Why Disney’s Star Wars hotel failed so fast

why disney’s star wars hotel failed so fast

Why Disney’s Star Wars hotel failed so fast

Not all that long ago, in a galaxy that looks a lot like Central Florida, Disney embarked on a mission that would take its brand of themed entertainment into hyperspace. It wouldn’t just be a Star Wars hotel designed to space-opera specifications. It would be an entire immersive universe, complete with storylines, aliens, droids and at least one Wookiee.

Disney first announced the project — ultimately called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser — to rabid reception in 2017. Early descriptions promised that costumed fans could participate in continuous storytelling, interact with characters and simulate spaceshiplike transportation.

The Starcruiser would take five more years to open, launching in March 2022 with a startling price tag starting at nearly $5,000 per couple for a two-night experience. Experts say the project represented an investment of hundreds of millions — and possibly close to $1 billion — for Disney.

why disney’s star wars hotel failed so fast

Guests at Disney’s Star Wars hotel could interact with Chewbacca.

Media and influencers showed off the voyage after a preview, and then-CEO Bob Chapek described the response to the experience as “phenomenal” in a May earnings call. But months into the experiment, it became clear there was a disturbance in the force. The Starcruiser would sail for just over a year before executives decided to call it quits, announcing earlier this month the final voyage would be Sept. 28.

“It didn’t perform exactly like we wanted it to perform, so we decided that we were going to sunset this in September,” the company’s parks and resorts chairman, Josh D’Amaro, said at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference this week.

What happened to the widely heralded attraction? Turns out the galaxy doesn’t contain enough Star Wars die-hards willing to pay for such a high-touch, high-cost experience, industry observers and experts say.

“How many people who are superfans want to put in the time and the emotional expenditure of spending two days in a fully immersive experience?” asked Scott Lukas, a cultural anthropologist who writes about theme parks. “It gets tiring.”

Disney’s $5,000 Star Wars hotel and line-cutting fees: Some fans say the ‘magic’s gone’

Also not helping: Galactic Starcruiser opened amid a larger outcry about Disney’s perceived nickel-and-diming tendencies. Prices for admission and food continued to rise even as visitors were forced to navigate new reservation requirements and pay for line-skipping options that once were free.

And as major companies announced layoffs, and questions about a looming recession persisted, the cost of the expedition — which grew to at least $6,000 to fit a family of four in one cabin — seemed outrageous to many.

“All of the young professionals that should have gone to the Galactic Starcruiser, they were the ones who suddenly were watching their pennies because people kept talking about, ‘We’re in a recession, maybe not, you could lose your job,’” said Jim Hill, a theme park historian who stayed at the Star Wars hotel in March. “In a situation like that, are you going to spend $5-to-6,000 on a two-day-long voyage on a fake starship?”

9 changes Disney fans want returning CEO Bob Iger to make at parks

why disney’s star wars hotel failed so fast

Passengers learn the ancient art of wielding a lightsaber in the Lightsaber Training Pod onboard the Halcyon starcruiser in Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Great expectations

In a promotional video released by Disney in 2021, a group of “Imagineers” — the staffers who design and build theme parks and attractions — heralded the work that had gone into creating the Galactic Starcruiser so far. They had already been at it for nearly six years, the group said, and planned for the storyline to overlap with the one at Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars section of the nearby Hollywood Studios park that Disney opened in 2019.

At the Galactic Starcruiser, which Disney promotes as a voyage, guests arrive at a terminal, rendezvous with a starship called the Halcyon (actually a bunker-type building) and stay aboard for two nights. Activities, rooms, meals, drinks, entertainment and even a “shore excursion” to Galaxy’s Edge are all interactive within the fantasy.

“Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced: part live immersive theater, part themed environment, part culinary extravaganza, part real-life role-playing game — and yet so much more,” the official website says.

In the video, the group of Disney executives emphasized that the entertainment, food and plot were all designed to make people feel like they were in a “galaxy far, far away” — but also stressed that participants could be as active or passive as they wanted.

“This has to be fun for people who love Star Wars and for the people who love the people who love Star Wars,” Ann Morrow Johnson, the executive producer and creative director who worked on the project, said in the video.

But the role-play was the major selling point, and a guest-facing cast of actors, musicians and other performers spent months in training.

why disney’s star wars hotel failed so fast

A passenger wearing a Togruta headpiece sits at the holo-sabacc table in the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

“It was probably one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting things that I think a lot of us have ever had to do,” said one performer who was part of the original cast and spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their employment. “It’s a 48-hour show.”

