Walt Disney World Orlando Still on Schedule to Re-Open in July — Despite Florida Shutting All Bars Due to COVID-19 Spike

The Walt Disney Co.’s high-profile Walt Disney World resort near Orlando remains on schedule to re-open in July despite increases in coronavirus infections in the state of Florida. Indeed, the sunshine state June 25 saw a record 9,000 new single-day infections recorded.

Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, early June 26 announced on social media that, “Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending on premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide.”

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Disney, which has delayed re-opening Disneyland and Disney California Advernture theme parks in Anaheim, Calif., after state officials refused to give the green light, could soon reverse policy in Florida.

“I wouldn’t rule it out at this stage. I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Rick Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, told Fox 13 News.

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Niles said that with virus infections spiking in parts of the country, people should wear masks when outdoors and around other people.

“We need everyone to wear a mask in public because this pandemic is so widespread in so many communities that containing it immediately must be our top national priority,” Niles wrote in a June 25 post. “Until we have universal and frequent testing to know exactly who is, or is not, infectious at any given moment, we need to just assume that everyone might be. So everyone should wear a mask when near others outside their household.”

Disney Delays Re-Opening Disneyland, Disney California Adventure

The Walt Disney Co. late June 24 announced that plans to re-open Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., have been put on hold due to new state government concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park re-opening guidelines until sometime after July 4,” Disney said in a post on its Twitter feed. “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the re-opening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

Disney said that once it has a “clearer understanding” when guidelines will be released, it would relay re-opening information to the public. Indeed, prior to re-opening theme parks and resort hotels, Disney has to get approval from unions representing more than 11,000 workers, or cast members, which includes enhanced safety protocols safeguarding staff and visitors.

The original Disney theme park and related California Adventure have been shuttered since mid-March due to COVID-19 fears.

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Meanwhile, Downtown Disney and related businesses are still slated to re-open on July 9 with appropriate health and safety protocols in place as mandated by health officials.

Disneyland Theme Parks Re-Opening July 17

The Walt Disney Company June 10 announced plans to re-open its branded theme parks on July 17 — 65 years to the date Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955. All domestic theme parks have been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pending state and local government approvals, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel plan to reopen on July 23. Additionally, Downtown Disney District will begin re-opening on July 9.

Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote social distancing, the Disneyland Resort will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests, including Annual Passholders, to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance, according to Michael Ramirez, public relations director, Disneyland Resort.

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“At this time, there will also be a temporary pause on new ticket sales and Annual Passport sales and renewals,” Ramirez wrote in a post, adding that parades and nighttime spectaculars will return at a later date. And character meet and greets will be temporarily unavailable.

Upon re-opening, a “Guest Experience Team” will be available throughout the parks and Downtown Disney District to assist visitors with questions regarding new social distancing policies.

“With the health of guests and Disney cast members at the forefront of planning, several operational changes will be implemented based on guidance from health authorities to promote physical distancing and cleanliness throughout the Downtown Disney District,” Ramirez wrote.

Bob Iger Upping Corporate Presence as Pandemic Ravages Disney

With Disney reportedly losing $30 million daily as the coronavirus effectively shutters most of its business units, former CEO Bob Iger is stepping in to assist new CEO Bob Chapek to help navigate the pandemic.

“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!,” Iger wrote in an email to The New York Times, which ran an April 12 story about the executive chairman’s increased public presence.

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Iger abruptly stepped down from the CEO position on Feb. 25 just as the pandemic was was expanding its global presence and impacting economies worldwide. Chapek, former head of home entertainment, consumer products and amusement parks, was named the new chief executive — a position he said he was more than ready to handle.

But to say Chapek’s plate is full would be a major understatement, and publicly at least the Disney veteran has expressed willingness to accept any advice from his former boss.

“I do understand the gravity of trying to fill this gentleman’s shoes, but I’m ready for it and look forward to some great years ahead,” Chapek said at Disney’s annual shareholders meeting in March in Raleigh, N.C.

Indeed, Chapek jumped into the deep end at that shareholders meeting fielding questions about ABC News’ perceived bias against President Trump and not giving in to LGBTQ rights at its amusement parks.

“At Disney, we strongly believe that we should reflect in our creative content the diversity that we find in our fan base and with our audience,” Chapek responded.

