"Do or do not," Yoda famously says in The Empire Strikes Back. "There is no try." With the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion at both of Disney's (NYSE:DIS) stateside theme park resorts falling into the "do not" camp these days, the entertainment giant is rolling out a promotional blitz on its own cable and media network properties to promote the new Star Wars-themed lands.
The media blitz kicks off on Tuesday with a promotional spot on ABC's Live with Kelly and Ryan in the morning and black-ish at night. The cadence will pick up on Thursday with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge being promoted on several ABC shows including Good Morning America, The View, and Nightline. Several of the network's primetime shows including Modern Family and Dancing with the Stars will follow throughout the next few days with nighttime plugs for the 14-acre expansion that opened at Disneyland in late May and Disney World three months later.
It's not just ABC that is getting the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge takeover. Neil Patrick Harris will host a two-hour primetime special on Freeform, promoting the new land in a celebrity-stacked presentation. Disney Channel will run segments featuring some of its stars building droids, drinking blue milk, and checking out the only ride currently available where folks fly the Millennium Falcon. Even ESPN is inexplicably getting in on the action, airing a segment during SportsCenter on Saturday morning with some of its College GameDay commentators experiencing the new land.
Getting it right the second time around
The promotional push will feel heavy-handed, but it's pretty clear that Disney overplayed its hand with its initial low-key approach to opening Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. CEO Bob Iger may have been half-joking earlier this year in an earnings call when he said that all that Disney would have to do was tweet "its opening" to promote the launch of the new land that is nearly identical in both parks, but overconfidence did not serve the House of Mouse well here.
Price hikes, blocking access to many of its seasonal passholders, and failing to open the flagship Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction on time have weighed on the expansion's lack of success. The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run flight simulator ride has opened to mixed reviews. It also doesn't help that Star Wars purists have a laundry list of complaints ranging from where Disney has taken the franchise in the past few films to the decision to go with a largely unfamiliar setting for the theme of Galaxy's Edge. You can't please them all, but Disney is struggling to just please some of them these days.
Disneyland attendance actually declined in its most recent quarter despite the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and there are rumblings and anecdotal evidence that the fiscal fourth quarter that ends next week is also running a bit sluggish. Hurricane Dorian didn't help at Disney World, but it may just wind up being a convenient scapegoat. The galactic takeover of Disney's deep bench of networks is a desperate push for attention, likely a sign that vacation bookings through the next few months are running weaker than expected.
It's not too late. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has all the makings of a bar-raising attraction. Disney will find ways to stock more familiar characters and franchise storylines if that's what is needed to improve attendance trends. It's just as easy to reverse passholder blockout dates and promote discounted admissions to reverse its earlier overconfidence, especially if investors and park goers alike brace for a possible global recession. Nothing is permanent -- including failure -- when you control so many juicy media assets.