'Negligible' Chance for Mass Gatherings in California This Summer

April 14, 2020, 6:41 PM · The new normal for theme parks that I envisioned as a hypothetical yesterday is becoming reality, at least in the state of California.

In his daily online address to the state, Governor Gavin Newsom today detailed six criteria that state leaders will be watching to decide when to begin to modify California's stay-at-home order. As expected, the Governor explained that California will not lift the order all at once, but instead will clear businesses to reopen in phases, under specific restrictions. You can watch today's entire briefing below.

The Governor did not mention theme parks specifically during his remarks, but did address mass gatherings when taking questions from reporters. And his answer should make clear that there's little chance of Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other California theme parks opening in June, as many fans have been hoping and maybe even expecting.

"The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity and we get to a vaccine," the Governor said. "So large-scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers - all together across every conceivable difference, health and otherwise - [are] not in the cards based upon our current guidelines and current expectations.

"Things can change radically," he continued, "so I want to caution my own words... but when you suggest June, July, August, it is unlikely."

The Governor made clear in his remarks that California will not allow businesses to return to a pre-corona "normal" until there's an effective and tested vaccine and society has reached a herd immunity that protects everyone. But no one expects that to happen by summer. Few believe that will happen even this year.

This means that if theme parks are to open in California before there's a vaccine, they will need to change their standard operating procedures to conform with emerging state rules on social distancing, health monitoring, and personal protection. California theme parks will need to find ways to operate rides, shows, stores, and restaurants with limited capacities and mandated spacing between guests. Health screenings might have to happen alongside security screenings. And mass gatherings such as fireworks and parades might be off the schedule entirely.

Creative theme park leaders can find ways to make this happen. Perhaps parks might have to require reservations to enter and to experience attractions within, abandoning standby lines and walk-up ticket sales. Parks might need to designate traffic lanes for pedestrians throughout the park, as they do for especially busy periods, with extra spacing between them for the new rules. The theme park industry has developed world-class expertise in managing crowds under just about any situation. I have no doubt that they could manage crowds to the satisfaction of California's strict standards for protecting the public during the suppression phase of managing this disease.

But can they afford to?

As I suggested yesterday, the new restrictions on operations could force parks to spend an enormous amount of money on increased staffing and training, in addition to having to make capital changes in and around the parks. That expense, coupled with restrictions on the number of customers who could visit at one time, might make it impossible for some parks to be able to afford to open before a vaccine allows California to lift its restrictions.

But if those parks do not open until fall, or next winter, or next year, that long of a downtime by itself might become an existential threat.

Of course, the Governor's standards apply only to the state of California... and perhaps in Oregon and Washington, which have entered into a post-corona recovery pact with California. Florida and other states where large theme parks operate are free to adopt their own rules about social distancing and business operations. But would Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld be willing to open their parks in Florida while they remain closed in California? (Is there any civil legal liability for them to operate in one state while another has ordered them closed as a public health risk?)

Even if other states were to allow parks to reopen before the risk is eliminated, would people want to visit them? Not everyone has to stay away. If even a significant percentage of would-be customers choose not to visit due to perceived risk from mass gatherings, the economics of operating a theme park changes substantially. Forget about reopening, theme parks might not be able to stay open until a vast majority of the public believes they are no longer at risk when traveling and being part of a crowd.

Again, I do not write any of this to spread fear or discouragement. I write this as I do everything here at Theme Park Insider — to keep you well-informed of what is happening in this business so that you can see what's going on, what's coming and what you need to do to make the right decisions for you and your family.

Also remember that theme parks are a global industry. The United States - for a long list of reasons - has suffered more cases and more deaths than any other nation. Other countries may be able to allow their parks to reopen without risk before the United States can. That will give us plenty to write about - and you to read about - as we await the resumption of the American theme park industry.

And even while the parks are closed, the insider's work of planning for their reopening and their future never stops. In many ways, this is the most interesting and amazing moment in the history of the theme park business. Even if the parks remain closed for a while.

