Entertainment: Big surprise at Disneyland: Star Wars land’s not-so-long waits

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 2, 2019.

Attendees standing in front of the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, the US. Photo by Bloomberg

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WALT Disney Co’s efforts to prevent overcrowding at its new Star Wars-themed land appear to be working.

Websites that track attendance at Disneyland, the second-busiest theme park in the world, say the crowd has been manageable. The wait last Wednesday afternoon for the signature Millennium Falcon ride was as little as 25 minutes, comparable with the 25-year-old Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, according to Laughing Place Inc, which uses a proprietary system to track the crowd.

“We’re kind surprised how easy it is to get into,” said Laughing Place news-desk editor Ben Matthews. “Everyone thought Disneyland was going to get slammed.”

Disney opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the largest-ever addition to its Disneyland park, on May 31. To manage an expected surge in demand, the company introduced its first reservation system. Guests had to stay in a company-owned hotel in Anaheim, California, the US or sign up for a spot online. The reservations, which ended on June 23, were snapped up in less than two hours.


Capacity increase

The company made other changes to smooth traffic flow, such as lowering curbs and eliminating smoking areas.

“We are incredibly focused on delivering a great guest experience for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” a Disney spokesman said. “This land has added 20% more capacity to Disneyland Park, and together with all of our new offerings, advanced planning and innovative technology, has resulted in incredible feedback and satisfaction from our guests.”

Last Wednesday, IsItPacked.com rated Disneyland a “hey, it’s alright”, the second-lowest level of attendance. TouringPlans.com, another crowd-tracking site, originally predicted last Wednesday would be at nine, its second-busiest level, according to Fred Hazelton, a statistician for the service. He now rates the crowd at a lower three.

“We’re updating everything,” Hazelton said. “It’s exactly that dramatic.”


Social media

Data from the tracking sites were echoed by some guests on social media.

“Fewest crowd I have ever encountered at Disneyland,” Stephen Shih, who identifies himself as a father and paediatrician, wrote on Twitter last Wednesday. “Even GE (Galaxy’s Edge) didn’t feel too crowded by late AM.”

Disney, based in Burbank, California, last week partially lifted restrictions that prevented employees from visiting the park for free this summer.

Matthews identified a few possible reasons for the lighter turnout. It was the first week of blackout dates for many Disneyland annual-pass holders, which likely thinned the crowd somewhat, he said. Some fans may be waiting until the Rise of the Resistance, a second attraction at Galaxy’s Edge, opens later this year. Some would-be customers may also have been confused by the reservation system and thought the attraction was still sold out.

The company is scheduled to open a second Galaxy’s Edge at its Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida on Aug 29. — Bloomberg