Can anything save Disney's Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser?

June 5, 2023, 1:19 PM · Is there any hope that fans might get to experience Disney's Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser after it closes at Walt Disney World this fall?

Disney announced last month that it will close its interactive, cruise-like, multi-night Star Wars experience on September 30. Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser opened in February 2022 to strong reviews from fans, despite the eye-watering prices that left many other fans feeling shut out from the experience. You can read Russell Meyer's in-depth coverage of the Starcruiser's media preview event on our Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser reviews page.

Even at about $6,000 for a family of four to go on the two-night experience, the math never worked for Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. With a capacity of just 100 rooms, the Starcruiser just could not bring in the money that Disney needed to pay for the dozens of costumed role-players, support staff, special effects, and other expenses necessary to run the experience while delivering the type of profit margin that Disney is accustomed to earning from its other hotels. And that's assuming that the Starcruiser could maintain a high occupancy rate after burning through the initial supply of dedicated Star Wars fans would could afford the high-priced experience. (Narrator: It couldn't.)

Simply put, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser was an ultra-premium, boutique experience that never could scale to the blockbuster that Disney now expects from its creative works.

So is there any way that Disney could continue to make the Starcruiser experience available to the limited market of Star Wars fans who do want this experience and are willing and able to pay for it?

I thought about this when flying back from my experience last month on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. If you want to find a company that has proven its willingness to spend big money on IP-driven attractions with limited capacity, Yas Island developer Miral is one of those companies. Granted, Miral is backed by the Abu Dhabi government, which allows it resources to make big bets that other companies with less access to capital might be willing to take. But Miral has developed a business model for the multi-use Yas Island resort that includes high-cost boutique experiences that can draw an affluent international audience to the island.

So what does this have to do with Disney and Star Wars? Everything. Because, in my view, the only way that any Star Wars fan is going to be able to experience anything like the fully immersive Galactic Starcruiser experience after this September is if Disney chooses to license that experience to another company.

It doesn't have to be Miral, though I would be shocked if Miral wouldn't agree to a meeting with Disney on this within seconds of it being offered. Plenty of other hospitality businesses around the world might be interested in licensing Star Wars from Disney for the purpose of delivering a high-priced, deeply immersive Star Wars experience at their properties.

Disney has licensed its IP to other companies before, most notably to arch-rival Universal for The Simpsons and Marvel, though Disney inherited those deals through corporate acquisitions. But Disney also licenses its Marvel characters to the IMG Worlds theme park in Dubai and has a long-standing license with Feld Entertainment for its Disney on Ice touring show. And, of course, Disney licenses its IP to the Oriental Land Co. for the Tokyo Disney Resort.

For Disney, a license of Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser to the right partner turns the project from a low-margin risk into a high-margin source of low-risk cash. Now it's unlikely that Disney could find a license partner willing to take on the current Starcruiser property within the Walt Disney World Resort, since that's not going to help draw visitors to one of the licensor's resorts. But Disney likely could find several hospitality developers willing to have a conversation about licensing a Starcruiser experience at other resorts around the world, such as Yas Island, Qiddiya, or - if Disney is serious about dropping its long-standing opposition to gambling - a casino operator. (Cue the Canto Bight jokes.)

Another reason that Disney is killing the Starcruiser, along with taking content off Disney+, is for the multi-million-dollar tax write-down. Reviving the Starcruiser as a licensed property might put some of that value back on Disney's books, incurring a tax obligation, so that alone might consign the Starcruiser to the garbage bin indefinitely. But if someone were willing to write Disney a big enough check to cover that expense, and further make this all worth Mickey's time, there might - at least theoretically - be a future for Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser through a licensing deal.

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Replies (10)

June 5, 2023 at 2:19 PM

Reworking it into a regular Star Wars themed hotel might be best. All the elements are there, just make it more affordable and able to head to resorts and can still get something out of all this.

June 5, 2023 at 4:16 PM

I just don't see a licensing deal as a way to "save" the Galactic Starcruiser concept. All of the licensing deals cited here were negotiated with legacy companies or in the case of OLC, are a function of a very different business environment than exists today. While I wouldn't be surprised to see a company have a desire to license the Starcruiser concept, unless it's an incredibly lucrative deal for Disney, I just don't see them selling. I felt an immense amount of pride from all the Imagineers associated with the project, so much so that seeing their "baby" sold to someone else to operate/execute would be like letting your child be adopted by a foster family.

I also think that while there might be big enough pockets out there that would be willing to operate the Starcruiser concept on a smaller margin (or even a loss), part of what makes the concept work is its integration into Galaxy's Edge (despite the corner cutting on the transport between the Halcyon and Batuu). I'm sure someone could come up with an adaptation of the concept utilizing other Star Wars stories, but unless those big pocketed operators want to create some rides or other attractions to integrate into the experience, the concept becomes nothing more than an overpriced escape room crossed with a dinner theater.

Ultimately, Disney is the perfect company to execute the concept, but it needs to be under a division that is willing to take a financial risk and run at a much narrower margin than the Walt Disney Company is currently willing to operate at.

June 5, 2023 at 4:12 PM

This seems like the bargaining stage for the death of the Starcruiser. Disney parks are about middle class families going on rides and they need to stop losing sight of that.

June 5, 2023 at 6:20 PM

As much as the concept was interesting to me, the execution didn't look like anything an old school SW fan such as myself would ever be interested in experiencing. I think it's dead.

June 6, 2023 at 3:29 AM

I wonder if they will lift and shift the fixtures and fittings for their huge new cruise ship...they could have startwars wing reusing the pod travel to the lobby, bridge, restaurant, bar. Also it opens the franchise up to the Far East market who currently have no Galaxy Edge merch outlet.

June 6, 2023 at 9:45 AM

This project was doomed from the start. I don't think it is ever coming back.

June 7, 2023 at 9:37 AM

I’m sure at this moment Kathleen Kennedy is thinking “If we just double down on Rey and the sequels, they’ll come FLOCKING back!”

June 7, 2023 at 4:46 PM

It’s dead. There is no way that it can existed as a themed hotel with its small rooms, no windows, and no pool. Iger wants large, high capacity experiences now, and the Starcruiser doesn’t fit they bill anymore. Robert’s second reason, tax write off, is why it will stay shut down.

June 7, 2023 at 4:47 PM

It’s dead. There is no way that it can existed as a themed hotel with its small rooms, no windows, and no pool. Iger wants large, high capacity experiences now, and the Starcruiser doesn’t fit they bill anymore. Robert’s second reason, tax write off, is why it will stay shut down.

June 9, 2023 at 4:04 PM

I think it's done as well, but get ready for the star-cruiser-remnants scavenger hunt after it closes! I do think Disney will repurpose some of it's parts.

That assistant cruise director droid will likely hit the streets of Batuu looking for work.

I imagine some of it's food and drink will land in other restaurants. One of it's brunch cocktails is already in Steakhouse 71.

A Star wars overlay to Space 220, where tie fighters and other ships will fly by.

And I think the most valuable piece of the whole experience is the holo-sabacc table. That thing is a winner. No idea where it could end up, but any establishment would be lucky to have it.

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