Replies (35)

April 14, 2020 at 7:26 PM

Anybody who has been to a supermarket/grocery store lately, will know what a horrible and stressful experience it now is, what with all of the social distancing rules in place. Now, imagine those same rules, plus many more, in a theme park. Doesn’t really sound like a fun day out, does it?

April 15, 2020 at 12:01 AM

I think you're going to have a hard time convincing parks to sit out the summer, especially if businesses in other sectors open. The reality is that missing out on a summer of revenue completely would probably result in insolvency for a vast majority of the nation's theme parks, and depending on what qualifies as a "mass gathering" the day to day operation may not even count. If you eliminate shows and parades, reduce seating in dining areas, space groups in queues, and limit overall park occupancy, I'd actually argue you're less susceptible to coming in contact with others than on your weekly run to the grocery store.

The other side of this is that herd immunity doesn't work if everyone is confined to their homes. If you want to protect against a virus but don't have a vaccine, the best chance of that is to allow it to spread in a controlled manner. Let the population mix a bit, suppress the resulting increase, then once the numbers start declining again mix things a little more. Stay at home is an effective short term tool, but once it goes beyond a couple months the costs of it start to outweigh the benefits. Keep it in place throughout the summer, and there might not be much left to reopen.

Now, that doesn't mean I think everything will (or should) go straight back to normal, but I do think we need to look less at suppressing the virus and more at living with it. The measures we've taken thus far have made sense given the conditions, but they probably won't make sense a month from now if cases have decreased and testing has been significantly improved.

April 15, 2020 at 12:32 AM

Well, this is California.

Given Florida just declared WWE pro wrestling an "essential business," I highly suspect they'll be a tad looser on guidlines....

April 15, 2020 at 2:36 AM

Theme parks not only have to abide by the law but also have to think about their PR. The WWE doesn't have any spectators right now, and Disney put the shutdown on Dana White's planned UFC island fights. With most all of the entire Disney company furloughed [other than the news/streaming business and people babysitting the grounds] I think having the parks closed for a summer will not totally sink their company. Obviously I hope that does not happen but there is no way places like WDW and DLR will just go bust ... they are extremely successful businesses and a black swan event, even a really terrible one like this, doesn't really change that.

Now I agree a company like Sea World/Six Flags probably won't be able to pay their bills with having the parks closed for so long and that's something they need to work out with their debtors. Six Flags has publicly stated they have enough cash/credit capacity to make it to August.

In regards to new rides and expansions I think there will be a major freeze for the next few years on that kind of stuff for every company. However considering how much stuff has gotten built recently I don't think that's that big of a deal.

April 15, 2020 at 10:37 AM

Definitely a catch 22 of sorts. if everything stays closed the economy dies and how do we recover? it would take years. Reopen everything and the death toll will be very high. A measured approach will be needed as AJ says but If I am honest I don't see how Themne parks or sports with fans in attendance can happen without a vaccine or treatment at the very least. Imagine tens of thousands of people descending on a theme park resort like WDW. hundreds to thousands would likely be infected each day and they may not show symptoms for their entire vacation. When they get home they will have already infected others and will continue to spread until all of a sudden there are major outbreaks around them.

Is opening a theme park worth it? Is filling sports stadiums worth it? I think the answer is no under our current circumstances. opening up small businesses that are closed is more important for communities to keep going. What about a large city reopening all of its mass transit and giant office buildings? That would be more important but how do we do that and avoid another wave of this? As much as we all love theme parks and sports, and music , I think those are all nice to haves and not necessities. However, to the people who own and work for these large venues it most certainly is a necessity since that is how they feed themselves and their families.

We are in a world of extreme uncertainty and eventually, we have to reopen the world. How and when is the real question and who and what survives will be even bigger questions. Ones that no one can answer right now.

