The Hollywood Reporter broke the story yesterday: Catherine Powell, who oversaw Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World and Disneyland, is leaving the company, her position will be eliminated altogether and her staff will now report directly to Bob Chapek, the chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products. The Hollywood Reporter article implies that Howell’s departure may have something to do with the drop in theme park attendance, following the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. Click through for some more details!
While the exact reasons for the decision to remove Powell are unknown, the question is if it happened in reaction to disappointing attendance numbers in the US.
In fact, Pete Werner, the co-owner of the top rated US Disney theme parks travel agency “Dreams Unlimited Travel” talked about slow business and dropping attendance in a recent YouTube video on his DIS Unplugged channel, you can find the relevant section in the last 20 minutes of the video.
According to Werner, it’s mostly the price hike that is responsible for the current decline in theme park visitors. But Disney is reacting with all new discounts and blockouts for castmembers have been lifted as well. Werner wonders why all these discounts are coming out from Disney, when Disney originally stated that they would use ticket prices as a kind of crowd control? This is actually Disney’s reasoning for the price increase in 2019, as you can read on their official Disney Parks Blog.
Well, this seems to work, according to Werner he received a lot of feedback from people who didn’t renew their annual passes, because Disney has finally priced them out. And we all know that Disney reported declining attendance numbers in their last quarterly report. So why then all the attempts to lure back visitors with discounts when the price increase was meant to reduce crowds?
To me, it seems that Disney also increased prices expecting a huge influx of visitors wanting to check out the brand new Galaxy’s Edge, but this didn’t work out all that well, apparently. Now, to make that clear, Galaxy’s Edge is certainly not to blame for the current drop in theme park attendance, the theme parks as a whole are affected, but it certainly also didn’t do anything to counter the effect of the 2019 price hike, which is something Disney may have hoped for. It may be that Disney miscalculated things here.
In light of all this the decision to make the exclusive Star Wars hotel in Orlando such an expensive experience (costing as much as $3,300 for a single person) may not be so wise.
It remains to be seen if Rise of the Resistance can turn things around a bit. But according to alleged insiders Disney is facing immense technical difficulties with the ride, which lead to the delay and it’s not entirely certain that Rise of the Resistance will actually open later this year in Orlando and early 2020 in Anaheim.
The removal of Catherine Powell may just be a pawn sacrifice, when the real culprit here is Disney’s overall theme park strategy. Also, it was Bob Chapek, who now takes on Powell’s staff, who decided to trim down many of Galaxy Edge’s features, such as roaming remote controlled droids and using professional actors to portray aliens and other Star Wars characters in the alleyways of Batuu. A Galaxy’s Edge with more features may have attracted more visitors. But just one ride and a few shops apparently don’t convince too many people to pay the high 2019 ticket prices.
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