As of this coming September 30th, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World will officially close to the public. The immersive hotel experience was the most immersive Star Wars experience ever created— arguably more elaborate than either Star Tours or Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios.
Despite its promise, it will shutter after a mere year-and-a-half of public operation due to low attendance and high maintenance costs.
Farewell, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
The Galactic Starcruiser likely failed due to its exorbitant cost to attend– a minimum $1,498 per person for a visit in a family of four. While this is hardly news, the price tag dissuaded all but the wealthiest of Star Wars enthusiasts. The monumentally expensive project that cost Disney between $350M and $1B to produce destined as another unfortunate addition in Disney’s recent stockpile of commercial failures.
Long Live the Adventurers Club
However, this was not the first immersive attraction in Walt Disney World, nor the most successful. Between 1989 and 2008, the Adventurers Club operated in the shuttered Pleasure Island (now Disney Springs) as a night club specializing in live entertainment-based. It was a club for young talents to cut their teeth in live performance– Paula Pell, who would go on to write for Saturday Night Live and create characters like Debbie Downer, worked at the Adventurers Club. Despite criticism and fan disappointment, Adventurers Club closed its doors in 2008 as part of the closure of Pleasure Island. The building now houses The Edison, a 1920s-themed restaurant in the current Disney Springs layout.
Much alike the Galactic Starcruiser, Adventurers Club involved intricate staging and guest involvement. The club featured nine live shows across five rooms and twenty-three recurring characters, all providing interactive evenings of song and comedy. Often packed with “drunks,” the club welcomed regular attendees, inducting with membership cards and a welcoming Club Salute. Although Adventurers Club closed in 2008, that repeated attendance shows that immersive entertainment itself did not have caused the finality of the Galactic Starcruiser.
Knowing Their Audience
Perhaps the most consequential misstep with the Galactic Starcruiser is its use of the Skywalker Saga. Disney believed that guests would regard the Star Wars sequel trilogy similarly to the original films of the franchise. Unfortunately, fans were hugely disappointed with their content output following the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, namely with the mishandling of The Rise of Skywalker and their lackluster post-Mandalorian Disney+ programming.
More importantly, their guests who were wealthy enough to afford a visit to the Galactic Starcruiser are likelier to love the original trilogy than Disney-produced Star Wars content. For a family to spend thousands of dollars for a two-day stint, it often requires equal appreciation from parents and children; a fifty-something father is far more receptive to encountering Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker than Kylo Ren or Rey. The only remaining character from the original films on the Starcruiser is Chewbacca– the rest of the expansive cast are original characters with which guests must strike up new relations.
Was Disney asking too much of guests and is it the death of Interactive Theater at Walt Disney World? Continue reading to find out...