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Disney Influence Now Evident at Big A : Business: Entertainment giant helping Angels expedite ticket sales.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Walt Disney Co. is not expected to assume operational control of the Angels until this fall, but the entertainment giant’s presence already is being felt in Anaheim Stadium, from game entertainment to advertising and marketing efforts, to the handling of a recent semi-crisis in the ticket sales department.

Examples of Disney synergy at work: Angel tickets are being sold at Disneyland, and during a recent home game, Disney was giving away posters and blow-up elephant dolls to promote its movie, “Operation Dumbo Drop.”

And the theme from “The Little Mermaid” is now played as the backdrop to the introduction of Angel starting lineups.

Disney Sports Enterprises, the sports-entertainment arm of the company that in May agreed to purchase a minority share of the Angels from the Autry family, also has appointed a liaison for baseball.

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Joel Curran, who previously worked in the entertainment public relations and marketing departments of the company’s Burbank headquarters, is working with Angel front-office officials in an effort to smooth the transition.

“We’re working strictly in an advisory capacity,” said Tony Tavares, the Disney Sports Enterprise president who runs the Mighty Ducks hockey team and is expected to head the Angels after the sale is approved. “We’ve just made some suggestions on how they might handle [some problems].”

A major problem arose in July, when the Angels began to pull away in the American League West and Big A attendance began to surge from the 13,000 range to the 23,000-and-above range.

An afternoon game against the Central Division-leading Cleveland Indians on July 26 attracted a paid crowd of 35,650, and 11,424 of those were walk-up sales.

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However, only 26 of Anaheim Stadium’s 46 exterior ticket windows were open that day, leading to extremely long lines and many irate fans. The night before, a crowd of 42,468--with 15,048 walk-ups--attended the Cleveland-Angel game, but many didn’t reach their seats until the third inning.

The Angels received some complaints, as did the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks, even though, as one hockey team official said, “We don’t even own the Angels yet.”

The Angels, with some input from Disney officials, immediately addressed the problem, increasing staffing at ticket windows and modifying radio, television and newspaper ads to encourage fans to buy tickets early.

The Angels also have increased the number of will-call windows--where lines move notoriously slow because customers must show identification to pick up tickets--from six to 12.

“When you’ve been used to doing business a certain way, selling season tickets and tickets in advance, because you haven’t had much attendance, people feel they can wait until the last minute to buy tickets,” Tavares said.

The Angels now open all ticket windows for games which large crowds are expected, and staff at least 30-35 windows for home games.

There is an upside to increased ticket demand. Bigger crowds mean bigger revenues, and the Angels’ projected 1995 losses, in the $12 million range in May, have dipped to the $10 million range.

That figure could fall to $8.5 million if the Angels reach the playoffs and reap additional television revenue.

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The Angels surpassed the 1.2-million mark in attendance Monday night, and Monday morning they exceeded 1.6 million in advance ticket sales for 1995. The team is now basing financial projections on a home attendance of about 1.8 million this season.

“It’s going to bring our overall projected losses down, but I’m not sure by how much,” said Kevin Uhlich, Angel vice president of operations. “And if we’re lucky enough to hold on and get into post-season play, it will help us offset even more losses.”


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