Speaking to The Washington Post earlier this week, the performer said the level of engagement between the cast and guests can be “extremely powerful.”

“You learn about their secrets, you learn about their backstory, you learn who they are and what they’re thinking,” they said. “You know them on a personal level. Then you celebrate and you say goodbye.”

The experiment has earned wows from others in the growing industry of immersive entertainment. Philip Brohn, who develops real estate projects for such performances, heard some of the people behind Galactic Starcruiser discuss the project at a conference.

“These guys legitimately ran a show 24 hours,” he said. “Everything is the show and the show is everything. It was just a huge undertaking; can’t help but salute them.”

Disney fan sites cover cupcakes, characters — and now, political wars

And that dedication to the story won guests over.

“The Cast truly gets to know the guests on the Starcruiser, which makes you feel special,” Lynn Wolverton, owner of Alluring Enchantments Travel, said in an email. “We would be walking around and they would call us by our first names and truly remember who each guest is.”

Wolverton raved about her May 2022 experience on her travel agency’s blog, and said she booked many travelers who had hoped to return in 2024.

Discounts spell disaster

Within months of the opening, however, fan sites that cover Disney noticed there were few sold-out voyages on the calendar from late summer of 2022. Some 2023 voyages were canceled, and then more. The company started to offer deals to some crowds, including members of its timeshare program and annual passholders.

“Disney doesn’t offer discounts unless it has to,” said Samantha Souza, a Disney content creator who has been flagging issues with Galactic Starcruiser since last year. As a former cruise line employee who directed interactive murder mystery-type dinner shows, she said she witnessed the reluctance of passengers to repeat an experience they had already done.

“If they’ve seen it, they’ve seen it,” she said.

why disney’s star wars hotel failed so fast

Rooms in the Galactic Starcruiser featured bunk-bed setups and no windows.

Souza said Disney’s decision to highlight its more recent movies — Kylo Ren and Rey, the lead characters of the latest trilogy, are featured on the Starcruiser instead of original characters Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader — likely put a dent in demand. She thinks video spoilers posted by media and influencers might also have hurt, and she doesn’t believe Disney ever effectively portrayed the experience in its marketing efforts.

Despite the interest of some of her clients, Wolverton said the experience was “not for the masses” because of the price and role-playing element. She thinks demand would have been higher if it were a larger, more typical deluxe hotel with themed Star Wars experiences available to guests.

“I really hope they can turn it into a normal hotel experience with some themed extras,” she said in her email. “It’s truly so unique and awesome! I am so sad to see it go.”

The intense experience created a niche audience for the Starcruiser, said former Imagineer Jim Shull, who retired in 2020 after more than three decades. The ideal guest had to be a Star Wars fan who was willing to drop a wad of cash on less-than-luxury accommodations. Some visitors found windowless rooms, bunk-bed setups and the lack of a pool unappealing.

“No matter how good the product is, no matter how good the hotel was, there just aren’t enough people who could come night after night to make that a success financially,” he said.

And even if every room wasn’t full, Disney would still have to shoulder the high labor costs of a spaceship full of heroes, villains and aliens for hire.

A tax write-off worth millions

Disney released news of the closure last week, on the same day it announced the company was axing another project: a long-planned, long-delayed office complex in Orlando worth nearly $1 billion. That retreat came amid political drama; Disney is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over alleged political retaliation in a feud that has simmered for more than a year.

And the cost-cutting moves follow internal upheaval. Chapek, a onetime parks chairman who was named CEO a few years after he introduced the Starcruiser, was ousted late last year. His predecessor, Bob Iger, returned to the company as CEO.

Shull said that based on his decades of experience at the company, he would estimate investments in Galactic Starcruiser reached nearly $1 billion between construction, tech development and operation. Disney has not said how much the project cost and declined to address the $1 billion estimate. The company acquired the Star Wars rights in a $4.5 billion deal for Lucasfilm in 2012.

Shull said the company would have examined every option before shutting down such a major enterprise. He also said that if the Starcruiser were losing money now, the company would not want it to lose money in the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

Speaking at the JP Morgan conference this week, D’Amaro said Disney would accelerate the project’s depreciation by $100 million to $150 million this quarter and next, essentially turning the failed enterprise into a way to reduce the company’s tax liability amid layoffs and a slew of cost-cutting measures.

“The stock market is not a patient master and so this is a quick technique to try to improve that bottom line,” said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting. He said that the amount would indicate that the project cost at least $300 million — “that’s the floor.”

Disney nixes big Florida project, a fresh blow amid feud with DeSantis

Disney’s biggest misses

Disney, of course, has missed the mark before.

