Disney reported largely flat attendance between July and September at its U.S. theme parks, despite having Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open on both coasts.
For Disneyland in California, this was the first earnings report reflecting the impact of Galaxy’s Edge being open during the entire quarter. Attendance was down at Disneyland and flat at Walt Disney World — where Galaxy’s Edge was only open for one month of the quarter — where Disney said the number of visitors would have increased if it weren’t for some attendance effects from Hurricane Dorian.
The company believes guests are deferring visits to both Disneyland and Disney World until Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the marquee attraction of Galaxy’s Edge, is open. The Florida version will debut first on Dec. 5.
While there’s plenty of evidence to counter Disney’s earlier assertion that Galaxy’s Edge has been a “runaway success,” Iger pushed back on the negative perception of the land’s opening on either coast, which combined cost an estimated $2 billion.
“Those two lands have been far more successful than have been reported,” Iger said, noting that 5 million guests have experienced the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction.
But as one analyst asked on the Thursday earnings call: what if guests aren’t just putting off their Disney theme park trips, but not planning on coming at all?
Disney chief financial officer Christine McCarthy didn’t believe that was the case, saying “booked rates” at Disney’s U.S. hotels are up 5 percent, indicating larger crowds in the months ahead.
“We still feel very good about the demand for our domestic parks product,” McCarthy said.
The company’s Parks, Experiences, and Products division didn’t have to rely solely on the future for positive results.
Operating income was up 13 percent for the quarter across the entire division. At Disney World, McCarthy said there was a jump in guest spending and hotel occupancy, but these gains were offset by higher expenses thanks to Galaxy’s Edge.
Galaxy’s Edge seemed to have a positive impact on attendance at least one of Disney’s competitors. Knott’s Berry Farm, located about five miles from Disneyland in Buena Park, California, is reportedly on pace to have a record year in attendance, according to the Orange County Register.
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