There’s something funny going on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Since the closure of the Backlot Tour last September, the park continues to evolve into a shell of its former self. Several more attractions have closed – with several more expected in the future – leaving the park devoid of any substantial attractions to keep guests in-park for a full day.
There is a plan in place however. For several years now, rumors have circulated that the end-game is to completely re-brand Hollywood Studios similar to Disney’s California Adventure $1 billion overhaul – and include a Star Wars Land and an expanded Pixar presence. Some other rumors say a few other additions are coming, such as an Indiana Jones Adventure clone from Disneyland, but those claims aren’t as concrete as Star Wars or Pixar.
These changes aren’t imminent, however.
As it stands, no movement on construction has been made. The current projection is that the overhaul, at best, will not begin until Avatar over at Animal Kingdom is completed in 2017. Based on Disney’s current construction pace, that would mean an estimated 2020-2021 time frame for Hollywood Studios – which would have it opening by Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Recent conversations have speculated that Disney plans to spend $3 billion dollars into Walt Disney World, including the overhaul of the Studios. Recently, Jim Hill was a guest on Parkscope’s lastest podcast and stated that once Hollywood Studios is completed, it could be the crown-jewel of the entire Disney World resort. A worthwhile addition of the Star Wars brand is going to conjure up all kinds of hype – possibly equivalent to Potter’s opening hype. The final product could undoubtedly be spectacular.
But these are all rumors and speculation at this point. What about the park’s condition in it’s current state?
As it stands now, Hollywood Studios is ranked 4th among the Walt Disney World parks, behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The same Animal Kingdom where Disney execs have openly admitted isn’t a “full-day park”. Granted it’s small difference between the two parks, but Animal Kingdom has garnered more attendance than Hollywood Studios for 5 years running. The opening of Avatar will surely increase the gap between the two, and Frozen Ever After opening at Epcot – which most likely means the end of Frozen Summer Fun – isn’t going to do any favors for attendance at the Studios. In addition, Universal Orlando continues to invest heavily into their resort, slowly taking up more of Orlando’s market share.
Hollywood Studios is currently offering 11 attractions total:
- The Great Movie Ride
- Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- For the First Time in Forever, A Frozen Sing-a-long Celebration
- Lights, Motors, Action!
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Disney Junior – Live on Stage
- Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
*Those in bold denote attractions that are “safe” from replacement.
7 of those attractions are stage shows, meaning less than half the park is dedicated to actual rides; and half of the rides listed are all on the chopping block once the expansion commences. It’s not all bad as Hollywood Studios features some true gems. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is widely considered one of the top 3 attractions in Orlando. In addition, Hollywood Studios features some great in-park restaurants, such as Sci-Fi Diner and 50’s Prime Time Café – but it’s not enough.
How long can Disney justify charging $100 for a 1-day ticket until guests start to react negatively? Obviously ticket prices aren’t going to be reduced, but the real question will be if guests will refuse to even bother visiting the park; opting to visit more fulfilling options around Orlando – like Disney’s water parks or the other resorts. The park’s saving grace right now is the ability to add the “Park Hopper” option and Frozen Summer Fun, but that can only shoulder the burden for so long.
Many fans are feverishly awaiting this year’s D23 Expo for Disney executives to finally announce something for Hollywood Studios future, and are crossing fingers that sunny days are coming sooner rather than later.
At least they took care of the Sorcerer’s Hat already.