Hill said he got “Disney Institute vibes” while visiting the Starcruiser in March, referencing an educational campus and resort that closed in the early 2000s. The company also launched and shuttered the gaming attraction Disney Quest, which had massive indoor arcades in Chicago and Central Florida, and scrapped the NBA Experience in Florida, an interactive venue full of basketball activities. It also abandoned the idea of a Virginia-based theme park about American history.

“This is the thing about the mouse,” Hill said. “It’s just sort of like: ‘We’re not making the money you said we’d make.’ And it’s full stop.”

But theme park consultant Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, said Disney tends to “eventually get it right.” He pointed out Pleasure Island, a nightclub area that’s now part of the Disney Springs retail center, and Disney California Adventure, which received a makeover and additional investment before turning into a profitable second theme park alongside Disneyland.

In its statement about the shuttering of Galactic Starcruiser last week, Disney said it would apply the lessons to new ventures in the future.

“This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans,” the statement said.

The company isn’t saying more about what those future experiences might look like, and said there are no immediate plans for the hotel structure itself. Disney is working with cast members and unions to relocate the employees to other parts of the company.

But observers are hopeful the company will keep experimenting in the immersive space.

“This was Disney’s first shot; what is next?” Brohn asked. “They have this amazing catalogue. You want them to keep gambling, you want them to keep shooting for the stars.”

News Related


2 blind passengers say being ordered to leave a cruise ship before it set sail was 'humiliating': report

The passengers had booked a cruise on the P&O Ventura. Getty Images Two blind passengers told ITV News they were ordered to leave a P&O Cruises ship.  Pam May and ... Read more »

Shelbourne announce Hull City owner as new majority shareholder

Shelbourne’s new majority shareholder Acun Ilicali. SHELBOURNE HAVE ANNOUNCED thatTurkish media mogul and Hull City owner Acun Ilicali will become the club’s new majority shareholder. Ilicali has been linked with ... Read more »

Tesco accused of 'breaking the law' over 'misleading' Clubcard price labels

Which? has accused Tesco of ‘breaking the law’ over its Clubcard price labels The consumer group Which? has accused Tesco of “breaking the law” with its Clubcard price promotions. Which? ... Read more »

Ranvir Singh broke down in tears after being axed from ITV show just 15 months into job

Ranvir Singh spoke candidly in a new interview where she admitted leaving her “secure” job at the BBC and moving to rival channel ITV after being headhunted for a national ... Read more »

Toyota becomes first WEC manufacturer to develop hydrogen prototype concept

The car was unveiled on Friday at Le Mans and is due to complete a demonstration lap of the circuit on Saturday morning with Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda driving. The ... Read more »

More than 270 Wicklow groups benefit from Community Awards Scheme

More than 270 local groups and organisations have been awarded grants by Wicklow County Council as part of the Community Awards Scheme 2023, representing an increase of almost 21 per ... Read more »

Cory Hill withdraws from Wales World Cup squad to pursue club offer

Wales rugby player Cory Hill. CORY HILL HAS become the latest player to withdraw from Wales’ preliminary World Cup training squad. The former Cardiff and Dragons lock, who had been ... Read more »

Jamie Oliver shares best method to cook ‘perfect poached eggs' in minutes

Poached egg The biggest challenge with poaching eggs is that you want the water to be as hot as possible, so the egg sets quickly, but if the water is ... Read more »

Dublin punish sloppy Cork with a goal to stun Rebels

Dublin 1-18 Cork 2-12 Stephen Barry reports from UPMC Nowlan Park DUBLIN PRODUCED A phenomenal comeback to advance to their first All-Ireland minor football semi-final in six years after Paddy ... Read more »

Dublin seal All-Ireland MFC semi-final spot with dramatic comeback against Cork

Dublin produced a phenomenal comeback to advance to their first All-Ireland minor football semi-final in six years after Paddy Curry stung Cork for a 67th-minute giveaway goal. Cork will have ... Read more »

Caretaker of Soul Survivor Watford church was child sex offender

Matt Robinson was suspended from Soul Survivor Watford church in 2018 while he was being investigated by Hertfordshire police – Julian Simmonds The caretaker of the embattled Soul Survivor Watford ... Read more »

Mum of Hutch relative Christopher Coakley made ‘great efforts’ to keep him out of trouble

TWO brothers related to Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch and behind regular mini-crime waves in Dublin city centre were both back before the courts again this week. Blaine and Christopher Coakley ... Read more »

Question Time: Tory Minister Lee Rowley forgets Rishi Sunak’s five Conservative pledges

