Shanghai Disneyland Tickets Sell Out Instantly for First Days After Reopening

Shanghai Disneyland 4 - H 2016
Walt Disney Co.

The Walt Disney Co.'s flagship theme park in China is preparing to reopen on Monday after a three-month closure because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and so far, audience demand appears robust.

Tickets for the first days of the Walt Disney Co.'s Shanghai Disneyland re-opening sold out almost instantly on Friday as the theme park gets ready to next week end a three-month shutdown in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Shanghai Disney Resort is scheduled to have its grand reopening on Monday. The Chinese government has asked Disney to cap attendance at 30 percent of capacity, or approximately 24,000 people, to help staff and customers adjust to new health and safety measures like social distancing, required mask wearing, more frequent cleaning and temperature checks.

According to the resort's website, tickets for May 11 through May 14 were already sold out by Friday afternoon. They also had sold out for the weekend dates of May 16 and 17. Local media reported some days selling out within minutes. Reuters reported Chinese third-party ticketing vendors Fliggy and Meituan selling out their allotments for the first week.

The sprawling Chinese facility was the first of Disney's parks to go idle. It has been shuttered since the end of January, when large entertainment venues across the Middle Kingdom, including virtually all of the country's cinemas, began shutting down as part of the nationwide effort to contain the new coronavirus.

Analysts are looking to the Chinese reboot as a blueprint for how Disney's other parks around the world can be successfully restarted. The Chinese park will also offer some indications of post-epidemic consumer demand and behavior.

Over the past month, China has gained the upper hand against the virus, and consumer-facing businesses of most kinds — except cinemas and many live entertainment venues — have resumed operation. No new deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, have been reported in China for more than three weeks, and just 260 people remain hospitalized for the disease.

The swift sell-out is undoubtedly good news for the House of Mouse, assuming the early phase of reopening can be navigated without incident, outbreak or forced reclosure.

For its fiscal second quarter ended in March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Disney recorded an estimated $1.4 billion impact on its income from continuing operations. Its Parks, Experiences and Products segment, impacted especially hard by the global shutdown, saw an estimated $1 billion revenue decline.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the plan to restart the China park on an earnings call on Tuesday. The CEO made it clear during the call that no park would be reopened if it was forecasted to lose money, saying he believed there is plenty of "pent-up" demand. "If we open up 50 percent less (capacity), we won't have trouble selling that," said Chapek. "We will staff accordingly for whatever that level will be."

The Chinese customers jumping at the first chance to return to the Magic Kingdom most likely are enthusiastic about a Disneyworld experience with low-capacity grounds, meaning minimal lines for attractions.

Disney's domestic theme parks, as well as those elsewhere in the world, remain closed, with no announced dates for reopening.

Hong Kong Disneyland across China's southern border closed its doors around the same time as Shanghai Disneyland, followed by Japan's Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea near the end of February.

The domestic parks have been closed since mid-March when the coronavirus rocked the nation, forcing states to issue stay-at-home orders. Initially, Disney hoped parks would reopen by mid-April, but when it became clear that was not an option, the company closed the parks, and surrounding hotels and shopping districts, indefinitely.