June 21, 2024

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Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Hotel, Galactic Starcruiser, to Close

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After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build an immersive “Star Wars”-themed hotel at Walt Disney World, Disney said on Thursday that, amid sweeping corporate cost-cutting, it would close the underperforming attraction in September, only about 18 months after it opened.

The attraction, called Galactic Starcruiser, was marketed as part luxury hotel, part theme park ride, part role-playing game.

Guests are welcomed aboard a 275-year-old space liner and take a celestial voyage on which they might be asked to deliver a secret message, head to the engine room to help repair a fuel valve, or participate in lightsaber training.

Disney said the hotel’s “final voyage” would take place Sept. 28 to 30. Guests who had already booked the hotel after September will be contacted to discuss options to modify their plans, the company said, and new bookings were being paused to prioritize those guests.

All visits are two-night stays with a starting cost of more than $4,800 for two people and around $6,000 for a family of four. For authenticity, the 100 cabins at the Florida hotel have no windows. Instead, stars, planets and asteroid showers are shown on video screens.

The announcement came as Disney pulled the plug on plans to build a $1 billion office complex in Orlando, a decision said to be influenced by the company’s feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. It was also not long after Robert A. Iger, in his return as the company’s chief executive, unveiled a corporate restructuring intended to cut costs by $5.5 billion.

Expectations were high for the hotel after it opened in March 2022. Two months later, Bob Chapek, who was then Disney’s chief executive, described demand for stays as strong and said the company expected “100 percent utilization” through the end of the third quarter.

“Response to next-generation storytelling like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has been phenomenal,” he said at the time.

Some fans were not shocked by the plans to close Galactic Starcruiser, including Dylan Dickson, who runs the Theme Park Obsession YouTube channel.

In a video in response to the closing, he called the hotel’s short run “disappointing” and “a shame” and suggested that the company tried to subtly bury the news.

But the story took hold on Twitter, where one user lamented that he never got the chance to try the blue-colored shrimps offered at the hotel. Another, poking fun at the futuristic concrete building with few windows, joked that the hotel would be converted into a prison.

Mr. Dickson said he thought the exorbitant price brought the hotel “to its demise,” and he argued that Disney fans should instead visit a park abroad for the same cost. He himself never stayed at the hotel, saying in an email that “the price didn’t justify the experience.”

He thought another “big issue” with Galactic Starcruiser was that it only offered one scenario: Guests are recruited to help either the evil First Order or the gutsy Resistance. That, he said, limited any incentive to return.

“It’s just odd that Disney isn’t willing to figure out a way to discount the experience to make it more obtainable for the average family,” Mr. Dickson said.

In his YouTube video, he said: “All that wasted money, company money, time, blood, sweat and tears that went into this. To me, that’s offensive to the Imagineers. That’s a slap in the face.”

The “Imagineers” are the team at Disney that develops theme park attractions. The company had planned to relocate much of that department to the now-canceled Orlando campus.

In a statement this week, Disney said, “We are so proud of all of the cast members and Imagineers who brought Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to life and look forward to delivering an excellent experience for guests during the remaining voyages over the coming months.”

Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, noted to employees in an email on Thursday that $17 billion was earmarked for construction at Disney World over the next decade, which he estimated would create 13,000 jobs.

“I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business,” he wrote.

Lauren McCarthy

2023-05-20 18:54:34

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