Today, Shanghai Disneyland became the first Disney theme park to reopen following the recent closures.
In reaction to the opening day, CNBC conducted an interview with Bob Chapek, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. In the interview, Chapek commented on pent-up demand for the theme parks, the role of guests in keeping everyone safe, and some of the ways the global health crisis has had an effect on the company.
Bob Chapek sat down with CNBC after the end of Shanghai Disneyland’s “reopening day,” to talk about the present situation for the theme parks and the company. Chapek spoke positively about the situation in Shanghai on the first day.
He noted that there was clearly some pent-up demand to visit the parks, explaining that, “We’re pretty much booked out for the rest of the week…This is really indicative I think of the love that consumers have for our brand across the world.”
With Shanghai open, the world is looking to Disney for news of the next reopening. Chapek declined to comment on an exact opening date but did say, “We certainly want to open up as soon as we can across the world but we’re going to do so in a responsible way.”
The park is currently operating at less than 30% capacity which Chapek calls, “a baby step.” Moving forward, “The plan, essentially, is to go up 5,000 a week,” when it comes to Shanghai’s capacity. Once the parks hit the 30% cut-off dictated by the government, they will wait until government restrictions loosen again to begin ramping up capacity.
When asked about how feasible distancing will be at 100% capacity, Chapek explained that a lot of that has to do with the guests. So far, guests have been diligent with distancing in Shanghai. There isn’t a disconnect with expectations. Chapek noted that “Everybody across the world knows that this is a relatively important condition on which we can continue to operate the parks.”
According to Chapek, theme parks can only do so much. The way that guests conduct themselves will be an important piece of reopenings as well. “We’re going to do our part,” Chapek said, “and we need our guests to do their part too.” For a practical example of this, Chapek mentioned that masks will be required for guests and Cast in the parks — something that may be “culturally new” and challenging.
The interview wrapped up with a focus on film and TV. Notably, Chapek mentioned that the company is sticking to the July 24th release date for Mulan and that they aren’t yet sure about how sales will look with the precautions that theaters might take.
When asked about the effect of live sports cancellations, Chapek explained that (though advertising numbers are down) ESPN was up by 11% for April primetime. “There’s no doubt we’re going to feel the impact of the advertising hit,” he said. On the other hand, he noted, “ESPN is nimble. They found a way. So, I think we’ll be resilient.”
Chapek’s interview echoed sentiments previously expressed by Executive Chairman Bob Iger. We’ll keep you posted on the state of the park and if any more news is released by Disney.