Follow the data to see what the theme park industry's leaders will do next
What's the best entertainment franchise to bring into a theme park? Let's start by defining what "best" is - and I'm going to go with an entertainment franchise that's already proven itself with the public through movie box-office success, guaranteeing a big launch for a well-executed theme park attraction that recreates the franchise's creative universe.
Star Wars needs to be Disney's next big play in theme parks. Keep reading to see why.
So here's the data on the top US movie franchises, from Box Office Mojo. I'm including franchises that have grossed more than $1 billion, with an average of at least $200 million per film. That eliminates franchises such as James Bond and Star Trek, which have earned huge grosses over their life-spans thanks to having so many titles, but that don't move the needle much with each release.
- Harry Potter ($2.39 billion from 8 movies) Theme park rights: Universal
- Star Wars ($1.92 billion from 7 movies) Theme park rights: Disney
- Avengers ($1.72 billion from 6 movies) Theme park rights: Disney (outside of Orlando)
- Batman ($1.45 billion from 7 movies) Theme park rights: Six Flags
- Shrek ($1.42 billion from 5 movies) Theme park rights: Universal
- Pirates of the Caribbean ($1.28 billion from 4 movies) Theme park rights: Disney
- Spider-Man ($1.14 billion from 3 movies) Theme park rights: Universal Orlando, Disney outside Orlando
- Transformers ($1.08 billion from 4 movies) Theme park rights: Universal
- Twilight ($1.07 billion from 4 movies)
- The Lord of the Rings ($1.06 billion from 4 movies)
This list is incomplete in that it doesn't include other entertainment income that supports a franchise, such as toys and books. Toy revenue is what helped drive Disney to develop Cars Land, which did well at the box office, but absolutely killed in the toy store. But the list gives us a good place to start a discussion.
The list shows why the Marvel deal is such a BFD for Universal Orlando. It effectively keeps two of the country's top 10 entertainment franchises out of the hands of its archrival, the Walt Disney Company - which owns Marvel, the creator of Avengers and Spider-Man. Given that Avengers and Spider-Man are both active franchises, with new films in development, these figures convince me that Disney's going to have to make a billion-dollar offer to Universal to have any hope of getting those Orlando-area theme park rights.
The franchise data also explain many recent moves in the theme park industry. We all know at this point what a game-changer Harry Potter has been, and can see why Universal's is hot to bring Potter to its Universal Studios parks in Japan, Florida and Hollywood, too. But Universal also made a great call in bringing Transformers into its Singapore and Hollywood parks. (The data explain why some of us believe that Transformers will be coming to Orlando soon, too.) The list also explains why Universal just dropped that money to upgrade The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando, and why Shrek isn't going anywhere in its parks anytime soon (and why Universal gave Shrek an entire land in its newest park, in Singapore).
So should Disney and Universal make a play for Twilight or Lord of the Rings? Perhaps, but I see a couple bigger targets higher up on the list. First, Six Flags has in no way maximized the theme park income potential of the Batman franchise. It simply lacks the capital to build the immersive Gotham environment, with high-tech attractions, that could rival Harry Potter and Cars Land in popularity. I can't believe that Six Flags' rights deal for the DC Comics franchises, including Batman - a remnant of the days when Six Flags was also owned by DC's parent, Warner Bros. - is so costly and iron-clad that neither Disney or Universal could make a play to wrest it away. (Heck, if I ran Disney, I would buy the DC rights out from under Six Flags and give them away to Universal as part of a deal to get the Florida theme park rights to Marvel. But if I ran Universal, I'd still demand a billion-dollar check in addition to the DC rights. This is why I can't negotiate with myself.)
The big target here is the franchise sitting at number two - Star Wars. One ride and a few fan-fest weekends don't come close to realizing the theme park potential of this franchise. Yesterday, we wrote about Disneyland's two options for expansion. One of them was in Tomorrowland. Given the commercial potential of the Star Wars franchise, I'm going to make a seemingly radical proposal - that Disneyland rebuild all of Tomorrowland as Star Wars Land.
