View Original Notice ? Niles: Why Anaheim is Disney’s secret weapon for Hollywood success
Disney is preparing to bring its giant D23 Expo back to the Anaheim Convention Center this September. Branded to Disney’s official fan club, D23, the Expo draws tens of thousands of fans to Anaheim for three days of hype for Disney’s movies, television shows and theme parks.
The return of the D23 Expo should be great news for Disney and its fans, as well as for businesses in the Anaheim Resort area. The Expo not only fills hotel rooms and restaurants around the convention center, it provides Disney with three solid days of publicity for its upcoming projects — and sends those tens of thousands of fans home as eager social media evangelists for them.
Which makes me wonder — why don’t Disney’s competitors try to do the same?
It’s not like Disney has some exclusive rights to this blueprint. Heck, the D23 Expo is just Disney’s version of Comic-Con. Other Big Five studios own more than enough movie and TV franchises to promote during a multi-day, in-person fan event. Warner Bros., Universal and Paramount also own streaming services competing with Disney+. Universal runs theme parks, while Warner Bros. operates or licenses attractions around the world, including the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood. So what is the missing piece keeping these studios from staging their own D23-style event?
It’s Anaheim. Disney enjoys the advantage of having a large, world-class convention center sitting across the street from the Disneyland Resort. The D23 Expo not only brings fans to the Anaheim Convention Center, it brings them to Disneyland’s theme parks and hotels. Right now, no other major Hollywood studio can offer that kind of one-two entertainment combination.
In a few years, though, Universal will, when its Epic Universe theme park opens across the street from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. But even then, Universal would need to fly Hollywood stars and entertainment media to Orlando for the event, which would demand a bigger time and expense commitment than sending limos to drive actors from around Southern California to Anaheim. The proximity of Hollywood talent to the Disneyland Resort is a big reason why Disney has kept the D23 Expo in Southern California rather than move it to the larger Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Universal Studios Hollywood did plan a Peacock Live event at the park in March 2020 to help promote NBCUniversal’s streaming service, but that was an early loss to the pandemic. Even if the event had happened, it would not have been anything on the scale of the D23 Expo. To stage something like that, Universal would need either to take several of its soundstages out of production for the event or to put it at the Los Angeles Convention Center ,12 long miles away on US 101.
Neither provides the ideal solution that Disney has in Anaheim. The return of the D23 Expo isn’t just a win for Disney and Anaheim, it’s a reminder of how well the two can work for each other when they try.