So when is Disney finally going to tell us when, exactly, its Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge lands will open?
All we've heard officially so far from the company is "summer" for Disneyland and "fall" for the Walt Disney World installation, though Disney CEO Bob Iger let slip to a business magazine "June" for the Disneyland opening, which matches our guess from last summer.
Let's look to Disney's recent history for additional guidance. The last major new land that Disney opened was its Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Iger announced the May 27, 2017 opening date for that land on February 7, 2017. That was 109 days in advance.
If Galaxy's Edge were to open on Saturday, June 22 — as we suggested last year and consistent with Iger's earlier statement — the an announcement 109 days in advance would come on Tuesday, March 5. But Iger's Pandora announcement came during a conference call with investors discussion Disney's first-quarter financial performance. This year's version of that call has passed already, so would Disney use some other occasion around this time to announce the opening date?
There's a D23 10th anniversary event that weekend, on March 10, at the Disney Studios lot in Burbank. Or maybe Disney is going to wait for some other, more Star Wars-focused event, such as runDisney's Star Wars Rival Run Weekend at Walt Disney World on April 4-7. Or maybe the annual Star Wars Celebration, which is in Chicago on April 11-15 this year.
Or maybe Disney won't bother announcing the opening date at all. That's what Iger teased during that latest investor call.
Iger said that Disney wouldn't need to spend a lot of money on promotion to ensure that fans would show up to crowd the new lands. That might be true, but Disney didn't get be the biggest name in entertainment by soft-selling its new products. Galaxy's Edge is a multi-billion-dollar investment, and Disney has the ability to promote it across countless television, publishing, and social media channels. So why would Iger suggest that Disney could lay up on Star Wars Land?
Two thoughts. First, Iger is playing defense against potential delays in completing the land. By claiming that Disney might not do much to promote the new land, he might be trying to head off articles such as this one, wondering when the opening date announcement will come. Now that the company's leader has planted the idea that Disney will soft-sell the land, people might not grow surprised when they don't see a big opening-date PR push starting within the next few weeks.
Even if Disney ultimately is able to open in June, not having publicly committed to a date months in advance takes some pressure of its Imagineering and operations teams as they work to get the Disneyland version of the land ready for the public. If they have to push back to July or August, so be it. That's still "summer." Given what Iger has said, analysts might not ding the company for waiting until the last minute to announce the land's opening.
Second, Iger could just be trolling the competition. Iger's Pandora announcement came just 12 days after Universal Orlando announced that it would open its Volcano Bay water theme park on May 25, 2017. And then Disney scheduled Pandora's media preview day for May 24 — the same day that Universal had invited the press to preview Volcano Bay. (Then Disney straight up tried to kill us by putting the media event for Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout in Anaheim on the next day, May 25. Actually, that was fun. 10/10 would do again.)
Universal has its own big mega-franchise attractions opening this summer, with a new Harry Potter-themed roller coaster experience at Universal Orlando and a Jurassic World update to its old Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. And the company has zero intention of allowing Disney to step over its media campaigns to promote those attractions, the way Disney did with Volcano Bay.
Having spoken with many, many people throughout the industry about this, it's clear that Universal (and every other theme park company) strongly would prefer that Disney announce its opening date for Galaxy's Edge in Anaheim before they commit to an opening date for their new attractions. Regardless of what Iger says about promoting the new Star Wars land, everyone in the themed entertainment business respects Disney's PR machine far too much to want to go up against it.
By playing coy, Iger baits Universal to keep holding off on announcing opening dates for Potter and Jurassic World. Universal clearly could open its Potter coaster before Galaxy's Edge opens in Florida, but Universal understands that media is global now, and it doesn't want to lose notice for the Potter opening to Star Wars in Anaheim.
Now, with Iger having suggested a June opening before and Disney promising a summer debut for Galaxy's Edge, Universal probably would be safe announcing a May opening for the Potter coaster. The fact that it hasn't suggests that perhaps Universal does not foresee the coaster being ready by then. (For what it's worth, Universal Orlando's previous Potter attractions opened in June and July.) That would put the as-yet-unnamed Potter coaster in the mix with the Disneyland opening.
So, for now, we seem to be watching an industry-wide game of chicken, as other theme parks await Disney's decision on when to open Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.Tweet
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