Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger sounds confident that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be a major success when it opens in Disneyland and Walt Disney World later this year — enough so to joke that marketing expenses will be low.
“I’m thinking that maybe I should just tweet, ‘It’s opening,’ and that will be enough,” Iger said on the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “I think we’re going to end up with incredibly popular and in-demand product with these two new lands.”
Two versions of Galaxy’s Edge are set to open this year, the first in Anaheim, Calif. this summer, followed by a fall opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Arguably the most highly-anticipated theme park addition since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, Iger has called the 14-acre expansions the “biggest lands we’ve ever built,” in terms of size, scale and the ambition to create an “immersive” experience.
Given the popularity of the Star Wars brand and nearly four years’ worth of hype among theme parks fans, drawing attention doesn’t seem to be a concern for Iger.
“It’s not going to take much marketing to do that,” he said. “That’s a signal that I just sent to our parks and resorts people to keep that budget really low.”
Even without Galaxy’s Edge, Disney’s parks division reported positive financial results for the company’s first quarter in fiscal 2019. The increased earnings of $6.82 billion (up 5 percent from the same period last year) and operating income of $2.15 billion (up 10 percent) were due in part to higher ticket prices and hotel room rates.
Iger said price increases are part of “leveraging the popularity” of the parks, which have seen attendance consistently rise since the Great Recession, and attempt to use pricing to spread out the crowds more evenly.
“That popularity is going to continue, and with that’s going to come the, I guess, enviable task of balancing that popularity with guest experience and price elasticity,” Iger said.
It’s a strategy that hasn’t fully paid off yet, perhaps because Disney hasn’t raised prices to the point where guests stop coming to its parks. The quarterly numbers showed some progress in that direction, however, as attendance at Disney’s U.S. parks was largely the same as the prior year, but guest spending was up 7 percent.
As was the case with Disney’s last quarterly earnings call, financial analysts were more focused on the Disney+ streaming service. Iger revealed during the call that the company will be demonstrating the platform — and some of the original content being developed for it — at its Investor Day on April 11.
“Most of the teams creating shows and movies for this service are the same innovators and storytellers driving the prolific success of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, operating under the same expectations of excellence,” Iger said.
Photo credit: Disney