April 15, 2020 at 10:44 AM

AJ Writes: "If you eliminate shows and parades, reduce seating in dining areas, space groups in queues, and limit overall park occupancy, I'd actually argue you're less susceptible to coming in contact with others than on your weekly run to the grocery store."

I Respond: If you eliminate shows and parades, reduce seating in dining areas, space groups in queues, and limit overall park occupancy, I'd actually argue you're not gonna make any money anyway so why open.

Also, so we are all on the same page, when you go to the grocery store you are not there for eight, ten or twelve hours.

April 15, 2020 at 11:01 AM

@TrueMD: Sadly, there are many truly advocating "a few thousand deaths is a small price for the economy going, how many die of the flu every year, this is just a bigger strain, we don't need to close down cities!"

I swear, one guy in utter seriousness stated "numbers prove only one in 15,000 can get COVID so it's like shutting down a town that size because one elderly person is sick." Yes, most folks are rational and listening but others still think this isn't that bad (and let's not get started on the "giving up liberty is not worth it" crowd...).

It's going to be risky and some changes. A buzz going is that if movie theaters do reopen in June as planned, they'll be doing the "distancing" rules that were set in place before shutdowns occurred. Likewise restaurants but as TH Creative points out, it's one thing for an experience that lasts an hour or two and another for a theme park.

Again, there are going to be far too many people who will jump into "business as usual" which can affect things.

April 15, 2020 at 11:08 AM

I am really starting to get unhappy right now

April 15, 2020 at 12:27 PM

@MikeW - I agree with you to a certain extent that many "experts" and officials are weighing the price of lives saved versus economic losses, but those risk based analyses are what will eventually form the tenants of our society moving forward (and have always guided the way we lived life prior to this whether you knew about it or not).

As a great Vulcan once said, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)". At some point society as a whole needs to determine what level of loss is "acceptable". I have gone through a ton of safety and risk-based analytical training as part of my profession, and a safety-driven person needs to believe that you can achieve a goal of ZERO preventable incidents/injuries/death. However, the reality is that there will continue to be preventable incidents/injuries/deaths for as long as humans are roaming the universe. We make choices and take on risk every single day. We take the risk of contracting COVID-19 by walking out our door or touching any object that may have been touched by an infected person (or animal). The only way to truly eliminate any risk would be to live in a hermetically sealed box with sterilized food and water delivered through a sanitizing airlock. The way society is crawling along right now is not designed to reduce the risk of you contracting the coronavirus, it is to slow the rate of spread so that our medical capacity is not overwhelmed. The fact of the matter is that most humans on this planet are eventually going to contract the virus (if they haven't already had it and didn't even know it), and only a small percentage of them will fall fatally ill from it.

Even with a vaccine, a certain percentage of people will still die from the virus or be unable to take the remedy because of other underlying factors. Do we continue to force the entire planet to live in lockdown because of those preventable deaths, because we didn't do that before for other viruses (like SARS, flu, polio, measles, shingles/chicken pox, etc...)? Scientists are still finding out about this virus, so it's clear that lockdowns are needed to buy time for research and to keep it from spreading out of control to the point where medical capacity can no longer keep up and treat those that can eventually fight and defeat it. However, even with a vaccine and treatments, there's no guarantee that this virus won't mutate or bypass these mechanisms to afflict its wrath again, so at some point a risk-based calculation would need to be made to determine what loss of life is acceptable to allow society to move forward and allow humans to take the risk of contracting this virus that is the same as incurring a major injury in a collision while traveling to work.

