A force perhaps greater than the Jedi faith is likely to hit Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando this holiday weekend and it could prove harder than making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, to paraphrase Han Solo.
Just days after the House of Mouse opened its $1 billion-budgeted Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at the inland Central Florida resort, Hurricane Dorian, now strengthened to a Category 3, is heading towards land and the big-ticket fun palaces.
That means that after an early AM opening day Thursday that quickly exceeded capacity for the Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World, the much anticipated and pricey attraction could be drenched for large swaths of the usually well-vsited Labor Day weekend – a necessary curtailment that could cost Disney tens of millions in lost tourisim and ticket sales.
Both the Lake Buena Vista-set Disney World and Universal Orlando are hoping for the best but clearly preparing for the worst.
“Walt Disney World Resort is operating under normal conditions,” a company spokesperson said Friday as Dorian picked up steam. “We are closely monitoring the path of the projected weather, as nothing is more important than the safety of our guests and Cast Members,” the Disney staffer added, encouraging individuals and already paid-up visitors to visit a corporate website for more up to date information over the next 72 hours.
“We are taking precautions including canceling weekend sporting events and closing Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park on Sunday,” the spokesperson also said of the now shuttered Disney Soccer Showcase Qualifier and Disney Labor Day Baseball Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. “We are also contacting guests with current and upcoming reservations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to plan for anticipated weather impacts.”
Harsh weather is of course nothing new to Florida nor to Disney World, which has shut down in some capacity or another a total of seven times since the attraction opened in 1971. Most recently, the sprawling theme park closed September 9-10 in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma and for part of October 6 and all of October 7 in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew slapped the area. That latter closure is estimated to have cost the entertainment giant around $40 million in lost revenue.
Universal Orlando also shut down for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma and says it is prepped for Dorian if need be over the holiday weekend.
“We are closely monitoring the weather,” Universal Orlando’s senior director of PR Alyson Lundell said Friday. “At this time our park operations and hours are continuing as normal. We have plans and procedures for serious weather that are time-proven and we will continue to make operating decisions as we learn more.”
The Rolling Stones, the NCAA and ESPN have already made some operating decisions based on Dorian, which is projected to reach a Category 4 by the time it makes landfall later on Sunday. “Boise State vs. Florida State will move to noon ET on Saturday, with the game now being played on ESPNEWS and moving from Jacksonville to Tallahassee,” ESPN said Thursday ahead of a big college football weekend.
That’s a move of location, time and broadcast for the opening-weekend game, which was originally later in the afternoon on ESPN. Two other games also have had to shift in the schedule to accommodate.
Back on the road, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood and gang also are trying to side-step Dorian. In tweets today and yesterday, the Stones confirmed they moved up their August 31 stadium show in Miami to tonight – despite the hassle it might cause some fans who seemingly don’t care about the “crossfire hurricane,” to use a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” lyric, or potential destruction it could cause.
Due to the weather forecast, the Rolling Stones Hard Rock Stadium show scheduled for Sat Aug 31 has been moved to tomorrow night, Fri Aug 30. All tickets will be honored for the new date. There will be no opening act-doors will open at 6PM ET & the Stones will go on at 8:30PM ET.
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) August 29, 2019
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) August 30, 2019
As the Stones might end with a rare few empty seats for their show tonight, Disney could feel Dorian in the pocketbook too.
Coming off a bumpy third quarter report earlier this month, Disney saw theme parks and resorts attendance down about 3%. CEO Bob Iger said that the less than stellar crowds at the spring opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in Anaheim and stay-ways from concerns about long lines and thick crowds made him realize that “it’s going to take some time for things to work themselves out.”
With a growing Dorian projected to slam into the Orlando area on Monday, time is not something neither Disney nor the Comcast-owned nearby Universal theme park has in abundance during what is usually one of their busiest periods.
Looking at the big and small screen, from the now wrapped Showtime series On Becoming a God in Central Florida and onwards, no filming in Florida seems to be impacted by Hurricane Dorian. Next door in Georgia, home of The Walking Dead, also hasn’t seen any production impacts.
But keep checking back for updates, as this could all get very wet and very nasty very quickly.