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Every Disney Park in the world has been closed since mid-March and up until now, there's been no clear idea when the happiest places on earth would be back in business. The first park to close was Shanghai Disneyland back in January, so it's a good sign that the first one to close is now the first one to reopen. It will do so on Monday May 11.
During The Walt Disney Company's Second Quarter Earnings call, the company revealed what we all already knew. It's been a really tough quarter for Disney, especially for the theme park division, as the company says it lost $1 billion due to theme park closings. Now, they'll begin to climb out, as the first park will be reopening next week.
However, as you might expect, it won't be returning to business as usual out of the gate. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that China has asked that the park be limited to one-third of its maximum capacity in order to allow for social distancing to still be followed by guests in the park. Chapek then took the unheard of step of revealing what the max capacity of Shanghai Disneyland actually is, about 80,000. In the past, Disney has avoided giving specific numbers for park capacity.
With the park being held to one-third of capacity, that means only about 24,000 people would be let in. Although, Bob Chapek also said that Disney was initially planning to hold attendance down to an undisclosed number even smaller than that, just to be safe.
In addition, both cast members and guests will be expected to wear masks. The only people in the park not wearing masks will be the performing characters in the park, but they will be kept at a distance, which sounds like there will be no chance to give Mickey Mouse a hug.
Another change that's taking place to help with crowd control will be the use of dated tickets. Usually, purchasing tickets to Disney parks gives you some flexibility as to when you can actually use them. This, of course, gives the park less control over the number of people coming in on any given day. With dated tickets, this will be more tightly regulated.
Shanghai Disneyland was the first park to close, a day before Hong Kong Disneyland. That park was barely mentioned on the earnings call. It was having attendance issues even before the lockdown, due to the unrest that had been going on in Hong Kong which had caused tourism in general to take a hit.
When asked about the domestic parks, no time table for reopening was given. In fact, it was made pretty clear that, assuming we take what was said at face value, nobody has any idea when Disneyland and Walt Disney World might reopen. It's not just a case that the company isn't ready to make a statement publicly, they truly don't know.
If the domestic Disney parks stay closed as long as Shanghai Disneyland has, then it's going to be late June before we see any momentum, or nearly two more months. That's a lot of time, to be sure, but it certainly might be necessary to get things to a safe enough place to reopen. While some parts of the nation are already beginning to reopen, theme parks will likely be among the last business to come out of this. Even limiting capacity, they will have some of the largest crowds of people once they reopen.
Bob Chapek stated specifically that that the steps being taken as Shanghai reopens won't necessarily be taken in every other park, but it certainly seem likely that similar precautions will be necessary.
Hopefully, the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland is a sign that things are starting to improve. Even if domestic reopening is a couple months behind that, or more, it at least gives us an indication that it will happen sooner rather than later.