Shanghai Disneyland's Early Reception May Be Good Sign for California's Disneyland

Disneyland Anaheim Park on March 14 2020 - H
David McNew/Getty

A closed Disneyland in Anaheim, California on March 14, 2020.

Thus far, there has been zero mention of a possible reopening of the Anaheim park, although the resort is currently allowing July hotel reservations.

Shanghai Disneyland Park reopened Monday and the entire week sold out almost immediately, according to Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek. The sprawling China resort put strict health measures in place for guests (and employees), and it appears by the ticket demand, those changes did not deter would-be visitors. 

That could bode well for Disneyland's eventual reopening in Anaheim, contends one veteran Wall Street analyst. 

Shanghai Disneyland was the first of the company's theme parks to close amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, shuttering in late January. A domino effect occurred in the months following, with Disneyland and Walt Disney World among the last parks to close in mid-March. 

Now, as the company considers the possible initial stages of reopening its domestic parks, all eyes are on Shanghai as a potential blueprint. So far, its reception may be a good sign for Disneyland, but not necessarily Disney World.

David Miller, an analyst with Imperial Capital, on Friday told The Hollywood Reporter that the China theme park moving tickets so quickly shows demand exists. "I would say it generally bodes well for Disneyland because Disneyland is more of a local visitation Disney park — but there are no guarantees," Miller said.

The maximum capacity for Shanghai Disneyland is 80,000 a day. However, under current government regulations, the park must cap occupancy at 30 percent, which is 24,000 visitors a day. Chapek previously noted the park would open with 20 percent capacity. After a few weeks, it would be increased to the 30 percent level. The exec also made it clear the company would not reopen a park if it would lose money.

Investment banker Macquarie in a May 8 analyst report noted the recovery of all parks is assumed to be gradual into 2021. "For Parks & Resorts we calculate Disney will lose between $1.5 to $1.8 billion," reads the report. "We assume Disney parks can save 60 percent of its costs through the staff furloughs as well as saving other variable costs such as food and beverage and utilities."

Thus far, there has been zero mention from the company about a reopening of Disneyland, although the resort is currently allowing would-be guests to make July hotel reservations. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday afternoon gave Disney World and Universal Orlando the green light to submit plans for reopening.

“They have to provide how they are going to do it, how they’re going to accommodate the guests, how they’re going to protect the staff and then they need to have an endorsement from the local official in their locality,” DeSantis said. He noted Disney and Universal have to submit in the plan to the state the date the companies believe the theme parks can resume safe operations. 

The Disney Springs shopping and dining complex in Orlando will reopen on Wednesday with strict health measures in place, a union leader explained. At first, only subcontracted shops will be open in Disney Springs. The next phase will begin seven days later when Disney retail shops, such as the World of Disney Store, and Disney eateries reopen. 

Eric Clinton, president of UNITE HERE Local 362, which reps attractions, custodial and vacation planning Disney workers, said all guests and employees will be required to wear masks. Disney will provide employees with three washable masks. Guests will have their temperatures checked, and plexiglass dividers have been installed at registers. Guests will swipe their own payments cards, as they will no longer be handled by employees. And custodians will be retrained to pay attention to high-touch areas.

While park fans may assume Disney Springs is a sign of what's to come for the actual Florida theme park, Miller said, in his opinion, the area reopening is not indicative of anything. "It's so small relative to the enterprise value of the company, that we [analysts] wouldn't even focus on that," he said. So, there is no reading the tea leaves for the moment, but it is safe to assume Disney wants the Florida resort to reopen as soon as safely possible due to the massive amount of revenue it generates. 

"By our estimations, 80 percent of parks and resorts operating income is Orlando," Miller said. "Orlando is a multi-headed monster. It completely dwarfs any other park operation in size and scope. But the trick for Disney is most people have to fly there." Which is why, he added, the China theme park reception likely means little for Disney World. "You can't look at Shanghai and say, 'This is how it's going to go down in Florida,' because in Florida, you have to fly there."