Disney theme parks in the U.S. have been shuttered since mid-March and could remain that way until the beginning of 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus health emergency, according to one analyst at global financial firm UBS.
In a report released to clients Monday and obtained by several media outlets, including USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, John Hodulik estimated that the Walt Disney Co. will not reopen Disneyland in Anaheim or Walt Disney World in Florida until Jan. 1.
“We believe Parks’ profitability will be impaired for a longer period of time given the lingering effects of the outbreak and now assume an opening date of Jan. 1 as our base case,” wrote Hodulik, who is the Switzerland-based investment bank’s managing director of investment research.
But even when the theme parks do reopen their gates, their attendance will likely only be half of what it was in 2019, according to the report.
“We now believe the lingering effects of the outbreak — including crowd avoidance, new health precautions, etc. — will dramatically reduce the profitability of these businesses even after they are reopened until a vaccine is widely available,” the report stated.
Health officials have repeatedly said it could take 12 to 18 months to produce an effective vaccine, and many have called even that timeline optimistic.
The theme park closures were initially slated to last for just a couple of weeks. Then, when the outbreak took hold across the country in late March, the company announced that resorts on both coasts would be “closed until further notice.”
For its part, Disney has remained mum about possible reopening dates.
It’s also unclear what changes guests can expect once the parks are open again, though it appears likely some adjustments could be made.
Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger told Barron’s earlier this month that in the absence of a vaccine, “more scrutiny” and “more restrictions” are possibilities to ensure parkgoers feel safe.
That may include conducting temperature checks, which could become as routine as the customary bag checks, he said.
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