Walt Disney World has added showtimes for Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with two performances per evening now scheduled for many dates through Winter 2023. Here’s a full rundown of performance times and what to expect in terms of crowds based on our experiences with the second showing this holiday season.
You might recall that Fantasmic was scheduled for two performances its first few nights back, but only a single showing thereafter. To the surprise of absolutely no one, except (seemingly) Walt Disney World management, high crowds continued and second showtimes were added to the schedule through New Year’s to help absorb the peak season crowds.
Previously, the second showtime was scheduled to end following the 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon. We’ve repeatedly pointed to that weekend–and the following Monday when local schools go back into session following the end of their winter breaks–as the conclusion of the peak holiday season at Walt Disney World. So it’s actually somewhat surprising that Walt Disney World is adding even more second showtimes for Fantasmic after that.
Now, we have more information about the newly-added Fantasmic showtimes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for mid-January 2023. According to the online show schedule on disneyworld.com and in the My Disney Experience app, showtimes will be as follows:
December 28, 2022 to January 14, 2023
January 15 to February 26, 2023
Note that on most nights in Winter 2023, the showtime for Fantasmic is at 9:30 pm, which is after the 9 pm park closing time for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This could be indicative that park hours will be extended, but don’t count on it.
Historically, it’s not uncommon for one of the nighttime spectaculars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to occur at park closing or 30 minutes after. This allows Disney to effectively extend the closing time by an hour or more (given the duration of Fantasmic and longer time it takes to clear the park after it ends) but without running rides during that time.
It’s a savvy strategy and one we’re expecting to see going forward. It also allows Walt Disney World to offer more ADRs, which is revenue-generating upside that’s also good for guests for want to eat late and couldn’t find reservations earlier.
When Walt Disney World added second showtimes for the holiday season, we praised the move, noting that it would be necessary for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Marathon Weekend. Those are all busy dates, each filled with fresh tourists, or people who have not seen Fantasmic in at least 3 years, if ever.
In short, there was more than enough demand for a second showtime those dates, and only one performance of Fantasmic wouldn’t have cut it. Tons of guests would’ve been shut out of the only showtime, and online reports of that would’ve only exacerbated the crowding on Sunset Boulevard as people would’ve lined up earlier and earlier to ensure they got a seat.
However, it’s unlikely that’ll be the attendance dynamic starting January 9, 2023. Even if this winter is another above-average one crowd-wise, it definitely will not be on par with the busier dates this holiday season. At worst, it’ll likely be more comparable to shoulder season or what crowds were like in mid-November and early December.
We did Fantasmic multiple times this month (all prior to Christmas week), and managed to see the second show from spectacular seats. While the first performance (which we also saw on some nights) was usually quite busy and close to full, that was seldom the case for the second showtimes. That’s what we’d expect for these Winter 2023 dates when second showings of Fantasmic have been added.
You thus might assume it’s “best” to see the second showing of Fantasmic. If having an excellent view from one of the center sections is of paramount importance, that’s absolutely the case. Those areas are set aside for the Fantasmic Dining Packages during the first showtime, whereas they’re typically open for the second showtime. (At least, that has been the case so far–but it could change in 2023.)
You can line up to see Fantasmic up to 90 minutes in advance, but that’s overkill about 95% of the time–especially for the second show. By arriving ~30 minutes before showtime, you should get a spot that is relatively centered and close to the stage. This is pretty conservative, and not our actual advice.
Rather, on evenings with two showings of Fantasmic, our advice is to see the first showing! A lot of our normal DHS strategy can be described as zigging when they zag and bucking conventional wisdom. This is the opposite of that…zagging with the masses or going with the flow, I guess?
Again, the first Fantasmic is always the more crowded of the two and usually by a considerable margin. Our advice acknowledges that and we recommend seeing the first showing in spite of that reality. Other planning resources are going to recommend seeing the second show for the exact same reason–the second showing is always less popular. That’s the “smart” move when considering Fantasmic in a vacuum.
However, Fantasmic does not exist in a vacuum and the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is significantly less crowded at the end of the night. Seeing its first performance allows you to knock out headliner attractions with minimal wait after its over. We’re talking posted wait times under an hour for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog Dash, with actual wait times typically around half of what’s posted.
Aside from Tower of Terror, our experience with the end of the night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been incredibly positive since Fantasmic returned. We feared the low crowd evenings would end with the return of the nighttime spectacular, but that hasn’t been the case. We’ve even managed to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as a near walk-on once (don’t expect to replicate that unless you get lucky with crowds and weather/temperatures).
