Disneyland will pull merchandise from Main Street Cinema

June 19, 2019, 3:57 PM · Disneyland is ending its experiment to drive more foot traffic into the Main Street Cinema by selling merchandise within that location, though it will continue to test a variety of things to make the theater more popular.

The move worked to increase the number of people visiting the often-overlooked attraction, but that success came at the cost of triggering fans still mourning the conversion of Walt Disney World's version of Main Street Cinema into a full-time souvenir shop that no longer shows Mickey Mouse animated short films.

Disneyland officials said that they had no intention of removing the films from Main Street Cinema, but that intention did not prevent fan outrage online over the weekend, after merchandise racks appeared in the theater last Friday. The merchandise is going out tonight, to be replaced by additional bench seating in the theater tomorrow. And more tests are on the way.

Okay, I'm gonna deliver some tough love here. Main Street Cinema is a wasted space in Disneyland. It's not that this is a bad concept — far from that, an old-time movie theater show the films that gave birth to the Walt Disney Company is a perfect, even necessary, component of Main Street USA. But in its current form, Main Street Cinema simply is not attracting enough attention to merit the use of that very valuable corporate real estate.

So what to do? The merchandise racks brought people in, even if some were theme park bloggers and influencers taking photos to chase traffic by stoking fan outrage. But that merchandise did nothing to advance the theme of a 1920s movie theater... or to address the fundamental problems with the Main Street Cinema's interior design.

Want a better quickie "fix?" How about installing a popcorn machine, selling an exclusive flavor that rotates every few days and is sold only in the Main Street Cinema? And annual pass holders would get a free "popcorn button" for that flavor with a purchase. Fans could come in to get the special popcorn flavor (quick, someone call Tokyo Disney for some recipes!) and munch away while watching the shorts.

That fix would serve the movie theme while the exclusive rotating flavors encourage foot traffic, and the AP benefit would get them on board. Win, win, win.

Ultimately, though, the Main Street Cinema suffers for not being a very good place to watch a movie. With multiple screens showing several films at once, there are too many focal points in the room. Sight lines are often poor, not helped well by the small pedestal in the middle of the room.

Disneyland already has a Main Street theater in the Main Street Opera House, home of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. But it needs a better showcase for its Mickey Mouse shorts than the current design of the Main Street Cinema. So the ultimate solution that provides that — as with most things at top theme parks — is gonna cost some money and creative design time.

If Disneyland officials really want to showcase the early Mickey films — as they should — then someone in Burbank is going to have to greenlight that investment. In the meantime, though... who's hungry for some popcorn?

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Replies (14)

June 19, 2019 at 4:14 PM

I love this idea Robert. I agree that if the room was always packed with people there would be no need for seating, and the raised platform would serve a purpose. The few people who do come in here, and I am one of them, this really isn't a great place to enjoy watching the films. Adding some seating would accomplish that, but I agree that creating a Popcorn palace is a better and well themed idea for this spot. The entrance is a rather small and to keep the room dark, it needs to stay closed off so why not blast the scent of fresh popped pop corn out into the street?
The food as attractions concept seems to be taking hold in the California parks, so why not make this the headquarters for popcorn? I think this would be a much more palatable idea to most.

June 19, 2019 at 6:28 PM

I'm in two minds.

On one hand, shouldn't there be a place reserved for the thing that started it all? Isn't remembering what the "Soul" of the organisation is important to know what direction the company should go?

On the other hand, its a business, they should be using their assets to maximise shareholder value. The problem there is I think a lot of folks have forgotten that "Shareholder Value" goes beyond short term profitmaking.

Is there value in the Soul that Walt infused in the business? Should anything in the Disney empire have a special reserved "Do not touch - this is our holy temple to Walt" sign on it?

June 19, 2019 at 6:43 PM

Why does every location at Disneyland have to be maximized to meet its potential for foot traffic? Quiet spots in the park where one can leave the crowds and decompress for a few moments are becoming few and far between. On a crowded day, just 10 minutes in that dark, cool room where the hustle and bustle of the 21st century can slip away will give me strength to carry on to the next attraction. It was truly a godsend when my kids were little.

Hey, I like the idea of making it even more old time movie theater like. Popcorn smell and some benches are just fine. But, let's not think of this location as one that needs to attract people. Hidden gems are fun to find on one's own. And this is one of Disneyland's diamonds!

June 19, 2019 at 8:02 PM

Unfortunately, Disneyland doesn't have enough space for everything, and as historic as it may be I don't think the Main Street Cinema is worth keeping any longer. I'd guess approximately 1% of the people who visit the park set foot inside there, and in a park that feels packed on even a moderately busy day it definitely needs to be better utilized. Keep the cartoons...play them on loop in the waiting area for Mr. Lincoln or something, but there just isn't a need to keep an attraction that very few visitors care about.

Note that I'm not for the idea of turning it into a shop (the park's already got enough of those), but I do think it needs to be made into something attractive to a reasonable portion of the park's visitors.

June 19, 2019 at 10:39 PM

I have the easy solution, now that Star Wars lands is serving alcohol so guests other than club 33 members can drink, put a bar in there with the popcorn. The theater would be packed at all times.

