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.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., has begun accepting reservations for July access, the theme park announced on its website. While there hasn’t been any official announcement when the park would re-open, including social distancing restrictions, Disney is set to re-open the park’s Disney Springs (formerly called Downtown Disney) dining, shopping and entertainment facility on May 20.
Disney appears to be following a strategy established for Shanghai Disneyland, which resumed operations on May 11. Both staff and attendees must wear masks and engage in strict social distancing measures.
“If the timeline for re-opening Downtown Disney in Shanghai and Shanghai Disneyland is similar for Disney Springs and Disney World, it suggests Disney World would re-open July 22 — 41 days ahead of our current forecast,” Bernie McTernan, analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, wrote in a note.
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.