Tory minister Lee Rowley struggled to name all five of Rishi Sunak’s pledges when he was put on the spot during a Question Time debate on Thursday night. Prompted by ... Read more »

One of the world's shortest Pride marches will take place on a housing estate

Batt Close Pride is one of the shortest pride marches in the world (Picture: PA) A housing estate is preparing for one of the world’s shortest pride marches – measuring ... Read more »

Teenager killed in horror ambulance crash following police chase named as tributes pour in

Saul Cookson Tributes have poured in for a boy who died while being followed by police yesterday. Saul Cookson, 15, was named locally early this morning after he crashed into ... Read more »

Gay man receives homophobic death threats vowing to ‘end' him after moving neighbour's bin

Joshua Val Martin received death threat A gay man has received homophobic death threats which vowed to “end” and “destroy” him after moving his neighbour’s bin. Joshua ‘Josh’ Val Martin ... Read more »

Garry Ringrose marries Ellen Beirne in big week for Irish rugby weddings

It’s been a huge week for Irish rugby as three sportsmen have tied the knot across three countries, with plenty of the team jetting from place to place to celebrate. ... Read more »

'Sunak set him up!' Woman breaks down in tears over Boris quitting during GB News video

Man speaks about Boris Johnson resignation A woman has broken down in tears in a dramatic video following Boris Johnson’s resignation as MP – claiming “Rishi Sunak set him up”. ... Read more »

Trump's Former National Security Chief Says Ex-President Did 'Enormous Damage' To US, Republican Party

Trump’s Former National Security Chief Says Ex-President Did ‘Enormous Damage’ To US, Republican Party Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said the former president did ‘enormous damage’ to the country ... Read more »

Man pushes partner's head down toilet after downing three litres of wine together

A balding man with a cigarette and a striped jumper An angry boyfriend pushed his partner’s head into the toilet after she threw a dirty loo brush at him during ... Read more »

'Their relationship fizzled out' Friends of Taylor Swift and Matty Healy are not surprised it's over

It was a match that no one saw coming and a split that certainly has taken us by surprise as it is to be believed that Taylor Swift and Matty ... Read more »

Rory McIIroy reacts to Phil Mickleson’s lastest LIV comments

Rory McIlroy LIV The war between Rory Mcllroy and Phil Mickelson continues as Mickelson commented again about playing for the LIV Tour, which Mcllroy didn’t let go. Mickelson bragged that ... Read more »

Britain's Got Talent voting figures revealed as winner Viggo Venn booed at final show

Britain’s Got Talent voting figures have been revealed, which shows winner Viggo Venn bagged the title with a clear advantage despite being booed. The popular ITV show came to an ... Read more »

Shamrock Rovers cruise to victory at Sligo

Rovers stay top. Shamrock Rovers 3 Jessica Farry reports from The Showgrounds SHAMROCK ROVERS CONTINUE to lead the way at the table after a comprehensive 3-0 win over Sligo Rovers ... Read more »

Prince Andrew laughs as he gets stuck behind an 'oblivious' dog walker

andrew Prince Andrew was on a drive around when he appeared to get stuck behind a dog walker, who was clearly “oblivious” that she was blocking the Duke of York ... Read more »

Humans may only have two years before AI systems become too powerful to control, Sunak’s tech chief warns

The human race may only have two years left to tame advanced artificial intelligence systems before they become too powerful to control, Rishi Sunak’s chief adviser on the technology has ... Read more »

Apple announces iOS 17

iOS 17 is official. Apple’s iOS 17 is official, making its debut on WWDC 2023’s keynote stage. Highlights include redesigned contact cards and live voicemail. Your contact book is getting ... Read more »

Nearly 16,000 Ukrainian pupils signed up in Irish schools as Ireland has one of highest rates of enrolment

The number of Ukrainian pupils in Irish schools continues to rise, with 15,589 enrolled last month. In Europe, Ireland has one of the highest rates of enrolment for students who ... Read more »

Dannii Minogue to ‘play Cupid again’ on new BBC Three show I Kissed A Girl

Dannii Minogue will be “playing Cupid again” as host of new BBC Three dating show I Kissed A Girl. The Australian singer, sister of Kylie, announced the opening of applications ... Read more »

An internal Twitter document reportedly shows ad revenue down 59%, casting doubt on Elon Musk's statement that 'almost all advertisers have come back'

Advertising revenue is down at Twitter, according to internal documents obtained by The New York Times. Susan Walsh/AP Internal Twitter documents show the platform’s ad revenue down 59% year-over-year, The ... Read more »
Kênh kiến thức kỹ năng, phát triển bản thân, hướng nghiệp, blog nhân sự