I don't fully subscribe to the "herd immunity" folks, but science says that is eventually the path to defeat this (in fact, these principles are what are guiding vaccine development as well as studies on those that have already contracted and overcome the infection). COVID-19 is not going away, and there's more than ample data to prove that a majority of people that contract it will not die from it, and the only way to truly prevent contracting it if you haven't already been exposed to it (taking that risk of dying from it) would be to live in complete isolation FOREVER. I considering myself a realist (as opposed to an optimist, pessimistic, or pragmatist), and the reality is that COVID-19 is a fatal virus that uncontrolled can overwhelm our current medical systems to the point where medical professional will have to make decisions about who will live and die based on their capacity to treat patients. Therefore, controlling the virus' spread around the globe is the best tool until we can figure out who has had contracted it, who is most at risk from contracting it, and how to best treat its symptoms to improve recovery rates. I really feel that lockdowns can only last for another couple of months before the human desire for socializing and clustering overwhelms sensible arguments. At some point, this has to end, and a sense of "normalcy" will have to return to our society, most likely gradual, but eventually closer to a status quo than Robert suggests.

April 15, 2020 at 12:42 PM

By my count, in just the last 15 days, in the United States alone, more than 400,000 people have been diagnosed, and more than 22,000 have died.

That's a fatality rate of around 5.5%.

April 15, 2020 at 1:19 PM

I've listened to a lot of news and Youtube videos about the pandemic, and one prominent expert recommends everyone wearing masks to prevent the spread. So my question is, could theme parks reopen if they required everyone entering the gates to wear a mask or face shield? Along with a comprehensive information program, reminding people of basic cleanliness and social distancing guidelines.

I've also seen videos of how a sneeze spreads droplets that linger in the air. It looks scary, but the reality is that probably very few people stand upright and openly sneeze into a space. Through education, people could be reminded to sneeze/cough into the crook of their arm, among other precautions. Would there still be the possibility of accidents? Yes, but through education and the fact that most people are careful or paranoid now, the actual risk would probably be reduced. Everyone in Costco and grocery stores are wearing masks, so they probably wouldn't mind wearing masks at Disneyland.

April 15, 2020 at 2:29 PM

Given California's general climate, amazed you don't see folks wearing masks more...

In seriousness, we see the extremists on both sides. I've run into a few loons who, in seriousness, say "we have to shut down grocery stores and drive-thrus, folks just have to go without fresh food for a few weeks." And even some nuts going on about "We have to start burning books and movies/game cases to ensure no virus remaining" when that's not a thing. So yes, they can be as bad as the "it's just the flu, we can go back now" bunch.

I have to agree that sooner rather than later, folks are going to start taking the risks to reopen places as keeping up like this for months on end is as unfeasible as acting like COVID doesn't exist. There will be challenges but we can hope folks are smarter handling them than before. I don't buy "Herd immunity" either but some balance is needed to handle this.

April 15, 2020 at 2:49 PM

>> I've listened to a lot of news and Youtube videos about the pandemic, and one prominent expert recommends everyone wearing masks to prevent the spread. So my question is, could theme parks reopen if they required everyone entering the gates to wear a mask or face shield?

I don’t think so. The science on the value of masks is iffy at best. As I understand it The WHO isn’t recommending widespread use, and neither is the UK government. There seems to be some consensus that there is a small reduction in risk from passing something from the mask wearer to someone else, but if I can paraphrase the UKGov press conference from a few days ago, if you’re not near a person there’s nothing for the mask to protect you from.

I think temp checks are more likely.

April 15, 2020 at 3:12 PM

I work at UPS and while drivers wear masks, it's clear it's more for customer comfort than actually cutting down the spread. It's also how the ones most effective are the high-scale surgical ones which should be saved for actual hospitals.

Many have pointed out that if you cough, it's far more effective to do it in your sleeve than into a mask. Yes, it helps but not to the level many think it does.

Do recall before the shutdowns, Disney had been installing more sanitizer stations in the parks so likely they double down on those.

April 15, 2020 at 8:27 PM

@TH Creative That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s bad enough in a grocery store, and you’re only there for around an hour or so. Having the same kind of social distancing rules in the parks, just wouldn’t work. Can’t go wandering around, in case you happen to walk too close to somebody else (I’m envisioning an enforced, one way path around the entire park now!).. Can’t visit this store or restaurant because there are already 10 people inside. Get in a queue or try again later. When it comes to rides - especially coasters - I can’t even begin to think how that would work. In short, all of the magic and fun would be gone, in place of guests being too worried about following all of the rules, and cast members too preoccupied with making sure that people are sticking to them.

