Walt Disney World Cancels All Reservations, ‘FastPass’ Access, Behind-the-Scenes Tours Through End of the Year

Disney’s rush to re-open shuttered theme parks in Florida has run into the reality that is social distancing.

With all of the media giant’s domestic theme parks shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney had been taking reservations 180 days out for dining, behind-the-scenes tours and other events for a phased re-opening of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., on July 11.

With consumer demand escalating, Disney realized it could no longer accept reservations and still meet its own and CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“As a result of the limited capacity, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all existing dining reservations and experience bookings, including Disney dining plans included in packages, through the end of the year,” Disney wrote on the DisneyWorld.com website.

Disney said it was switching from a 180-day booking window to 60-day to give consumers better control of planning for their visit. In addition, the park’s popular “FastPass” feature giving holders easier access to rides and attractions has been suspended.

“Our focus remains on the health and well being of the entire Disney community — including ‘cast members’ who are caring for and securing our parks and resorts during the closure,” Disney said.

Follow us on Instagram

Survey: 77% Ready to Return to Theaters in a Few Months

An Atom Tickets survey found 77% of respondents were ready to return to theaters within a few months, with 25% willing to return immediately. Only 1% said they never plan to return to theaters.

Digital movie ticketing platform Atom surveyed more than 1,500 moviegoers about their moviegoing intentions in the midst of theaters’ temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked to identify the most important safety measure to make them feel confident about going back to a movie theater, having spaced seating in the theater auditorium was by far the most critical safety feature at 42.2% or respondents. The next most critical safety measure was heightened theater cleaning procedures at 21.14%, followed by staff and guests wearing masks at 14.36%. Only 6.41% of moviegoers said taking staff and guest temperature readings before screenings was the most important condition that must be met before they would feel comfortable returning.

More than 88% said that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier was an important safety measure. As far as concessions, customers were interested ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in crowded lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who have never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 61% said they are now likely to try it.

Follow us on Instagram

“Moviegoers are telling us that they miss the experience of going to the movies and they’re ready to get back, but that the experience needs to look slightly different than before,” said Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, in a statement. “We anticipate a rapid acceleration in digital ordering, just as we have seen in other industries, in order to reduce the amount of person-to-person interactions. We’re eager to resume being together with friends and family, but we want to do so responsibly. Atom is working with our theater partners to roll out spaced seat maps so that guests can see the steps being taken in order to provide a safe environment.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In terms of films moviegoers were looking forward to seeing, the female superheroes led the pack with Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 taking 58% and 51% of votes, respectively. The James Bond installment No Time to Die, Disney’s Mulan and Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five. Millennial moviegoers weighed in slightly differently, with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part 2 coming in third.

Comscore: Streaming Services’ Share of Streaming Hours Surged During Pandemic

Engagement with streaming services surged in the beginning of May 2020 as Americans adjusted to stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Comscore.

Among the “big five” streaming services — which still account for upwards of 80% of total hours streamed at home — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ saw growth in share of streaming hours in the week of May 11 versus the week of Feb. 3, according to Comscore.

Netflix’s and Amazon’s streaming hour share each grew 1.5% while Disney+’s grew 0.5%. YouTube’s was steady, down just 0.1%. Hulu’s was the only share to fall, down 2.9%.

While Disney+ held a smaller share of streaming hours among the “big five,” it is nearly two times larger than the next video-oriented OTT app offering in terms of streaming hours, according to Comscore.

Follow us on Instagram

Other key points included:

  • Average in-home data consumption was up 33% during the first 10 days of May 2020 compared to the first ten days of May 2019 (May 1-10, 2020 versus May 1-10, 2019). This follows 28% and 36% year-over-year increases in March and April 2020, respectively. Smart TVs (+60 percent), mobile phones (+47 percent), streaming boxes/sticks (+39 percent), and smart speakers (+35 percent) are driving the year-over-year growth trends.
  • In-home data usage remained strong through the week of April 20, 2020 but began to decline in recent weeks, possibly due to some states easing their social distancing protocols.

