Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance continues to be the most popular attraction at Walt Disney World, which has repeatedly led to extensions of park hours at Hollywood Studios, with 7 am opening times becoming the norm. That has happened once again, with revised operating schedules for the entirety of February 2020.
Even during what should be the doldrums of the winter off-season (although it hasn’t often felt like it this year!), Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been packed and the virtual queue is filling up quickly. This can likely be attributed to strong word of mouth and better guest education about what’s necessary to ride.
On comments to our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance posts, the resounding reader sentiment is that the attraction is worth the early wake-up call to experience. We definitely agree (see our spoiler-free Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Review). In addition to taking a look at the latest hours extension, we’ll also offer some commentary, plus speculation about the future of these extensions, and an update on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance operations in this post…
Before delving into this update, let’s reiterate once more that most questions you have are likely answered by our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Earlier this week, we once again updated that with new info and more answers to questions readers that were frequently being asked by readers in the comments. That’s basically Rise of the Resistance 101.
That FAQ & Ride Guide is already pretty long, so we’re hesitant to add even more to it, but if you want a 300/400 level crash course in scoring a lower number boarding group, see the top section (before the FAQ) of our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Disneyland Strategy Guide. Yes, that’s for the California version of the attraction, but the same ‘fast-finger’ strategy applies for My Disney Experience.
Moving along to park hours, opening time remains 7 am with 8 pm closings for the remainder of January 2020. As you might recall, these dates were all originally 9 am openings, but were first moved forward to 8 am before eventually landing on the current 7 am opening time.
The latest changes concern February 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will now open at 7 am through February 3, with 8 am openings beginning February 4 and continuing for the duration of the month. The park will continue to close at 8 pm, which we do not anticipate changing. The opening hours are a different story…
While it’s possible that Walt Disney World is going to slowly phase out the 7 am openings beginning in early February, we do not believe that to be the case. It seems much more likely that this is another instance of incremental extensions coming only a couple of weeks out.
There’s no reason to extend park hours for February 3, 2020 (which is a Monday during a week that’s historically slow) but not for the two weekends that follow. This is especially true of Presidents’ Day and the entire week that follows, which is one of the busier weeks of the year thanks to that holiday and the Princess Half Marathon bookending the week.
Quite simply, it’s highly unlikely that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be opening at 8 am any day during the week of Presidents’ Day.
Why Walt Disney World is still doing these gradual extensions is beyond us. Since literally the day it opened, we’ve been hammering on the reality that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be popular for years. Demand will far exceed its daily capacity for the next decade.
The most likely potential explanation for these delayed extensions is not that Walt Disney World is waiting until the last minute to gauge demand, but waiting until the last minute to gauge supply. It’s no secret that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance still has reliability and uptime issues. What’s not so common knowledge is that it’s operating at nowhere near full capacity.
Improvements on those fronts could enable the attraction to handle more riders per day. That would mean distributing more boarding passes, which wouldn’t be gone as quickly in the morning. Theoretically, that would mean guests would stop feeling the need to arrive so early, allowing Walt Disney World to get away with the 8 am opening time.
As we see it, there’s another potential problem with opening Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 8 or 9 am. Right now, the main complaint we’re seeing about the earlier opening time is that it’s difficult for families to get their kids up by ~5 am and arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 6:30 am.
The practical reality of the current system is that the early opening time is a non-starter for a lot of guests, either by choice (vacations are supposed to be relaxing) or out of near-necessity. If Walt Disney World delayed the opening time until 8 or 9 am, that expands the pool of potential guests who would partake in the Rise (of the Resistance) & Shine Pre-Dawn Cattle Call.
This presents a couple of potential issues. First, more guests all logging on simultaneously and trying to use My Disney Experience could crash the app. MDX isn’t exactly known for its stability, and I’m actually surprised this hasn’t happened yet. Even under normal pressure, this 8-year old app (that sometimes still feels like its being beta-tested) seems to have a system-wide outage for a few hours every once in a while. More concurrent use only exacerbates problems and increases the likelihood of that.
Second, if more people are able to arrive before park opening and thus enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios by official opening time, that means more people competing for boarding passes. If daily capacity has not improved, then not everyone arriving at park opening would be able to score primary boarding groups (or even backup groups with a high probability of being called).
This would turn the virtual queue into a true lottery instead of a hybrid first-come, first-served and lottery system. There would be actual losers among those who got up early and wrangled their kids to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In our estimation, this would lead to more “vacation ruined!” complaints at Guest Relations. This actually came very close to happening earlier in January, the first couple of days most APs were unblocked and locals were still off work and school.
There’s also the issue of why Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t simply open later. Again, all I can offer here is speculation. My first guess is that Walt Disney World saw how unsuccessful that was for dealing with crowds when Pandora – World of Avatar debuted.
Additionally, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is only being operated for about 12 hours (give or take) on both coasts. This is unlikely arbitrary or coincidence. As test and adjust remains ongoing, that evening and overnight downtime is critical to improving the attraction’s reliability and uptime.
As a final explanation for the earlier closing, that is the way Walt Disney World is trending, in general. Late nights are far less common than they were a decade (or even 5 years) ago, despite significantly larger crowds. Whether this is out of a desire to push guests towards hard ticket After Hours events, out of park restaurants, or something else is beyond me.
Ultimately, this is a lot of rampant speculation based upon semi-educated guesses. We aren’t privy to any inside info on what’s happening with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Disney’s rationale as to its operating hours on either coast. Rather, we’re attempting to offer some potential explanations as to why things are the way they are–with the emphasis on potential.
The current boarding pass/virtual queue system may not be perfect or ideal for every Walt Disney World guest, but that would be true of literally any approach. Daily demand simply far exceeds daily supply/capacity and will for years. It’s either this approach or another with different winners and losers. Personally, I’ll take the system we have right now.
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition. As for planning the rest of your trip, we have a thorough Walt Disney World Planning Guide.
Have any predictions about when these 7 am park openings will end at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do you think our theories about why the early openings–as opposed to later openings and later closings–are occurring? If you’ve arrived early for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the last week or so, what was your experience like? Do you plan on arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios super early? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and 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!