April 15, 2020 at 10:13 PM

@80sMan: And that's the ones who will stick with it since, let's face it, plenty out there who still go either "this just a flu" or even "it's all a hoax" and go around like they would months ago.

April 16, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Disney has part of the answers needed to reopen their parks. I mentioned some of these things facetiously on TH Creative’s Discussion Forum titled “What does/will Disney do to bring its parks back on-line?”, but they may have some merit in finding a solution sooner rather than later when greater economic damage has happened.

First of all, define the objective for Disney. Here’s a suggestion:

“We want to safely open our parks for the enjoyment of our patrons, allow our workforce to safely earn a living, protect our corporate image as a family-oriented entertainment conglomerate, and make a profit in the process.”

How does Disney accomplish that?

1. Opening the parks primarily for patrons staying in Disney owned properties.
2. Adding a per person surcharge to the lodging fee to cover a medical evaluation team that will monitor your medical condition as you enter and leave the hotel.
3. Issuing upgraded wristbands that monitor your temperature as you move throughout the park. Old wristbands will be deactivated until normal societal health conditions are re-established.
4. Allowing the scheduling of all rides and attractions only on the MyDisneyExperience app. No exceptions.
5. Limiting visit times to one six-hour period per day; 9 AM to 3 PM or 4 PM to 10 PM.
6. Banning park hopping.
7. Limiting maximum capacity to only 25% of the regular maximum capacity of the park so people can experience as many attractions as possible in their 6-hour window and still maintain some social distancing.
8. Doubling entry prices for the duration of the COVID-19 limited operations period.
9. Not allowing anyone on any of the transportation systems or in the parks without a Disney-issued N-95 face mask. Extended removal of the mask will be grounds for expulsion from Disney property. Masks can also be customized with your favorite Disney character and are only good for one day.
10. Cancelling all parades, shows, and events that don’t allow for effective social distancing. That includes the fireworks show and the public stage shows that tend to have people congregate to view them.
11. Opening only one park a day to Annual Pass holders and day visitors not staying on Disney property.

Obviously, this is intended for the Florida parks, but many of the same rules can be used in a modified manner for the other Disney resorts around the world; upgraded wristbands, six-hour visit window, Disney-issued N-95 masks, doubled entry fees, etc.

A lot of people won’t like this, but this is only a temporary solution to get the parks open and the staff back to work as soon as possible.

April 16, 2020 at 3:46 PM

>>8. Doubling entry prices for the duration of the COVID-19 limited operations period.

I don't think demand is going to support that.

April 16, 2020 at 5:09 PM

@Tim Hillman Is your proposed list of rules a case of ‘pick & choose’ or would you want to see all 11, implemented?

April 16, 2020 at 5:39 PM

@Chad - They're going to have to have some form of a price increase if they're going to make a profit, and I'd be willing to bet that the demand is there.

@80sMan - I think all 11 proposals and more will have to implemented if they want to open up any time soon.

April 16, 2020 at 6:17 PM

@Tim Hillman Who, in their right mind, would pay double the entrance fee for a limited amount of time in the parks? How would cast members enforce a face mask rule? What amount of time would be classed as an “extended removal of the mask” and how would cast members be able to tell how long somebody has removed it for? Those are just a few questions that spring to mind. Don’t want to bombard you with lots more.
I have a trip rescheduled to next year. If I were to be contacted by Disney, saying something along the lines of “Sorry, but we’re charging you more to stay at our resort, so that somebody can take your temperature every time you enter and leave. Oh, and you know those park tickets that you’ve already paid thousands for? Yeah, now you have to pay twice as much”, then I would gladly cancel my trip.

