Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is turning Disneyland into a virtual ghost town, and the park is now scrambling to boost attendance this summer.
The highly anticipated new land debuted on May 31, but with a reservation-only system in place, the big crowds never showed up. When Star Wars Land officially opened to the general public on June 24, the expected onslaught of massive crowds didn’t arrive either.
The line for Disneyland’s newest attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, now struggles to reach even a 60min wait throughout the day, while the rest of a nearly-deserted park musters waits of only 10-20min for most rides. In fact, many of the days since the opening of Star Wars Land are some of the least crowded days this year, according to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar. Now less than a week after its public debut, crowds are still at historical lows and the park is making major moves to fix it.
So, what exactly is going on? The lackluster attendance so far may be to blame on the extreme precautions the park took ahead of the opening. Disney expected chaos—and so did everyone else.
Crowds “blocked out”
An empty Disneyland after the opening of Star Wars says more about the popularity of the annual pass program than anything else, including the new land. With so many annual passholders, especially locals (SoCal Select), the parks tend to attract more crowds on days when passes are valid. On days when more APs are blocked out, Disneyland tends to be less crowded. Disney just recently launched the Flex Annul Pass to counter this problem, but the effect passholders have on bringing down attendance levels is on full display early this summer thanks to a surge of AP blockout dates.
Disneyland is so empty. It reminds me of summer of ‘84 when the Olympics had so many people scared of traffic and crowds that everyone stayed home. Who ever would have thought this would happen the week #GalaxysEdge opened to public? pic.twitter.com/CSBpjurXdm
— Laura G (@LaurasMiscMovie) June 28, 2019
Just over a year ago, Disneyland made the decision to block out all annual passes (except the very highest tiers) for the summer season this year, anticipating record-breaking attendance for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Disney even introduced park-specific blockout dates to steer crowds away from Disneyland and into California Adventure for the summer.
Now, less than a month into the new land’s opening, Disney is trying to attract those passholders back to Disneyland.
Please come back, APs! (and bring your friends!)
Demand for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has yet to live up to expectations, but Disneyland is already taking drastic measures to try to reverse the trend before the summer is over.
Disneyland is bringing back the “Bring a Friend” promotion for annual passholders. Now through August 30, 2019, APs can bring a friend with the purchase of a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket for $99. There’s also a major change from last year’s “Bring a Friend” deal: if your pass is blocked out, you can still purchase the ticket at $99 for both yourself and your friend. You can buy up to three tickets per passholder.
Still, the promotion stops short of unblocking passes for the summer—something many passholders have been clamoring for after seeing a near-empty park.
disneyland is empty apparently,, if my pass weren’t blocked i would be RUNNING through pixar pier like no other
— Cristina (@mmithcristina) June 29, 2019
disneyland is empty and im blocked out is this what its like to be in a toxic relationship
— aye lin (@eileendoverr) June 29, 2019
“At this time, blockout dates are not being lifted,” Disney says.
If the return of discounted tickets isn’t enough to bring in the crowds, park officials are hoping that the return of a Disneyland classic will. The Main Street Electrical Parade is also making a surprise return to Disneyland for a “limited-time encore engagement” beginning August 2 through September 30, 2019.
Short lines galore… for now
A quick glance at Disneyland’s wait times tells you all you need to know about why the park is making big moves this summer. Light crowds and short lines was the norm throughout June, and when the reservation requirement was lifted on June 24, attendance just never picked up. While the average wait for Millennium Falcon hovers around a modest 60min or less throughout the day, the rest of Disneyland enjoys minimal wait times and even walk-on’s for many rides.
The short lines may not last for long though, as the AP ticket promotion kicks in and word spreads that Disneyland is actually not crowded at all for once. Late June/early July is also historically more manageable at the Disneyland Resort, so crowds are expected to pick up later in the summer season.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open yet, as the land is being opened in two phases. The new land’s other major attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, is set to open in the next phase “later this year,” according to Disney.
Disneyland—and just about everyone else—expected the worst from Star Wars Land, but the precautions the park took early on to handle any capacity issues are proving to be working a little too well. It’s still too early to tell exactly how much of an impact the new summer promotions will have on crowds, but if attendance doesn’t pick soon, more changes may be on the way.
For the best and worst days to visit Disneyland, be sure to keep an eye on the Disneyland Crowd Calendar. The forecast is updated regularly, so check back often.
What do you think of the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so far? Are you planning on visiting Disneyland soon? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!