Disney has just released their third quarter fiscal results to investors, and they have made some interesting statements regarding Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its impact on crowds within the parks this summer. It had been talked about extensively in fan circles around the internet, but Disney finally admitted that park attendance has been lower than expected this summer at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World due, in part, to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
At Disneyland, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened on May 31st with reservations required to enter the land. On the earnings call, Disney noted that Annual Passholder attendance at Disneyland was lower than expected thanks to how they “managed demand” by requiring reservations for the first three weeks of operation of the new 14-acre land. At Disneyland, attendance was down 3% overall, but paid attendance was up in the quarter, pointing again to a lack of Annual Passholder attendance. With some of the most popular Annual Passholder tiers allowed to enter the park this month after being blocked out over the summer, it would stand to reason that guests will be returning to the park and enjoying Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge soon. Disney CEO Bob Iger said that higher ticket prices, higher regional hotel prices, and the fact that they only opened one ride instead of two also led to the lower attendance. Iger said that they “feel great” about the product that they created, and that they build lands at the parks for the long term and that the market will respond better once both rides are open.
At Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was also to blame for lower summer attendance. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t officially open at Walt Disney World until August 29th, but Disney pointed to guest surveys that suggested that guests were deferring their visits to the Walt Disney World Resort until after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. Due to guests deferring their visits, attendance was soft this summer, leading Disney to move up the opening date of the new land from the original estimated opening timeframe of “late-Fall 2019” all the way up to August 29th.
If you’re unfamiliar with the structure of The Walt Disney Company, the theme parks are under an umbrella with consumer products titled “Parks, Experiences and Products”. Disney had the following to note about the domestic parks with their third quarter earnings report:
The decrease in operating income at our domestic parks and resorts was due to higher costs and lower volume, partially offset by increased average per capita guest spending. Higher costs were driven by labor and other cost inflation and expenses associated with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened at Disneyland Resort on May 31. The decrease in volume was due to lower attendance, partially offset by higher occupied room nights. Guest spending growth was primarily due to higher average ticket prices and increased food, beverage and merchandise spending.