April 16, 2020 at 11:13 PM

Part of me, 80sMan, agrees with you, but after seeing what some Disney patrons would pay for dessert parties and reserve seating for the fireworks display, I think there's enough demand to support radically higher prices for a limited period. Keep in mind that this will be only for a limited period of time while the park transitions back to semi-normal operations.

And 6 hours is plenty of time in the park if all of the rides and attractions are in a virtual queue and you get 2 rides per hour due to the smaller crowds. After all, didn't Disney once have a standard that getting to experience 5 attractions per day was acceptable?

Some people will go for this and will proudly display their family pictures taken with a Disney character where they are all wearing N-95 masks.

April 17, 2020 at 4:59 AM

Tim, I believe the standard was 11 attractions. I don't know very many people who would be okay with five. I also can't speak for the culture in Florida, but Disneyland had it's first attendance decline in a while last year in part due to the cost, and they've been struggling to fill their special ticket events recently. With a combination of already being at about the maximum price most guests are willing to pay, operating in a more limited fashion than most are accustomed to, and a situation where families have far less disposable income, I think any strategy involving increased prices probably results in bankruptcy. In fact, I would not be surprised if they did the opposite and cut prices, particularly for those who book a whole vacation rather than just visiting for one or two days.

The only things I see on your list as realistic are 1, 4, and 10 (and maybe a variation of 9 for face-coverings in public indoors areas). Capacity and schedule restrictions are likely, though probably to 50-60% and 10 hour days, respectively. The rest are either not feasible or would turn off so many people from visiting it wouldn't be economical to reopen. The reality for most companies is if they can break even in 2020 it will be considered a success. Profit in 2020 is pretty much secondary to just surviving, and anything that will reduce visitor numbers for any reason not safety related is counter to that goal.

April 17, 2020 at 9:43 AM

AJ, thanks for the info. For some reason, I had 5 attractions stuck in my head, but that conversation was more than a few years, so I'll take a mulligan on it.

But keep in mind that I'm hypothetically talking about the period of June-August. How many families are desperate to get out and have some fun and go to a Disney park in the summer peak season when the parks are limited to 25% capacity? I'd say that there's enough people willing to pay the extra price and get the reduced time in the park to fill up those three months. Heck, at my age, I rarely spend more than 6 hours in any park on a regular visit (and at Six Flags it seems to end at 5 coasters in 2 hours).

I do not see a price decrease at Disney or Universal in the summer. Instead of marketing themselves as a fun, family vacation destination, the parks have to market themselves as a premium destination that's safe and fun for the family to visit while the rest of the country is on partial lockdown and social distancing.

Here's a question to ask yourself. Do you really want to plan a vacation at Disney or Universal if they announce price cuts that enable more people to afford to visit? My gut feeling says more knuckleheads will show up, and I don't want to be there with them.

April 17, 2020 at 1:25 PM

It's definitely time to phase out annual passes, at least the cheap ones owned by hundreds of thousands of people. In California, that's been the key reason for overcrowding, and Disney seemed to love their sardine can policies of packing the parks 365 days a year. That model just doesn't work in a post covid world, at least until a vaccine.

Disney and other companies will just have to weather the inevitable backlash from a major price increase. But if they run at 50% capacity or less, the wait times will plummet, and you can get much more out of your day at a theme park. So it will be worth the extra cost, and you can do everything in a day or two instead of 5 days (or 7-10 days at WDW).

Once the economy reopens, theme parks don't HAVE to remain closed. They can use the Discovery Cove model and let people in on a reservation-only basis. Yes, theme park tickets might be $300 per day, but if you can do three times more rides with laughable wait times, it's still worth it. It's a shorter but higher quality vacation.

April 17, 2020 at 1:32 PM

@Tim Hillman Who, in their right mind, would pay double the entrance fee for a limited amount of time in the parks?

Me. And enough other people to fill 25% capacity.

As for the masks, that might not even be necessary with so few people in the parks.

