Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened to the world on May 31st, 2019 but only if you had a reservation. Crowds were filled with excitement to get in but Disneyland park and even California Adventure at times remained pretty quiet. Many attractions seeing wait times you barely see anymore especially during the summer months. June 24th, 2019 would be the first non-reservation day for the planet of Batuu. The land filled to capacity in roughly an hour and the virtual queue system was initiated. Waits started high but quickly died and were as low as 30 minutes for Millennium Flacon: Smuggler’s Run. Reservations for Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop reservations initially booked up within 20 or so minutes. People began to notice a few hours later that reservations were available again though. Either Disney held some back or people were not booking it like expected. In the evening the virtual queue was not needed as the land was no longer at capacity.
Going into June 24th, theme park experts and fans thought for sure people would be camped out ready to experience Batuu and that the virtual queue system would glitch or be full very quickly. None of that happened. Disneyland park opened early but the mad rush was not as big as expected. Disney then sort of abruptly on the evening of the 24th announced they were lifting the summer blockout dates for Cast Members who were originally blocked-out through August. Many including myself believe this is a reaction to the low crowds Disneyland is seeing for such a big opening. This surely is not the only reason and should we or Disney be concerned about this lower than anticipated opening?
Disneyland, as many know, is a regional or locals’ theme park. Disneyland has over a million annual passholders and the majority of its visitors are from the Southern California region. Along with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland initially blocked out Cast Members and several annual pass options. We have since seen block-outs lifted on Cast Members but could we see Disneyland Deluxe passes also lifted at some point because of the crowds?
When the new land opened on May 31st, it opened with a never been done before reservation system as sort of a soft opening or controlled opening. By all accounts, this went extremely well and Disneyland was able to find some operational consistency with the land because of this. Taking that into account, did some stay away from Galaxy’s Edge when it opened to the public on June 24th because they were able to first experience it with a reservation? I definitely think this is part of it.
There are still a few other factors I believe go into the lower than anticipated crowds at Disneyland. Much like the period around the Olympics held in Los Angeles, I think many just stayed away from Disneyland because they didn’t want to deal with the crowds. You also have to take into account that the land opened to the public during the week and with the local aspect of Disneyland people may be waiting for weekends to go check out Galaxy’s Edge.
We also have to think about costs. Disney is growing ever more expensive for people. Whether it is a one day ticket or an annual pass, it is getting harder and harder for families to justify multiple Disney trips let alone just one. To go along with that, only one attraction is open within Galaxy’s Edge currently, Rise of the Resistance will open later in 2019. Due to costs, many people could be waiting for that to open and experience the land all at once rather than having to go twice. Having the phased opening may help Disney in the long run but it doesn’t seem to be doing so in the short term. Merchandise is also a huge part of Star Wars fandom and many of the items within Galaxy’s Edge are quite expensive whether it is a droid, lightsaber, or something else. For families, that can add up quickly. I think many are holding out to just do everything at once instead of making two trips.
My final theory or factor for lower than anticipated crowds at Disneyland is Disney built two of these lands. That will only further spread out the crowds. The ultimate ‘have to see and do it now’ fans likely visited Galaxy’s Edge during the reservation period. The more casual fan is probably waiting for either Rise of the Resistance to open or for the land to open at Walt Disney World. This way not only do they get Galaxy’s Edge, but they also get even more vacation offerings. That’s not to say Disneyland isn’t a full vacation offering because it is but like I said earlier, that is not their key demographic, locals are. Walt Disney World is the place for the tourist and once in a lifetime visitor.
This lower than anticipated opening is not necessarily a bad thing even though some may think it is including Disney. The complaints surrounding crowds were very few and far between. Crowds are typically a major complaint when something like this opens. The Disneyland app worked incredibly well throughout the opening as well. Disney had bumps in the road no doubt but they continue to try and make it work the best that they can.
Those are just some of the factors or theories playing into crowds at Disneyland upon opening Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I would love to hear what you think is playing a role in all of this.