With a couple of weeks under its belt, it's fair to say that Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance -- the new ride that the theme park operator opened in Florida, and not to be confused with this weekend's theatrical release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker -- is a bonafide success. The new multi-layered attraction where park guests are arrested by the nefarious First Order before a daring high-tech escape finds several thousands of folks camping outside the turnstile of Disney's Hollywood Studios to get a crack at the limited number of boarding passes that run out roughly within the first hour of operation.
The new ride has had some challenging days when it comes to uptime since opening on Dec. 5, but the recent trends are encouraging. Rise of the Resistance hasn't had a material breakdown in the past three days, according to the park traffic trackers at TouringPlans.com, and it has gone through a record number of boarding groups in each of the past two days. Improving on uptime is significant, especially as the park's two largest rivals in Central Florida continue to grapple with the reliability of their newest attractions. The timing also couldn't be better, as Disneyland plans to open the same ride in less than a month, and it needs an injection of freshness to start growing its guest count again.
Piece de Resistance
This is a huge month for Disney's Star Wars franchise even before we consider the new ride, and it's generally hitting it out of the park.
- The Mandalorian on Disney+ is the platform's first hit, and the initial season concludes on Dec. 27.
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened on Thursday to lukewarm reviews from movie critics, but audiences love it. The 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is double the 43% score of its predecessor, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You have to go back more than 36 years to the original trilogy to find a theatrical release with a higher audience score.
- On the gaming front, Jedi: Fallen Order came out in mid-November, and according to NPD Group it was the country's second-best selling video game last month. It's a good sign to have a strong game heading into the holiday shopping season.
It's been a month of debunking fears for Star Wars. The new TV show is a pop culture sensation, and the only shareholder complaint is that it underestimated the eventual demand for products related to the "Baby Yoda" character. Thursday's previews for The Rise of Skywalker raked in just $40 million in ticket sales that day -- less than the last two films in the franchise -- but strong viewer reviews should translate into healthy word-of-mouth gains in the coming weeks. As for Rise of the Resistance, a ride that some feared was being rushed to market to make up for the initial lack of buzz for the Galaxy's Edge expansion at Disneyland and Disney World is a game-changing hit.
The timing of the franchise's ascent is significant. There's only so much money for consumer discretionary stocks to fight for this time of year, and Disney's making sure that it woos Star Wars buffs at theme parks and movie theaters, as well as closer to home for those playing video games or streaming video. Disney's fiscal first quarter, which ends later this month, will have a lot of hype to live up to when Disney reports in early February.