As some states consider lifting their shutdown orders, investors and Mickey Mouse fans are watching what Disney will do.
“This is the greatest challenge that the industry has ever faced,” Phil Hettema, founder of The Hettema Group in California, a theme park ride designer told Reuters.
There are six Disney resorts in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and China with one dozen parks including Walt DisneyWorld Resort in Florida, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Disney, which makes a third of its revenue from parks and products, began the shutdowns on March 12.
Dubbed “the happiest place on earth,” a Disney park closing is almost unheard of. Only natural disasters or a national tragedy such as President John F. Kennedy’s death and 9/11 or the Lunar New Year China have shuttered the parks
The news service reported Robert Allen Iger, executive chairman of the The Walt Disney Company, recently said checking guests’ temperature could become routine at Disney park entrances when they reopen. Another idea being discussed, a source told the news service, is limiting the number of guests who can enter, and roller coaster rides like the popular Space Mountain could stagger guests to enforce social distancing. Guests could be notified via app when the ride is ready to go or if a seat is available in a restaurant to eliminate lines.
When Disney reopens its parks in the U.S., Asia and France it will signal to the world what “normal” looks like in the post COVID-19 era.
“If anybody can figure it out, Disney will,” Dave Schmitt, founder of MR-ProFun, a consultant to theme parks, told the news service.
Shareholders will see the full impact of COVD-19 when Disney releases its second quarter results on May 5. Analysts have said if the parks remain closed for the second quarter, the company would suffer a $500 million loss.
More than 157 million people visited Disney parks in 2018, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.
Chicago resident Kelly Alexis, 50, has visited Disney resorts more than three dozen times and plans to go to Disney World with her family in October if the park is open.
“It’s just the feeling that they do things so perfectly and they will take every precaution,” Alexis told Reuters. “They’re not going to want to have an epidemic where everyone gets sick at Disney. They would never let that happen.”