste of Butterbeer, and not only is there only one place in the world to buy it, but that place costs $70 to $80 just to get in. The beverage itself is only available within the 20 acres of the Wizarding World, and even then only at two outlets inside. Yet every single guest who came in today demanded some. Within an hour of the grand opening, it had temporarily sold out of the frozen variety, offering only the "up," melted kind. The two lines at the Butterbeer cart must have been 100 yards long each, and most people were buying the stuff in mugs that cost nearly $11. It may be called Butterbeer, but it's metaphoric Kool-Aid.
As guests carried Butterbeer mugs in each hand, the foam head added on by a separate dispenser created another temporary souvenir: foam mustaches. That is what you call a textbook marketing phenomenon.
Potter fans will instantly recognize many of the names of other items for sale, from Omnioculars to Quaffle Balls to Fanged Flyers. A solid 5.3-ounce chocolate frog for $10? Or Pumpkin Juice (really a sweet pumpkiny drink) for $6.25? No? Then would you like a wand? There are more than a dozen styles to suit any time of year and the major characters of the Potter catechism, and those start at $28.95 each at Ollivander's wand boutique.
Ollivander's wand shop is a particular stroke of genius. One part of the shop is a gorgeously designed boutique stuffed with two stories of dusty wand boxes and manned by an aged and soft-spoken expert. People are admitted in groups into the dark room, and the salesman selects one child for a fitting of sorts, asking them to ring an overhead bell by the force of their will. By the third wand, of course, he's found their ideal match in a wand -- music swells, a fan blows the child's hair in a Hollywood moment -- at which point the group is dispatched into the wand shop, primed to weave a little $30 magic in Universal's cash registers.
At Zonko's toy shop offers its own bit of purchasing theater. Whenever someone buys a pink Pygmy Pup stuffed animal ($15), the clerk gets the store's attention and announces, "We have a Pygmy Puff going home today by the name of Ba-ba-booey!" Or whatever name you've chosen at the register. I heard names ranging from Albert to Fabio. Then they smack a giant counter bell and people cheer.
Your dentist will be cheering, too: An 8-ounce serving of Pumpkin Juice ($6) has 24 grams of sugar.
For more of my coverage of the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, see:
*Opening night party pics, with Daniel Radcliffe and JK Rowling
*Video tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
*Daniel Radcliffe talks about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
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