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Tuesday 7 October 2008
The same day I discovered how much spam I was receiving (see previous post for details), I watched the 1973 Michael Crichton-written film Westworld in which the attractions in a lavish theme park inexplicably become murderous. (Really, it's exactly the same movie as the 1993 Michael Crichton-written film Jurassic Park but with less explanation for why the attractions are killing people.) Perhaps it's because I had already been looking at numbers that afternoon, but I became captivated by the economics of Westworld.
The park guests attending the theme park Delos (of which Westworld is just one part, like Frontierland or Adventureland at Walt Disney World Resort) each pay $1,000 per day for a week-long visit to the theme park of their imagination. So for a mere $7,000, these guests spend a week surrounded mostly by robots who simulate the lifestyles, behaviors, and mores of inhabitants of the mythical American West. While that may seem expensive for simple park admission, think about it this way: for $7,000 they get to abuse, kill, or sexually molest machines, who for all practical purposes, are human beings. Says one fellow in a promotional video at the beginning of the movie, "I shot six people!" When you look at it that way, the price of admission becomes a bargain when you consider that the costs of the same actions outside of theme parks is likely life in prison or worse.
It's worth noting here that the Grecian island of Delos was once sacred to the ancient Athenian civilization. Besides being the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis -- god and goddess of arts and the hunt, respectively -- Delos was also famed as a location upon which people were forbidden to be born or die. Quite fitting for a theme park populated by robots. And a way better name than Six Flags.
But more to the point, there are approximately 20 guests seen delivered to Delos by hovercraft for their weekly stay. (Apparently, even in 1973, monorails were artifacts. And to be fair, an actual count appears to be 18 people, but I'm rounding up, figuring in Delos' favor that this was an off-week as they appear to have a slightly greater capacity than they are using.) That means that the gross weekly income at Delos was $140,000, or over $7 million per year generated by 1040 guests, assuming there is no "off" season.
Delos is a very large enterprise, consisting of three "worlds," each populated by dozens of unique and technologically-advanced robots, period-accurate buildings and an underground central command and control complex coordinating the entire site's operations. Weekly expenditures for power and maintenance of such amazing facilities and mechanical marvels would have to be staggering, well exceeding $140,000! (Walt Disney World doesn't release operating costs, but they recently bragged that an energy overhaul saved them 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. At the average Florida commercial price of 10 cents per kwh, that's a monthly savings of well over $800,000!)
To compare, Walt Disney World, opened in 1971, is a huge operation maintained not by expensive robots but by teenagers dressed as "cast members." Well more than 10 millions visitors pass through the Walt Disney World gates every year, 10,000 times greater attendance than Delos achieves! A well-to-do modern day visitor to Walt Disney World could pay well over $5,000 for park admission, room, and food for a week, all of which are included in the admission price to Delos. Transform that $5,000 in modern cash to 1973 dollars, and you find that it's roughly equivalent to... $1,000. Just think about how much red ink there must be on Delos' books!
While having your rides assassinate all of your guests and staff is certainly bad for business, it's probably a better option than actually letting your guests shoot holes in your rides. I'm certainly no business major, but I'm pretty sure that Business 101 includes the maxim that if you construct one-of-a-kind replicas of famed Western actor Yul Brenner, don't let your customers destroy them for a mere $1,000 a day. After all, also in 1973, the United States Government spent six million dollars upgrading just one man! And that was only 2 legs and an arm!