New 'Star Wars' rides may help boost light crowds

The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, CU.S., on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon.

Walt Disney Co. set the opening dates for attractions at new "Star Wars" lands in Florida and California, completing major expansions at a time when light crowds at Disneyland have surprised fans and observers.

Rise of the Resistance, a ride that puts guests in a simulated battle between the evil First Order and the rebels, opens Dec. 5 at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Jan. 17 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

The ride will be the second big attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, two new lands at Disney parks that are opening this year at a cost of $1 billion each. They are the first themed lands tied to the company's "Star Wars" franchise, and a big bet that fans want to be immersed in the long-running sci-fi series.

Galaxy's Edge opened May 31 at Disneyland, and it's scheduled to debut Aug. 29 at Hollywood Studios.

Disney took unusual steps to brace for an expected surge in visitors when Galaxy's Edge opened in Anaheim, instituting its first-ever reservation system to enter the land for the first three weeks.

But wait times at Disneyland have generally been shorter than some outside observers expected. Disney has since lifted restrictions on employees entering the land for free, and has let season-pass holders take a guest at a discount. The wait at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the first "Star Wars" ride to open, was 50 minutes July 11, according to the Disney app.

The company has said the new land increased Disneyland's capacity by 20%.

Ben Matthews, news-desk editor of Laughing Place, a website that tracks park attendance, expects crowds to grow with the new rides. He said last month that some would-be guests may have postponed their trips to Disneyland until the land is fully open.

Smugglers Run is a simulated trip on Han Solo's famous spaceship. Meanwhile, rise of the Resistance is a multilevel attraction that involves guests being captured on a Star Destroyer.

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