But with Disney furloughing 43,000 Walt Disney World employees in Florida on April 19, on top of the 30,000 furloughed staffers in California, Chapek finds himself fighting a pandemic on multiple fronts.

Iger, who is under contract through 2021 in a four-year compensation package worth $423 million, assumed a newly created executive chairman position overseeing Disney’s creative measures. So it wasn’t surprising he told the media last week about plans to further postpone some theatrical releases while expediting others to retail channels, including releasing Artemis Fowl exclusively to Disney+.

Iger floated the idea of testing consumers’ temperatures whenever Disney re-opens its amusement parks, adding separately that the pandemic underscores the need to stop holding expensive ad-upfront presentations and producing TV series pilots that never air.

One area Iger has no interest in weighing in on is staffing. During his tenure as CEO, Iger was dogged by a long-running dispute with striking Disneyland hotel workers and allegations Disney underpays its theme park employees.

“The people who walk around all day in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes, the workers who prepare and deliver the food, the men and women who collect tickets and manage the rides, make wages so low that they are barely surviving,” Bernie Sanders, the former Democrat presidential nominee and Vermont Senator, wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian in 2018.

Iger, who during the 2016 presidential campaign criticized Sanders as being clueless about matters of running businesses and creating jobs, in his New York Times email was clear to underscore whose job it would be regarding company staffing.

“Any decision about staff reductions will be made by my successor and not me,” he wrote in the email.

Disney shares were down more than 2% in early market trading April 13.

Black Thursday: Coronavirus Fears Shutter Amusement Parks, TV Productions, ‘March Madness’ as Dow Suffers Biggest Drop Since 1987

In a bad week things got decidedly worse March 12 as the Dow suffered its worst decline since 1987 as investors dumped stocks with growing fears about the escalating coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people globally and killed almost 5,000.

In Hollywood, increased numbers of television series productions halted work in an effort to safeguard cast and crew against the potential spread of the virus. Studios pushed back release dates for A Quiet Place II and Fast and Furious 9, among other titles.

TV productions halted included Apple’s “The Morning Show” and “Little America,” Netflix’s “Russian Doll,” The CW’s “Riverdale,” CBS’s “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor,” among others.

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The Walt Disney Co. elected to temporarily close Disneyland and California Adventure, a move it has already done in China, Hong Kong and Japan. Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., remain open. Citing an “abundance of caution,” Universal Studios closed its theme parks as well.

In sports, Major League Soccer and the NHL suspended play nationwide, while Major League Baseball halted spring training. The NCAA decided to terminate the $900 million annual “March Madness” men’s national basketball championship tournament before it even started. The governing body of intercollegiate athletics had initially elected to limit the tournament to participating teams, school officials and families.

It took a further step the day after the NBA suspended play indefinitely after a player on the Utah Jazz test positive for the virus.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the organization said in a statement.

The canceling of March Madness came after conferences such as the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big West and Big 12 announced that their respective tournaments were off.

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“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.

Meanwhile, the Dow index lost all gains from 2018 with the S&P 500 dropping 7% after the opening bell, which caused an automatic 15-minute trading halt on Wall Street.

 

Disney Partially Re-Opens Shanghai Resort

Looking to combat ongoing market concerns revolving around the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Shanghai Disney Resort has partially re-opened select retail venues, while the main theme park remains shuttered since Jan. 25.

“We continue to closely monitor health and safety conditions and follow the direction of government regulators,” Shanghai Disney said in a statement.

The move comes as Wall Street trading was temporarily halted March 9 after markets opened falling significantly as global concerns about the spread of the virus increase.

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Indeed, visitors to the venues must wear masks, go through temperature screening and present their health QR code when entering dining facilities. It’s not clear how patrons will eat while wearing protective face masks.

Meanwhile Disneyland Paris, which employs 15,000 workers, remains open despite a maintenance worker, who was home in bed at the time, being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

In the United States, Disney said it continues to “welcome guests” to its theme parks. In a statement, the company said it has upgraded sanitation efforts, including easier access to handwashing facilities and hand sanitizers, and “quick response” to spills, trash and other situations.

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“As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of our cast, guests and the larger community, we are carefully monitoring the evolving coronavirus situation and are in regular contact with health agencies for information and guidance,” the said. “Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, are welcoming guests as usual and we continue to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies.”