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Another Reason Disney World's Least Popular Park Will Bounce Back

By Rick Munarriz - Mar 16, 2016 at 10:48AM

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The family entertainment giant should get a boost at its least visited Florida park with the new Indiana Jones movie in the works.

Fans of Indiana Jones got their wish yesterday: Walt Disney (DIS 1.84%) announced that it is going through with a fifth Indiana Jones movie. This will be the first film in the franchise since Disney shelled out more than $4 billion for Lucasfilm. It will also be the first entry that isn't being put out by Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIA) Paramount Pictures. Disney's deal with Lucasfilm allows it to refresh the franchise itself, so it won't have to go through Viacom. 

Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg are already on board for the movie that is slated to hit theaters in the summer of 2019. It's going to be huge, of course. It's also going to provide yet another boost to Disneyland in California as well as Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Both parks have popular Indiana Jones-themed attractions, and the movie's arrival should draw even more park guests. 

It may not move the needle at Disneyland, a park with so many rides and diversions that it attracted 16.8 million guests in 2014, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. However, the impact will be pretty evident at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the least visited park at Disney World in recent years. 

Unlike Disneyland with its thrilling Indiana Jones Adventure ride where guests hop on enhanced jeeps for a rollicking experience through a lost yet enchanted temple, Disney's Hollywood Studios only has a live stunt show that is performed a couple of times a day. Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a 30-minute performance, complete with audience interaction, choreographed fight sequences, exploding vehicles, and naturally the famous rolling boulder sequence that kicks off the show.

The rumor that has been making the rounds for years is that the stunt show will be replaced by an updated version of Disneyland's Indiana Jones-themed ride. That may still happen between now and when the movie debuts in three years, but the one thing that is now all but certain is that an Indiana Jones presence will remain at the park. It would be foolish to shutter the long-running show now with a green-lit movie project about to breathe new life into the franchise.

Yesterday's announcement also cements the status of Disney's Hollywood Studios as the media giant's biggest beneficiary of the Lucasfilm acquisition. Hosting the modest Star Wars-themed Star Tours motion simulator attraction made the park the promotion hub for Star Wars: The Force Awakens late last year, a move that will culminate in a few years when Star Wars Land debuts at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Now it will be in the perfect spot to take advantage of the rebirth of Lucasfilm's second biggest franchise.

It's a pretty big deal, and since it will be Disney -- and not Viacom -- putting out the movie you can be sure that Disney will spare no expense in making sure that there's a loud and active presence at its theme parks before July of 2019 rolls around. It wouldn't be a shock if Disneyland's ride gets added to the park now instead of simply replacing the stunt show. It would help the park through this awkward transition phase where there's a void of shuttered attractions that will take several years to replace with Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.

Disney's Hollywood Studios slipped to fourth place of Disney World's four theme parks in terms of attendance in 2010, and it has done little so far to claw its way out. Indiana Jones can help, but it's time for Jones and Disney to crack the whip to make things happen.

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