Star Tours remains. Space Mountain gets a Star Wars overlay. But everything else goes - even Buzz Lightyear (there's a Toy Story-themed shooter over at California Adventure now. That'll do.) Make Tomorrowland an immersive physical visit to the Star Wars universe, using all the space from the Hub back to It's a Small World. Then use that as a template to remake the southern end of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
Who here would pay up to visit that? I know I would.
At this point, from all I've heard in the industry, Disney's not yet decided for certain what it will do next in Disneyland. But I'm a big fan of the late Buzz Price, the consultant for Disney who helped select the locations for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. He devoted his life to the study of data and wrote, "Guessing is dysfunctional. Ignoring prior experience is denial. Using valid numbers to project performance is rational."
The box office data provide clear, rational data to guide the theme park industry. They've worked for Universal, and they can work for Disney, too. Whatever else Disney might consider for its theme park properties, it'd be most rational for Disney to do something new - and big - with Star Wars.
Star Wars land replacing Tomorrowland? No thanks I like star wars but leave Disneyland out of this. Put a Star Wars land in Disney's Holkywood Studios and I'll be happy.
Twilight as a theme park attraction/land? No, just... no.
Well Avatar is not in the top 10, but Disney is putting it in the AK. I liked the movie, but I don't think it has a following even close to anything in the top 10.
As Robert pointed out, box office is just a small factor. Starting with Cars, movies didn't to wonders, but makes for a great land. Look as Shrek, it has the numbers, but the series is more or less over and Universal is banking on an element of timelessness that I'm not sure is there.
Put Star Wars in DHS and I'll be happy. My vision would be:
Lord of the Rings is to me the big Free Agent out there. As of the three/four movies (I assume your counting the cartoon from the 70') are huge in America but even bigger worldwide.
And for Star Wars if not a land at DHS can we all.
There should be a Star Wars Land, but it needs to be in a secondary park, not Disneyland. Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyears should not be touched. They are classics.
How much of an attendance boost did the Disney Parks actually get from the new Star Tours?
Aaron, Star Tours has a high capacity, thus short waits ( minus the crowded season or Star Wars Weekends )
Aaron, the new Star Tours was HUGE at Disneyland, packing the park with much longer lines than in Florida, despite having the same capacity. That's why I'm suggesting the Star Wars Land go to Disneyland first.
I think Star Tours did way better in Disneyland for three reasons. First, there are less thrill rides in Disneyland. Second there are less rides in Disneyland as a whole. Third, it's in Disneyland, which is a busier park and it fits in better with Tomorrowland than the backlot as well as having a better location.
If you're Disney and betting that a second and third Avatar movie will launch that franchise into the Top 10 (which I believe to be a pretty safe bet), I suppose you could justify going with an Avatar mini-land on the Innoventions/Autopia space in Tomorrowland, instead of the Star Wars plan. (Assuming that Avatar's a hit in DAK, and I don't know that Disneyland wants to wait for Orlando before proceeding with its own expansion.)
BTW, did I make it apparent that I'd really, really love to see what Universal Creative could do with a Gotham Island?
I have long wondered why Disney hasn't extended the Star Wars experience at one or several of their parks. Obviously DHS has the greatest opportunity and makes the most sense in my mind.
The town area would also have enough space for a movie prop walk-through, a Bounty Hunter meet-n-greet, an ILM "Movie Magic" experience, a counter service restaurant, restrooms, and an all new Jedi Academy (pick our outfit, lightsaber, go through training, etc.
I love the Star Wars idea for Disneyland, but echo the concerns about losing Space Mountain to a new theme. However, it's a small price to pay for a land devoted to Star Wars as long as we can get a signed contract that the new land will make no mention of muppets, Ewoks, Gungans, Zero the Hutt, or Midi-chlorians.
Finally someone brings this up! I definitely agree with u Robert . I could see a star wars land in tomorrowland at Disneyland . I can already tell u fans would be p.o.d about this proposal. I think universal should get Lord of the rings . I hate the idea of donald duck gollum
It would solve the problem Tomorrowland has had since its creation, that it requires constant investment to look like "Tomorrow" and not "Tiredland".
