Home » Disney Bet Big on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It Might Have Been a Billion Dollar Blunder

Disney Bet Big on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It Might Have Been a Billion Dollar Blunder

Though Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has been open since May on the West Coast, no theme park land debut has been as hotly anticipated as that of the East Coast version of this land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And while the hype train has been rolling on for the past few years (Bob Iger famously implied that Disney didn’t even need to advertise the new land, sarcastically saying he “might” send a tweet about it), many are looking at the upcoming launch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with additional scrutiny. And here’s why:

1. This land is the most expensive ever built at Walt Disney World

Image: Disney

Though Disney doesn’t often release official figures about how much their construction projects cost (even if we’ve gotten pretty good at estimating), earlier this month Disney officially confirmed that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge cost $1 Billion to bring to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the company’s single biggest themed land investment in history. Which, while impressive, is now becoming a concern, because…

2. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge hasn’t done well thus far at Disneyland

Image: Disney

Though Disney has blamed everything from its own annual passholder blockout dates to the delayed opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction, the fact is that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge hasn’t exactly been the traffic boon for Disneyland many thought it would be. And though speculation was that annual passholders would flood this land in August when the majority of blackouts were lifted, thus far that hasn’t been the case, with the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction averaging a 30 minute wait most days, according to Laughing Place’s wait time tracker. And while conventional wisdom might state that since Walt Disney World typically draws a larger crowd than Disneyland Resort, more guests will visit this version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, that could be an issue, as 

3. Walt Disney World attendance is down

Earlier this month Disney confirmed attendance at Walt Disney World was down this past summer. And though Disney blamed the attendance crash on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, saying that guest surveys suggested that many were deferring their visits to the Walt Disney World Resort until after this new land opens in just a few days on August 29th, if this land wasn’t a draw on the West Coast, it might not be one on the East Coast either, which would be a massive problem for the resort. 

4. Reviews from Star Wars fans have been mixed

Though we enjoyed visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and found Millennium Falcon to be a fun, if not totally game-changing attraction, some guests, particularly self-described Star Wars fans on social media, have had some mixed feelings about this new land, especially the setting of Batuu, which is an all-new planet not seen or mentioned in any of the Star Wars films. And though there are plenty of familiar characters and ships to be found around this new land, some have said that without iconic locations like Endor, Tatooine or the Death Star represented inside this land (the way locations like Diagon Alley and Pandora have been recreated inside other “immersive” lands), Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t have the same initial pull or longevity that these other lands have enjoyed. 

5. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been banking on this new land as part of its reinvention.

Image: Disney

Though Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge might not have had a huge impact at Disneyland, the fact is that Disney’s West Coast park will be fine no matter how this land does. Disneyland has been the runner-up most-visited theme park in the world for several years now (second only to the Magic Kingdom) and its popularity doesn’t really hinge on the performance Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. However, the same can not be said of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

When the reinvention of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was announced, the centerpiece was Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Though Toy Story Land is nice and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway looks cute enough, Disney is most certainly counting on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to be the big draw to get guests back to this park. If this new land fails to move the attendance needle in a meaningful way for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all the money spent on not just this land, but also the new infrastructure to support larger crowds in this park (including the Disney Skyliner system) will be a big red mark for Disney investors. 

And though some of the concerns facing executives and investors around this new land have to do with internal issues, there are some external factors that could affect this new land opening as well.. 

6. The US economy could be headed for another downturn

Though we like to stay in the attractions and entertainment lane for the most part at Theme Park Tourist, we can’t ignore reports the US may be heading towards an economic downturn, which could have disastrous effects, not only at Walt Disney World, but for the tourism industry as a whole. Though the jury is still out on this one, you can bet Disney executives are paying very close attention to economic indicators, and may begin offering deep discounts again, the way they did in 2008-2010, during the last recession, to help get guests to the park. 

We still have just over a week to go until the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it will be interesting to see how crowd levels are, not only on opening day, but in the weeks following this new land opening, and even after the December 5th opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Do you think this new land will be the hit Disney needs it to be? Or will Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge end up being a billion-dollar blunder?