Georgia Outlines Film, TV Production ‘Best Practices’ Guidelines

Georgia was the first state to re-open movie theaters during the cornavirus pandemic. It is also leading Hollywood’s return to producing films and TV shows.

Governor Brian Kemp May 22 announced a filming “best practices” guide for the state’s $9.5 billion content production industry that employs more than 51,000 people in the Atlanta area and statewide.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The guidelines are aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 when productions resume in Georgia this summer. The recommendations include increased sanitation efforts, avoiding sharing objects such as mobile phones, computers, pens, work tools, etc., in addition to avoiding mass transportation, opting for digital call sheets, production reports and contracts when possible. Goals also include avoiding handshakes, kisses, hugs and actions that encourage physical contact between people.

The guidelines were developed in cooperation with officials from studio and production companies who maintain a presence in the state.

As future film and production planning continues, the guidelines prioritize the safety of all cast and crew. Companies are required to use these recommendations in conjunction with industry-wide labor and management protocols as they are developed.

Follow us on Instagram

“We are so grateful to the hardworking people who make up and contribute to Georgia’s incredibly successful film and TV industry, and we thank them for all the ways they have given back throughout the state’s response to COVID-19,” Kemp said in a statement. “The Georgia Film Office has maintained their close work with industry executives to develop these outlines for how productions can help protect cast and crew members.”

Georgia set a record for filming during fiscal year 2019. The 391 film and television productions filmed in the state spent $2.9 billion in the state, supported 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses, and delivered $9.2 billion in total wages.

“Every element of what has made Georgia such a unique place for film — landscapes, production facilities, a skilled and growing workforce, with a pipeline of new labor thanks to the Georgia Film Academy and our College and Career Academies — are still in place, just as they were before this global pandemic,” Kemp said.

Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said the backbone of the state’s film and television industry is comprised of small businesses that have helped create the environment that makes Georgia an attractive place for productions.

In addition to locations, climate and cultural attractions, the state has offered upwards of $150 million in annual tax incentives toward productions.

“We will continue to help these important businesses navigate new circumstances,” Wilson said. “As we return to production across the state, there is no doubt Georgia will maintain its position as a powerhouse for film and television production.”

Best Buy Ups Q1 Home Entertainment Revenue 9.5%

Benefiting from a homebound consumer base due to the coronavirus pandemic, Best Buy May 21 reported a 9.5% increase in domestic entertainment revenue to $554 million for the first quarter (ended May 2). That compared with a 12.7% decline in the previous-year period.

The entertainment segment includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software.

International entertainment sales skyrocketed 58% to $58.2 million, compared with a 14% decline a year ago. The largest comparable domestic sales growth drivers were computing and gaming. These growth drivers were more offset by declines in home theater, mobile phones, digital imaging and services.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Domestic online revenue of $3.34 billion increased 155.4% on a comparable basis due to increased traffic. As a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased 42.2%, versus 15.4% a year ago.

“In the middle of Q1, we shifted all our stores to a curbside-only operating model and were able to retain approximately 81% of last year’s sales during the last six weeks of the quarter, even though not a single customer set foot in our stores,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement. “The strong sales retention is a testament to the strength of our multi-channel capabilities and the strategic investments we have been making over the past several years.”

Follow us on Instagram

Indeed, domestic revenue dipped slightly to $7.91 billion, from $8.48 billion, with operating income fell 27.5% to $241 million, from $332 million a year ago.

Barry thanked store employees for dealing with “immense change” in a workplace with customers, many of whom she said were scared, frustrated and, occasionally, hostile in COVID-19 environment.

“As challenging as the current situation is, I am certain Best Buy will remain a strong, vibrant company that is well positioned to deliver on our purpose and thrive in a new and different environment,” Barry said. “None of this is possible without [our employee] dedication, and I am truly grateful and feel lucky to be on the team with them.”

Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger Among Executives on California Gov.’s Task Force Seeking $1 Trillion in Congressional Virus Relief for Local Governments

Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos and Disney executive chairman Bob Iger have joined a group of more than 90 California business leaders calling on Congress to approve $1 trillion in coronavirus fiscal relief for all states and local governments.

