Disney says it will re-open its Florida theme parks in July, hoping to reverse a months-long tide of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will re-open July 11 and Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, also in Florida, will resume business on July 15, executives said Wednesday.
A number of social-distancing measures will be imposed, said Jim McPhee, senior vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resort. Customers will be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. And McPhee said that parades and fireworks displays will remain temporarily suspended because of the crowds those events attract.
Disney submitted its reopening plan at an economic recovery task-force meeting in Orange County, Florida, Wednesday morning. The task-force members approved Disney’s plan shortly after it was presented. The plan still needs to be approved by Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings before it is sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We believe our re-opening proposal at our properties reflects a very thoughtful, methodical and phased approach,” McPhee said.
Later Wednesday, the company offered more details about the reopening in a blog post on its Web site. An entry by Thomas Smith, editorial content director for Disney’s theme parks, noted that while the company’s signature costumed characters will be present at the parks, events such as “makeover opportunities” and character meet-and-greets would not be conducted.
“In preparing to reopen during this unusual time, we have to manage our theme parks in a very different way from what we’ve known before,” Smith wrote.
He noted ” limits on attendance,” “controlled guest density” and “significantly limited” capacity, but a spokeswoman said the company would not be providing numbers or percentages on what that would entail.Disney previously reopened its Shanghai theme park with 30% capacity, in keeping with government requirements in China.
No new tickets will be sold for the time being, Smith said; the company would focus on honoring existing tickets and reservations before selling new tickets.
The re-opening will be a key test of whether large-scale social gatherings can successfully resume in the age of social distancing. Disney’s move is an attempt to demonstrate that the experience in its parks, which involve both high volumes of people and many personal encounters, can still flourish despite the challenges.
Tens of thousands of Disney employees have been out of work since the parks shut down in mid-March as the virus began to spread. With the parks closed, Disney is expected to show a huge revenue dropoff for the quarter that ends in June.
The re-openings come despite a consistent level of coronavirus infections in Florida. The state has experienced at least 500 new cases in all but three days in May, and on Thursday reported 1,204 new cases, the most since April 17. Thirty-nine people have died in Orange County due to coronavirus.
The plans do not include any of Disney’s parks in California, which remain closed. State officials there continue to debate the wisdom of reopening, with a health official in the state this week saying the current pace of re-opening poses a “very serious risk.”
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Steven Zeitchik