If you opt to see the first performance of Fantasmic on these nights when there are 2 showtimes, arriving 30 minutes in advance should suffice no matter the crowd level. You might even be fine showing up 20 minutes ahead of time, depending upon overall crowd levels.
If you choose to disregard our advice and see the second show, you can often arrive even more last minute. Recently, we’ve shown up 10-15 minutes in advance and still gotten stellar seats. Keep in mind that this will not always be possible. If it’s simply a weekday during the holiday season–but not a peak week or weekend–less time will suffice. The busier the date, the earlier you need to arrive!
With that said, we do have even more alternative advice. First, is the extreme strategy. On nights when the second Fantasmic is after park closing, do attractions until the last minute, and then race to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater right before the clock strikes 9:30 pm.
This is actually what we’ve been doing since the second showtime of Fantasmic moved to 9:30 pm. The only downside is that it’s risky, especially if you’re lining up for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 8:45 pm or later–or doing anything right before park closing. We’ve missed the start of Fantasmic by cutting it too close. No big deal to us, as we’ve seen the new version of the show multiple times already. Obviously, your circumstances probably differ.
Finally, you can consult our Viewing Guide for Fantasmic at Walt Disney Worldfor all of our tips to get the best seats without paying extra for the package. That also covers which sections are the best for those who are very particular about having the optimal view.
Ultimately, Walt Disney World adding second showtimes of Fantasmic in Winter 2023 is great news, with no real downside. This is not indicative of larger crowds or unprecedented demand. I know many of you are weary of everything Walt Disney World does these days, but this is an unequivocal positive. There is no catch!
This makes strategizing for Disney’s Hollywood Studios easier, and should be a relief for those of you who were shut out of the Fantasmic Dining Packages. While those are a nice safety net or insurance policy, they’re totally unnecessary on normal nights when there are two performances of Fantasmic. Beyond that, this makes it easier to accomplish headliners in the evening hours, making it less ‘essential’ to purchase the Genie+ service at DHS.
With all of that said, it’ll be interesting to see whether Walt Disney World keeps doing second showtimes of Fantasmic throughout 2023. There are a few possibilities here. The first is that Disney will see there isn’t sufficient demand to justify continuing to do this, and it’ll end right before the winter holidays (MLK Day, Lunar New Year, Presidents’ Day & Mardi Gras) spike crowds again.
This wouldn’t surprise me. Many fans give Disney far too much credit when it comes to using data for resource allocation and crowd forecasting. They’re far more reactionary than you might think, as evidenced by many scheduling decisions (including last July’s second showing of the Disney Enchantment fireworks…beginning after the peak of summer crowds).
Another alternative is that Walt Disney World will start eliminating the second showtimes for winter weekdays and other dates that are less likely to have large crowds, but keep them for weekends and holidays. Although reactionary, Disney should have enough booking data to indicate that the aforementioned holidays–especially the week following Presidents’ Day–will be busy.
Finally, it’s possible that Walt Disney World already knows 2 showtimes of Fantasmic aren’t strictly “necessary” for most days, but 1 showtime is insufficient. The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater is enormous, and great at accommodating a large percentage of guests in DHS who want to see Fantasmic. Still, that might not be enough for only one showtime. Since there is no “in-between” option, it’s a matter of erring on the side of too many or too few showtimes–and Disney might be inclined to simply choose too many.
One thing that does remain to be seen is whether Walt Disney World will add Fantasmic to the Genie+ service. We previously predicted that this would occur, and are honestly surprised that it hasn’t happened yet. If Disney wanted to ‘load balance’ Lightning Lane availability and demand for Fantasmic, the best option would be offering Lightning Lane access for only the second showing of Fantasmic and keeping the first standby only.
It’s also possible that the logistics or staffing demands of a Lightning Lane entrance for Fantasmic are too difficult right now–or that Disney is waiting before introducing Lightning Lane access until 2023. As we’ve said before, we think Genie+ for Fantasmic is the “correct” course of action, especially now that it’s evident that there’s sufficient standby availability most of the time. Regardless, the second showtime makes Fantasmic much easier to see.
What are your thoughts on Walt Disney World adding a second showtime for Fantasmic during Winter 2023? Have you experienced the reimagined Fantasmic since its return? Thoughts on crowds for the 1st v. 2nd showtimes? What about wait times around DHS during the last ~2 hours of the night? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!