Sarandos and Iger are members of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business & Jobs Recovery organized to deal with the economic, environmental and social fallout from the pandemic.

In a May 15 letter to House and Senate leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the task force said COVID-19 has “fundamentally” changed how business and organizations operate and are managed.

“The worst of the economic impact is likely still to come,” read the letter.

The group said successful re-opening of state and local economies relies on building confidence among consumers that it is safe to shop and greater certainty for workers that the services they rely on to do their jobs will remain in place.

“Without that, we will be a re-opened economy in name only,” they wrote.

The group said it stands with business leaders throughout the nation, from both sides of the aisle, who said the funds would protect core government services like public health, public safety, public education and helping people get back to work.

“This funding will help our states and cities — and America’s economy — come out of this crisis stronger and more resilient,” they wrote.

The letter came on the day the Democrat-controlled House approved a $3 trillion relief bill, which included $1 trillion in states aid. The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to pass the bill.

COVID-19 Hangover: 60% of Scripted Releases at Risk of Delay

Audiences and the industry can expect disruption to the supply and release of new content for more than a year as a result of production delays caused by COVID-19, according to a new report by Ampere Analysis.

The report finds 60% of scripted releases at risk of delay and a further 5% to 10% that may be lost entirely.

“Our analysis indicates that the unscripted market will more easily weather the current pandemic thanks to the production of non-location-based, and COVID-related, content,” according to Ampere. “However, the delay of summer ‘blockbusters’ like ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘Love Island’ will have a negative impact on even the unscripted sector. We predict the scripted sector will take a far bigger hit: even if production is able to restart in June, underlying effects of the shutdown will be felt in the scripted TV market for the remainder of 2020, and well into 2021.”

In the second half of 2020, Ampere expects that the world’s top TV commissioners will release between 5% to 10% fewer new scripted titles on a monthly basis than previously predicted. The effect will last into the first half of 2021, and potentially longer.

Over half of scripted titles which would normally have released in the second half of 2020 are at risk of delays in release schedules due to the current production hiatus. Titles scheduled for release from June to August are likely to largely be in post-production, and Ampere expects delays will be more limited for this period.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The number of scripted TV titles at risk of delay remains high for a year, with impact particularly intense at the traditional start of the broadcast season in the autumn. At this point, between 50% and 60% of scripted titles that would normally have been released in the period are at risk of delay by Ampere’s estimates. A further 5% to 10% of scripted titles expected to have been released during the autumn months are likely be lost entirely due to the current production shutdown, Ampere predicts. The proportion of scripted releases unaffected by the shutdown only rises above 40% in March 2021.

Compared to 2019, only 51% of scripted projects ordered during March through May 2019 have been released to date. With commissioning of scripted content down by 40% in the equivalent period of 2020, Ampere predicts the current lack of commissions will impact the supply of content well into 2021.

Follow us on Instagram

“There is one certainty among the current uncertainty — that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the TV production industry far beyond the end of the lockdown,” Ampere senior analyst Fred Black said in a statement. “Initially, we expect delays to cause gaps in scripted TV release schedules, which broadcasters and streaming players will have to fill with other content. However, as delayed productions begin to fill out content gaps in later months, these gaps will begin to close. But this has further ramifications. The knock-on effect of delayed releases is a likely depression of the number of new commissions for some time after the shutdown ends, as commissioners look to fill schedules with delayed projects they have already invested in before signing off new ones.”

Unscripted content is set to bounce back quicker, according to Ampere. While a number of unscripted commissions expected over Q2 and Q3 2020 will be delayed, Ampere predicts release schedules will begin to return to normal by the autumn, with the percentage of titles unaffected rising to 71% by October. The biggest misses in the unscripted space are likely to be returning summer series that cannot go into production, such as reality stalwarts ‘Love Island’ and ‘The Bachelorette.’ Unscripted commissions have actually increased in comparison to the same period last year, partly to fill schedule gaps left by delayed or cancelled scripted series. However, a large proportion of these titles have been COVID-19-specific commissions. If this content is excluded, unscripted commissions have been down 27% since the beginning of March. Unlike scripted content, commissioners can typically order enough adapted unscripted content during lockdown to cover normal numbers of new unscripted releases, as well as help cover schedule gaps from delayed or cancelled scripted content.

