By Amber Avila
With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening this past summer, Disney and the public expected the park to be more crowded than ever. However, the new Star Wars land and the Disneyland park in general have seen very low attendance records for the first time in decades.
The Walt Disney Company recently announced its financial reports for the latest quarter which show a rare decrease in theme park attendance at Disneyland Resort. Attendance has dropped by three percent at the theme park, according to the Mercury News.
There are a few reasons why the park has not been as crowded as it has in past years, all of which are tied to the introduction of Galaxy’s Edge. One major factor that contributes to this is how annual passholders had many blackout dates throughout the summer. Disney added more blackout dates to the annual passes in order to control crowds for the new land opening. According to the OC Register, there are as much as 1,000,000 people who have annual passes.
Disneyland changed some of their annual passes to restrict access only to Disney’s California Adventure, rather than to both parks. The lower tier passholders were blocked from Disneyland for much of the summer to prevent overcrowding.
Another factor that plays into the absence of guests is that it is currently more expensive than ever to visit the park. According to the Disneyland website, every month has certain days that are either value, regular, or peak days. Daily ticket prices vary by calendar date. The current prices online for value days are $104, regular days at $129, and peak days at $149 for one park. Many attribute the hike in prices of tickets as an accommodation for Galaxy’s Edge.
Disneyland hotels, as well as other nearby hotels, also raised their prices in anticipation of larger crowds.
“At the same time that that was going on, all of the local hotels in the region, expecting a huge influx of visitation, raised their prices…In addition to that, we raised our prices, we brought our daily price up, so if you think about local visitation, we brought the price of a one-day ticket up substantially from a year ago,” Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company said in Disney’s Q3 FY19 Earnings Results Webcast.
However, the biggest reason why the park has seen smaller crowds than they have in previous years is because of Galaxy’s Edge.
“First of all, helped in part by some of our best efforts, there was a tremendous concern in the marketplace that there was going to be huge crowding when we opened Galaxy’s Edge. So some people stayed away, just because they expected that it would not be a great guest experience,” Iger said.
Those who did attend Galaxy’s Edge during its grand opening had various opinions about their experiences. Many were impressed by the attraction and attention to detail as well as the overall ambiance of the attraction. However, what once was highly anticipated by Star Wars fans left many of them disappointed, as the land ignores many staples of the franchise.
One main thing harming the land is its lack of original characters. Star Wars is a 42-year-old franchise, and has brought the world some of the most iconic characters ever to be on our screens. However, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and other prime characters are missing. Only main characters from recent films can be seen at the park, such as Rey and Kylo-Ren.
Another problem impacting the performance of the new park is that it is set on the unfamiliar planet Batuu, a land never before seen in the films. The only recognizable prop within it is the Millennium Falcon. Besides that, no other Star Wars staple locations are anywhere within its premises. There is no Death Star, Tatooine, Naboo, Coruscant, Hoth, or other fan favorites. The new land, in a way, is just an unknown location with the title “Star Wars” slapped on it.
The land is also not fully operational yet. There is only one ride available, with another in construction due to open in January. Many fans would rather wait for both attractions to be open rather than paying the more expensive ticket prices for only a few shops and one ride.
There is a lot that the House of Mouse attempted to achieve this summer, much of which led to disappointing results. Is likely, however, that Disney will regain their normal crowds and popularity, as Disney continues to be well loved by millions.