All of that Star Wars money came years ago though, whereas most others on that list are current or fairly recent in terms of pop culture. Even though this data suggests that Star Wars would be "next", I tend to think that the window for Star Wars themed attractions has passed because it's been a long time. I'm still waiting however, for someone to do something significant with Nintendo.
rob not gonna lie the fact you included twilight on the list scares me into fear that a park might actually take you up on that. forget 400ft tall coasters, THAT is scary...
The genius of WWOHP and Cars Land is that the properties had already designed the streets, shops and restaurants for them. The Parks only had to design the attractions and spend the money the recreate the movies.
As much as i'm wanting to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I don't like the idea of an entire land dedicated to a movie franchise. I feel with both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the new "Cars Land" at Disney California Adventure, that the interest in the franchises that the lands represent will fade to a point that every part of the lands aside from their signature attraction(Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Radiator Springs Racers, respectively) will become insignificant to the rest of the theme park itself. Now if Disney decides to capitalize on the Star Wars franchise, I would think Disney's Hollywood Studios would do well to, instead of devote an entire land to Star Wars, rather make a land dedicated to the "Sci-Fi" genre with a huge incorporation of Star Wars into the land to keep the fans of that series happy, but also to allow Disney to also incorporate other films or tv shows or stories of Science Fiction into the land to appeal to those who aren't necessarily Star Wars fans, but do still like the genre, otherwise Disney will only be catering to a specific guest demographic and forget that there are those who love more Science Fiction stories aside from Star Wars. Disney could then incorporate the "Alien" series as well as more recent Sci-Fi stories turned films into the mix like "John Carter". So I think Disney should be a bit more optimistic.
Assuming that box office gross directly translates to theme park success seems naive to me. There are a multitude of other factors in play.
Star Wars taking over Tomorrowland at Dinseyland sounds good because of its proximity to Hollywood but I do not like the idea for Florida. Tomorrowland has always represented a vision about a possible future for mankind, not about marketing toys and movies.
Tomorrowland should always be tommorowland...to change it is a horrible idea like changing adventureland or frontierland. However I have always believed that a star wars land would be a great idea. The only problem is there's so many locations that could be done. I think the best thing to do is every park to have its own location like say tattoine in CA, Jedi temple in Florida or hoth in Paris....etc this keeps the Parks unique. Star tours should be in these lands and the software can reflect you leaving that particular area. Then one more attraction and an iconic restaurant and I think you'd have a very successful tourist draw.
Following up with what I stated earlier, imagine this for a new "Sci-Fi" land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Keep Star Tours, however re-theme it to John Carter. Make a bigger attraction(possibly a new roller coaster or a ride similar to Spider-Man at IOA, however themed to Star Wars). Have Magic Kingdom move the "Stitch's Great Escape" attraction over to Disney's Hollywood Studios and re-theme it to the "Alien" series(bringing back the scare factor that was with the original Alien Encounter). Get rid of Muppet Vision 3D and make the theater's theme Sci-Fi and move Captain EO from Epcot over to DHS since George Lucas helped make Captain EO, it would fit in nicely with the theme of the area. I would say keep the counter-service restaurant thats next to Star Tours, however get rid of Pizza Planet. As much as I love Star Wars, I will both not be surprised and at the same time, not be happy if Disney simply makes a Star Wars Land, just like they did with Cars Land and the upcoming Avatar Land.....It seems the only ideas for new theme park areas are "Any Big Movie Franchise"...Land, lol.
Here's my opinion: I'm not opposed to a Star Wars land, but I really don't want it to be in Tomorrowland. As one of the original lands at othe original Disney park, I don't think Tomorrowland should be converted into something else. Therefore, Marvel land would be out as well. I really think Disneyland's Tomorrowland should do the following:
Like, Cars, I think Star Wars is a no-brainer, and should have already been built. Since it hasn't that tells me eithe Lucas is the holdup or Disney's got their heads up their you-know-what. I don't necessarily like the idea of scrapping Tomorrowland at Disneyland, though. However, it would fit very nicely at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
I really wish Disney would do something without a brand name. Something completely new that came from a blank piece of paper and imagination. I really don't like all the "attractions have to be based on a movie or franchise" idea. It really does put Imagineers in a box...the box office.