Commissioners are currently creating a large number of extra unscripted projects which can be used to cover gaps in the schedule left by delayed titles or the missed scripted commissions,” said Black in a statement. “This number of extra commissions will begin to wane as the shutdown ends, with audience appetite for COVID-19-specific content already showing signs of falling.”

Disney, Graceland Set to Re-Open Retail Venues — With a Disclaimer

The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla., retail center and Elvis Presley’s Graceland home in Memphis, Tenn., are set to re-open to the public this week following lengthy closure due to the coronavirus.

Disney, which has re-opened Shanghai Disneyland and Disneytown retail in China, will re-open Disney Springs to the public on May 20 while attempting to limit its liability to COVID-19 infections. The retail and restaurant attraction has been shuttered for two months.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

On the Disney World website, the media giant says that while it is taking “enhanced health and safety measures” consumers are cautioned that entering the facility is at their own risk.

“An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death,” the company said on its website. “By visiting Walt Disney World Resort, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

Follow us on Instagram

Further north in Tennessee, operators of Graceland are slightly less draconian welcoming the public back on May 21.

In addition to reduced capacities, the 100+ acre Presley home has instituted new health and safety protocols, which include all associates wearing masks (guests are encouraged to wear masks, as well), temperature checks for both guests and associates, six-feet social distancing markers placed throughout the property, enhanced sanitization procedures featuring commercial-grade continuous cleaning, hand sanitization stations and touchless payment options.

During the re-opening phase, restaurant capacities will be reduced by 50% and outdoor patio seating will also be available. Due to reduced tour capacities, the facility is encouraging visitors to reserve their tour tickets in advance.

“We are helping Memphis and Tennessee to get back to some sense of normality,” Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Graceland Holdings, said in a statement. “We’re doing this in a safe manner and in the best interest for our community, our employees and our guests. Together, we will succeed.”

Weinshanker is no stranger to home entertainment, acquiring Hastings Entertainment and MovieStop in early 2000. Both retail outlets filed for bankruptcy in 2016, with the combined 150 stores ceasing operations in July.

Pay-TV Lost Record 2 Million Subs in Q1

Another financial quarter, another 90 days of pain for the pay-TV market. The largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing about 95% of the market — lost more than 2 million video subscribers in the quarter ended March 31, compared with a net loss of about 1 million subs in the same period last year, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group.

The top pay-TV providers account for 83.9 million subs — with the top seven cable companies having 45.2 million video subs, satellite TV services 24.1 million subs, the telephone companies 8.2 million subs, and Internet-delivered pay-TV services with 6.4 million subs.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Satellite TV services lost about 1 million subs compared to a loss of about 810,000 subs last year. The top seven cable companies lost about 595,000 video subs compared 335,000 subs.

The top telecoms lost about 125,000 video subs compared to a loss of about 105,000 subs in Q1 2019. The top online TV services (Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and AT&T TV Now) lost about 320,000 subs compared to about 225,000 net adds in 1Q 2019

Follow us on Instagram

“The record net losses were partly related to the impact of the coronavirus, but do not solely reflect consumers’ dropping services,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “Several providers cited a decrease in connects as a key component of net losses in the quarter, rather than an increase in disconnects.”

Fed: April Retail Sales Fell 16.4% — Largest Decline on Record

New data from the U.S. Commerce Department revealed April retail sales plummeted 16.4% — the largest monthly decline on record due to economic shutdowns nationwide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The drop resulted in a loss of $403.9 billion in revenue. In March, sales fell 8.3%.

Retail trade sales were down 15.1% from March, and 17.8% below a year ago. Clothing and clothing accessories stores were down 89.3% from April 2019, while non-store retailers (i.e. e-commerce) were up 21.6% from a year ago.

“Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely,” the department said in an understatement.

May retail numbers are scheduled for release on June 16.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!