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.

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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.”

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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.

Universal Studios Orlando to Partially Re-Open May 14

The move to re-open amusement parks in Florida (and China) is turning into a race. Universal Studios May 12 announced it would partially re-open operations in Orlando, Fla., on May 14 — six days ahead of the phased re-opening of the Disney Springs shopping and dining complex on May 20.

Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood remain shuttered through the end of the month. Universal Studios Orlando has been shuttered since mid-March due the coronavirus pandemic.

Similarly to Disney Springs and Downtown Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland in Beijing, Universal Studios Orlando CityWalk will require visitors to wear a mask and be subject to temperature checks on arrival.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he has been pleased with first-week ticket sales for Shanghai Park, which are limited to 27,000 per government stipulation. Disney has limited attendance to less than that, with plans to increase the number of weekly visitors by 5,000.

“We’re very encouraged by what we see in Shanghai,” Chapek said in a media interview. The executive said plans call for bringing back theme park cast members first, “but in a responsible way.”

Chapek agreed forcing all U.S. park visitors to wear a mask will be a challenge in light of politicization efforts in parts of the country in response to government-mandated business shutdowns due to the pandemic.

“That will be something that will be a little trying for some guests, particularly in the hot, humid summers that we tend to have,” Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter.

Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Re-Opening May 20

After 52 days of record closure (and counting), Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., is set to re-open the Disney Springs dining, shopping and entertainment facility on May 20. The theme park, along with five others in the Disney portfolio, has been shuttered since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney on May 5 disclosed it lost $500 million in domestic parks revenue during the first two weeks of the closure. The “parks, experiences and products” business segment saw operating income plummet to $639 million, down 58% from more than $1.5 billion during the previous-year period.

The phased Disney Springs re-opening is significant since it marks the company’s slow rebound from a virtual complete shutdown that has resulted in executive salary cutbacks and 100,000 employees furloughed.

Disney said the re-opening would afford small businesses time to rehire staff to restart operations, order supplies and other business-related expenses.

Disney has been able to iron out kinks with social distancing, crowd capacity at the retail level at the already re-opened Disneytown at Shanghai Disneyland. The Chinese theme park slated to the re-open on May 11 — Disney’s first in the COVID-19 era. That park has sold out its first day.

“We will apply learnings and ideas from leaders in the health and travel industries, and we’re also talking to our unions as we prepare for some cast members to return to work,” Matt Simon, VP, Disney Springs, wrote in a blog post.