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Disney Quickly Announces 2019 Star Wars Land Opening as Park Attendance Crashes

Yesterday, The Walt Disney Company released its quarterly earnings report and, as expected, the company touted its stellar results at the box office during the most recent quarter, with films like Doctor Strange, Moana, and Star Wars: Rogue One Driving big (though not record-breaking) profits for the company. 

However, even though things are going great at the multiplex, the outlook for the Parks and Resorts division was not so rosy, with Disney again reporting a trend that anyone who has visited the parks over the past year was bound to have noticed... 

1. Attendance is down again, prices are going to keep climbing, and cutbacks will continue

In 2016, Disney confirmed that attendance was down at its domestic parks, and it was reported that during the first quarter of 2017 Disney's theme parks (which encompass not just Walt Disney World, but also Disneyland Resort as well) saw a 5 percent decline in attendance overall during the quarter. Hotel occupancy was also down by a modest amount, falling to 91 percent, again across both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. 

Though Disney did not say which parks experienced the biggest losses, many are assuming that it was Walt Disney World that felt the brunt of this crash, especially as there has been a marked decline in Central Florida tourism over the past year. The Orlando Sentinel even reports that Orange County hotel taxes dipped 3.5 percent in December, which is a sign that tourism in this area has been sputtering. 

In order to make up for this loss, Disney will continue making cuts in the parks in 2017, just as they did in 2016. And unfortunately, when Bob Iger was asked whether price increases were again on the horizon, Iger answered, “Yes.” and then elaborated, saying, “We do take ticket pricing up typically on an annual basis and we do so in a variety of different ways". 

Even though attendance is down at Walt Disney World, it was reported that revenues still increased 6 percent in large part because of the last year's price hikes, not only on theme park tickets, but also increasing costs for food, souvenirs, and hotel rooms. You can check out the full breakdown of Disney's financial report here and listed to Bob Iger's comments here

2. Star Wars Land to launch in 2019 at both Disneyland Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

Perhaps to temper some of the bad news with something positive, Disney changed the subject right before the earnings call, officially announcing that Star Wars-themed lands at Disneyland park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will both be opening in 2019. This came as quite a shock, as most observers believed that the Disneyland version of Star Wars Land would open first, potentially in 2019, with the Walt Disney World version opening a year or more later. However, now Disney has gone on record as saying that even even if Disneyland beats Walt Disney World by a few months, these twin lands will open during the same year. 

Of course, any time Disney announces an opening target, there are those who express some skepticism, as initial opening targets, especially those made years in advance, are often a miss (just look at Rivers of Light, for example). However, with attendance at Disney Parks (and Walt Disney World in particular) continuing to slide quarter after quarter, Disney certainly has some serious motivation to get this new land ready for guests as soon as possible, and we're hopeful that with this information in mind, this rather ambitious launch window will actually turn out to be accurate. 

And though Disney is already trying to build hype for Star Wars Land already, they also took some time to address some more recent happenings at Walt Disney World as well...  

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There are 9 comments.

Disney should be dropping prices with all the attractions they have closed in all parks. They are quickly pricing most people out of a Disney vacation. My last trip had ridiculous $124 price tag on it, and I couldn't even get a fast pass for 4 attractions right at park opening. Totally ridiculous.

What's Avatar?

they keep raising prices and not keeping up with new attractions attendance WILL suffer

Wow 2019 is pretty ambitious, I really hope they are able to stick to it. I think Avatar land is a big gamble too, it looks incredibly impressive but it's a lot of time and money invested into a film series that has a chance of not performing at the box office. I just hope they don't rush Star Wars land in an effort to save their numbers and cut corners on something that could be incredible.

price. price price. That's what's going on. As the prices go up, attendance goes down. The stronger dollar means that the foreign tourists money doesn't buy them what they once did. Disney has turned away from the domestic park goes for a while is pursuit of the out of country tourist. They've leaned HEAVILY on countries such as Brazil. The economic crisis that hit that country slowed the massive tourist injection that flowed from that country. As any annual pass holder can tell you, it was not an uncommon sight to see hordes of brazilian tour groups (dressed all the same, often in yellow and green) in the disney parks. Now, not as much. It was fine for them to jack up the prices as long as the flow of out of country tourists came. They cam for the parks, they spent big bucks. Now that those tourists have declined, the value is called into question. Can a family of four say at a disney park AND a hotel and maybe have a character breakfast without it costing them more than the mortgage payment? Probably not.

That would also explain why WDW numbers are dropping, and Disneylands are increasing. WDW is a park that is mostly visited by tourists. However, Disneylands guest base is mostely local annual passholders, to whom price increases don't mean much because they are paying for their passes month to month and the increase, once spread out, is minimal. WDW also has the competition of Universal, where as the Universal in California is still not attracting much of a crowd at all, and certainly not from Disneyland.

The attendance drops must all be from WDW. Anyone who's visited Disneyland the past year can attest that Disneylands numbers are skyrocketing exponentially. A Wednesday morning looks like the weekend crowds of 5 years ago. Its insane over there! Their attendance is certainly not dropping!

Hmm low attendance and they keep raising prices... here's a thought. .. lower ur prices.

If the Star Wars land announcement was meant to boost attendance, that was a mistake. More families will likely wait until after the land opens to make their trip.

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