The company has bet big on Star Wars, but it may be doubling down on one of its riskiest bets.
When Walt Disney (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report bought Lucasfilm, the owner of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and a few other less-beloved properties, people immediately began imagining how the company would integrate Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Yoda, and the rest of the stars of that franchise into its theme parks.
Disney already had “Star Tours” at Disney Hollywood Studios and Disneyland. That’s actually a pretty innovative ride as it offers many different story combinations making it enjoyable to ride multiple times (although it’s a pretty jarring ride and not for anyone prone to motion sickness).
The theme park had much bigger plans for Star Wars once it had spent $4 billion acquiring it from creator George Lucas and in the summer of 2019 it added Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, an immersive land set on the fictional planet of Batuu at both Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California.
These new lands mirror each other and both had sort of rough beginnings. At first, once the centerpiece attraction of Galaxy’s Edge, “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” opened it suffered from periodic breakdowns. That led to Disney using a controversial virtual queue which meant that some people would book a day at Hollywood Studios or Disneyland and not necessarily be guaranteed a chance to ride RotR.
With no standby queue, it was sort of luck of the draw and many people were upset about that. After a few months, the ride was brought into better working capacity, was able to handle more riders a day, and eventually the virtual queue was dropped and a standby line as well as paid Lightning Lane passes were added.
It wasn’t an easy start, but eventually Galaxy’s Edge became an unqualified hit. The next Disney theme park Star Wars project followed a similar trajectory.
Disney Builds a Star Wars Hotel
There was a lot of excitement when Disney announced that it was building an immersive Star Wars hotel that would deliver an experience unlike anything at any other theme park. That excitement quickly disappeared when early video footage was underwhelming, but mostly when the price tag for what is now called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
This two-night immersive experience — which includes time at Galaxy’s Edge — costs $4,809 for a party of two and $5,999 for a party of four. That’s a hefty price tag which led many to question whether the project would succeed.
And once an opening date was announced and reservations were being taken, there were a lot of media stories about how demand was soft and there was a lot of availability. That proved to be false as CEO Bob Chapek shared the very strong initial results for Galactic Starcruiser during his company’s second-quarter earnings call.
“Response to next-generation storytelling like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has been phenomenal,” he said. “In fact, guest ratings for this immersive experience, which opened March 1, are incredibly high and in line with our best-in-class offerings. Demand is strong, and we expect 100% utilization through the end of Q3.”
That’s about as good as it gets (it’s hard to sell more than 100% of capacity) and now, a new email sent out by Disney makes it seem possible that a second Star Wars hotel at Disneyland might be at least a possibility.
Could Disney Build a Second Star Wars Hotel?
Some guests who have stayed at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser have received a sort of cryptic email from the theme park giant, according to Disneyland News Today.
“The email is titled ‘Invitation to participate in research for Disneyland Resort.’ Invited guests will need to complete a 5-minute survey by email before being selected to participate in the focus group. The 5-minute survey was only about Walt Disney World, although the email title referenced Disneyland Resort,” the website reported.
That could be a mistake in the email subject line or it may mean that Disney is at least considering building another Star Wars hotel (or something similar) to complement the Disneyland Galaxy’s Edge. That, were it to happen, would be a stunning turnaround for a project many expected to be an expensive disaster.