Despite a worrisome uptick in COVID-19 cases in California, Disney’s theme park division has set plans for a phased reopening of the Disneyland Resort.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will start to welcome guests again on July 17, the company said, a bit more than a week after Downtown Disney District leads the charge on July 9. The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Paradise Pier Hotel have targeted July 23 for reopening.
All dates are subject to pending state and local government approvals.
Disney’s parks and resorts business reps a third of its revenue so news of reopening is eagerly awaited. Walt Disney World in Orlando has already been approved for a July 11 opening.
Earlier on Wednesday, Universal announced that some stores and restaurants at CityWalk in Universal City opened today for the first time but hasn’t yet announced a reopenign date for Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal Orlando park will open June 11.
Also today, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of Health Services for L.A. County, said models indicate that “the spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles County area is likely to increase gradually over time.” The number of hospital ICU beds, she said, may become inadequate in the next 2-4 weeks.
Even though Disneyland is in neighboring Orange County, the increase in cases in LA County is unnerving. While health officials also have approved the restart of film and TV production on Friday, provided that proper health and safety protocols are followed, the Hollywood community is proceeding with caution.
Disney’s theme park in Shanghai, the first to close, reopened a month ago.
As in other locations, capacity at the California park sites will be significantly limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing.
Disneyland Resort officials say they will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests, including annual passholders, to get advanced reservations for park entry. A “guest experience team” will be available throughout the parks and to help visitors navigate the new process.
Experiences that tend to draw large crowds, like parades and nighttime events, will return at a later date, the company said. Character meet-and-greets will not happen upon the reopening. As in other cities, Disney characters will be in the parks “in new ways to entertain and delight guests,” the company said.
Passholders generally net the company less revenue than individual ticket buyers, which is one reason Wall Street analysts have expressed limited optimism for a near-term rebound in theme parks.
In a note to clients Tuesday, UBS analyst John Hodulik said he expects park attendance for the quarter ending in September would be roughly 25% of the level in the same quarter in 2019. He believes it will take more than a year for overall attendance to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Even once parks and hotels can reopen, the tourism industry will remain a fraction of what it was, which will limit out-of-town guests and overall park spending, he said.
Citibank analyst Jason Bazinet on Wednesday reaffirmed his “buy” rating on Disney shares, but lowered its financial targets for the company.
Disney’s sprawling parks acreage in Florida is playing host to two sports leagues’ resumption of seasons that were abruptly suspended due to COVID-19. Beginning in July, the NBA and Major League Soccer will play games without fans at ESPN Wide World of Sports.