June 19, 2019 at 11:11 PM

Considering the east coast counterpart has been a successful merchandise location for 21 years the end of this story looks obvious...easy enough to just keep playing the cartoons in the shop as an homage and feature collectibles that appeal directly to precisely the same park fans that complained, proven formula enjoyed by Magic Kingdom's Main Street East Merchandise team for many, many years.

June 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM

Mniedringhaus’s gets it right. Part of the charm of Disneyland was the quiet spaces such as the Court of Angels, which is now gone. The Cinema is a great quiet space with AC that honors the Mouse that started it all. Can it be upgraded? Sure. But the general idea should continue as I see guests in there every single time I’ve gone in, and they love the old cartoons. The idea that this tiny space should be put to a maximum utility test with a ton of guests shoved in throughout the day is the kind of myopic consumerist mindset that screws up the magic of the park. There’s tons of empty underutilized space in Galaxy’s Edge. The Motor Boat Cruise area is underutilized. Small World Promenade is underutilized. Innoventions and Magic Eye Theater are way underutilized for their large imprint. Disney should look into those much larger spaces first before messing with this tiny space that obviously means a lot to many guests judging by the outcry.

June 20, 2019 at 8:05 AM

I'm all for nostalgia, but if a prime piece of real estate is not being utilized, and guests are always walking by, then Disney needs to do something, especially in such a space-constrained park like Disneyland. As East Coasters, we've only been to Disneyland a handful times, but I cannot recall a single visit where we did more than pop our heads into the Main Street Cinema. I do recall one visit where CMs were using their giant Mickey hands to point guests towards the Cinema, but few were taking them up on it, either rushing to attractions beyond Main Street or on the other side of the Esplanade at DCA.

I understand the space's significance, but it seems ludicrous to have an interior space so close to the front gate sit virtually empty all day every day. I don't understand the uproar from purists defaming Disney for attempting to make something of this space by selling souvenirs. I would have no problem with them turning it into a permanent gift shop with shorts playing on the screens like so many Disney retail outlets around the world. In fact, making it a Mickey-specific shop with more nostalgic and collectible gifts would seem to be more than appropriate for the "historic" space.

Another use could be a place to meet walk around characters while shorts played in the background. Obviously, Disney could not put characters routinely meeting on Main Street inside the Cinema (Big 5 along with Chip and Dale). However, Disney could certainly put characters here that are a little rarer to see like Oswald and other peripheral characters. The chance to meet these rare characters would certainly draw guests to at least poke their heads in the Cinema on a more regular basis, especially if the word got out that rare characters were inside.

June 20, 2019 at 4:05 PM

Meet and greet, great idea. Popcorn, fine. Collectibles and books, ok. Souvenirs that can be found elsewhere - NO. I disagree though that it is prime real estate that has to be fully utilized, because it's such a small space that's surrounded by ALL retail. Adding some interest is good, but it's good that Main Street has a break in the sea of retail.

June 20, 2019 at 1:20 PM

Way grizzlier battle looming with unbearable repercussions back east toying with a way more important attraction....Robert, weren't you an Ursa Major in your College Program days?

June 20, 2019 at 5:17 PM

I went in there this past weekend & it just seemed "odd".....like the merchandise layout didn't organically fit the set up of the space.

Everyone has stated some good ideas in this thread....some different, but all could work.

I'm not technically 100% against merchandise in the cinema (with a better set up), but I do think it should be specific merchandise or collectables related to those earlier cartoons....not the same thing you ca be in the other shops on Main street.

The space could be renovated to still show the old cartoons, but maybe the merchandise could be collectables or unique to that location. Some Steamboat Willie or Plane Crazy stuff.

June 20, 2019 at 11:15 PM

The space is so small that almost anything else that goes into it can cause guest conflict. Meet and greet, or popcorn sales confuses the purpose of the small space. When watching a film, you don’t want people being noisy with a costumed character or buying food and beverages. Maybe Disney could sell high-priced Mickey collectibles in the back of the theater. That’s about it, otherwise it takes away from the viewing experience. In the big picture, the Cinema is so small that it shouldn’t even be on Disney’s radar. Innoventions building and Magic Eye Theater are huge spaces that could soak up a lot of guests with better attractions, stores, restaurants, etc.

June 21, 2019 at 6:18 AM

I will start by saying, I have never set foot in the theatre and it is doubtful I would (time being a limited commodity when I can visit)

However, I appreciate why it is there, and think having it is a good idea.

But I also think you need to give people a better reason to go in there, or something that will appeal to people who are interested in the origins, the history.

As someone has already mentioned, selling items that you can't get anywhere else would be best, couple that with something that fits the ideas, items related to the cartoons, classic animation film cells make the shop as much of an attraction as the cinema.

June 24, 2019 at 10:06 AM

Disney should give a mini popcorn or ice cream for those that come in, sit down, and actually watch the shorts. Just add a free snack sign on the marquee and a small concession stand. With so many people at Disney willing to pay ridiculously high prices for mass produced junk, they can give out a tiny scoop of ice cream or a handful of popcorn and make an often overlooked attraction more popular.

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