I agree about Star Wars, but completely disagree about how to do it. Space Mountain MUST remain Space Mountain. If Disneyland is going to add a new land, then they must pony up and buy more land which is problematic. On the other hand, a new Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios is very possible. The space exists past the Star Tours area for a major expansion. The other thing to think of is box office gross adjusted for inflation. See, Star Wars fans are legion. There are many more than Potter or comic book fans. Many may disagree, but if you adjust Star Wars grosses for inflation, it blows everything out of the water. However, that is not the only concern. Marketing matters. Been to a toy section in a store lately? Every store has had a Star Wars section since 1977. They should do it, and they should do it in Orlando where they have the space. It is a licence to print money.
I really like the new Star Tours but that's enough Star Wars in the park. Maybe the idea of a restaurant to go with it and a signature beverage, but changing Space Mountain to Star Wars theme would be enough of an insult that I probably would avoid holidays to Disney for a while.
Ron, a POTC walk through is coming to DHS in a couple months.
Dom, that's a start, but it's much smaller and at least 4 years later than I would have expected. I understand this is going in the space where the Narnia exhibit was for the past few years, (way past the wave of the hype for that movie). I'll wait and see what it brings, but due to the size of that location, I'm not expecting a whole lot. The canvas is blank at this point though, and there is a lot they can work with, so hopefully they won't disappoint. But, I fear the wave of hype for Pirates has fizzled as well.
My three children and I camped in the plaza in front of Disney's California Adventure the night before the Re-Opening. Getting in line at 9:00pm, we slept on the cement pavers, watched the blimp fly over head and cheered with crowd for "Good Morning America".
I understand Universal to go for themes based on movies because of it's origin, but Disney once was able to make awesome rides and experinces that wheren't movie related. Take the haunted mansion, space mountain, alien terrorrestial encounter, a small world, horizons, the living seas etc. That's where Disney is at it's best. Dipping everything onto movie themes is awefull. I hate the Nemo makeover for the living seas or the characters at world showcase, Stich in alien and Dep in Pirates. Star Wars is a very mediocre attraction for a very succesfull francise and I've heard Lucas mention often he wanted to upgrade it but it was always Disney who was to cheap. Thats why Disney missed out on Potter and is also loosing a lot of potential money on the Star Wars francise (or Indy for that matter).
I wouldn't want a Star Wars overlay at MK myself, but a whole SW park would be awesome! You could have lands themed to the different planets/moons...Tattooine, Dagobah, Hoth, Endor for starters. The stars would be the limit!
Robert I agree with everything pretty much! I am extremely shocked by the underutilization of Star Wars in the parks! I am not a Star Wars junkie, but it would be cool to see a whole land with another E-Ticket ride or two! I would also have no problem with it going into Tomorrow Land if it was done right. I would be a little sad about losing some classics, but Disneyland needs a bit of a facelift and with limited space, they have few options.
I think a Star Trek based land would work if it was in Orlando, Fl or in LA, Ca. The problem that the Star Trek Experience had, which was in Las Vegas, was location and cost. At the time it was open it had only 2 attractions and cost a huge 50 dollars, which was about the cost for a 1 day pass to most regional parks. If, it was part of Universal or Disney it would be a huge draw.
Star Tours at Disneyland and Walt Disney World do not have identical capacities. That's absolutely incorrect. Disney Hollywood Studios' Star Tours has 50% more capacity than Disneyland.
Wait wait wait wait WAIT....the Twilight movies made more at the box office than Lord of the Rings?
The Hunger Games is not on the list, but probably will get there when they release a couple more movies. It basically will replace Twilight as the new hype.
Robert, I am surprised you haven't posted the news about the new permits at Universal Orlando regarding the Hogwarts Express locations at each park.
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