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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Disney Closes Out 2019 with Big Tests

by Ray Keating
December 1, 2019

November and December of this year rank as an important moment for The Walt Disney Company. Specifically, it’s a time of creative and financial tests for the House of Mouse. It also captures the firm’s reach across forms of entertainment.

The company came through November in stellar fashion.

First, the Disney+ streaming service launched on November 12 in generally smooth fashion, and the number of subscribers moved beyond the 10-million mark in a day. That was welcome news in financial markets. For good measure, the content has been impressive, from the existing vast Disney-owned library to originals, including, most notably, The Mandalorian.

Second, on November 15, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows) was launched to rave reviews in the gaming community. It has become a big hit in terms of sales as well, according to a variety of reports.

Third, looking forward to what’s coming this month, the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride opens on December 5 in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios park. (It will open on January 17, 2020, in Disneyland.) Disney describes Rise of the Resistance as “a massive attraction with multiple ride systems that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World Resort.” 

The Rise of the Resistance ride will be another test for Disney’s investment in Galaxy’s Edge at both Walt Disney World and in Disneyland. Doom-and-gloom talk about Galaxy’s Edge largely has been off the mark. With the opening of Rise of the Resistance, I fully expect Galaxy’s Edge to become a much more obvious plus for Walt Disney World and the company, which will be further fed by the eventual arrival of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser immersive hotel. For good measure, the success of Star Wars streaming originals like The Mandalorian will further feed interest in Galaxy’s Edge.

Fourth, there is the arrival of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters on December 20. This film perhaps ranks as the true test of Disney’s magic regarding Star Wars. Quite simply, the question is: Can The Rise of Skywalker make people forget the financial failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story and the creative mess of Star Wars: The Last Jedi? That part of the story will be told soon, but for now, we know that early ticket sales point to a big opening weekend topping $200 million domestically.

If The Rise of Skywalker turns out to be a financial and fan hit – as I expect – that will feed back into further Star Wars success for Disney on the streaming, theme park, gaming and movie fronts.  Oh yeah, and don’t get me started on Star Wars merchandise. Yes, November and December 2019 serve as a kind of test period for Disney, which the company is likely to pass with flying colors.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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