April 17, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Brilliant minds think alike, Still a Fan. I would be willing to pay more if in return, Disney would reduce the capacity of the parks. For years I have been thinking that at least Disney and probably Universal needed to move in a premium direction.

Higher prices, less crowding, more rides in a shorter period of time due to a well-defined itinerary, and a higher quality experience are the future.

And this may be heresy to some of you, but the premium parks like Disney and Universal aren't for everyone. Why we hang on to that notion is beyond me.

April 17, 2020 at 2:13 PM

I think you're all wrong. The last day Disneyland was open--after we all knew about the coronavirus and the dangers it poses--the place was PACKED. My money says as soon as most people's works reopen, and schools/camps/daycare have to reopen, Disney will immediately reopen with minimal changes. Maybe they'll space out the lines, maybe they'll cancel the parades, but I bet not much else.

The truth is that if they open Disneyland tomorrow, the place will be packed. Granted, they might have to close it again two weeks later when an outbreak is traced back, but then they'll immediately reopen it again.

25,000 people have died from the Coronavirus. That may sound like a lot, but 35,000 people die from gun deaths every year, and that doesn't stop society. Someone shot up Vegas, and a week later Vegas' streets were packed.

We live in San Francisco: our sidewalks and parks are packed with people, especially young people, who could care less about the threat. They'll all be charging back to Disney the second it opens.

April 17, 2020 at 3:58 PM

thecolonel, frankly, what you just wrote above is insane. If it wasn't for the shutdown and social distancing, infection rates and death rates would be ten times higher.

Did you actually write the following with a straight face?

"The truth is that if they open Disneyland tomorrow, the place will be packed. Granted, they might have to close it again two weeks later when an outbreak is traced back, but then they'll immediately reopen it again."

Disney could never be that irresponsible, and they would "immediately reopen" afterwards? In what solar system?

There's no way they can reopen with "minimal changes". They've been packing their parks all year long. That has to change, or the second wave of the damn virus could well start in theme parks.

April 17, 2020 at 6:45 PM

“ We live in San Francisco: our sidewalks and parks are packed with people, especially young people, who could care less about the threat....”.

There really are no words. Well actually, there are plenty of words, but none that I can repeat here!

@Tim Hillman Who, exactly, aren’t Disney and Universal for?

April 17, 2020 at 10:56 PM

Tim, I think you may be mistaken. While there will be lots who want to visit the parks, the number who are able to visit is going to be far, far lower. International visitors are likely to be slim to none this year, and more likely than not it will be the local audience keeping Disney afloat for at least the first couple months. Those traveling from some distance away are not going to pay a premium for a reduced experience, especially if they visit infrequently. Instead, they'll just defer their trip until conditions improve and visit the local theme park, which is probably offering a season pass good for two seasons at the price of one. Heck, I know some uber fans who are used to visiting Disneyland weekly but will not visit if temperature checks or reservations are a condition of entry despite owning a pass they already paid for.

Sorry, Tim, but while you and a few others may go for half the magic at twice the price, you're in a small minority among the entire visitor pool.

April 18, 2020 at 10:36 AM

@80sMan - I used to own a lot of rental real estate, and I know from talking to many of my tenants over the years, a vacation wasn't possible financially for them and a vacation to Disney World was totally out of the question. Maybe in SoCal where a day trip to Disney is possible, but you're still talking about over $100 dollars per person, and when you're in the bottom half of the middle class, that's a tough pill to swallow. So, in reality, Disney World and to a lesser extent Disneyland are looking at the upper middle class and the upper class as their market.

@AJ - I see what you're saying, but with all of the competing requirements Disney has to meet, the only way they can safely open is to cater to an exclusive audience for a limited period of time and then gradually lower the prices and remove the restrictions as conditions improve. If they don't, their market image will suffer, they won't make any profit, and they will be stuck in lawsuit hell with the trial lawyers for not taking adequate steps to protect their workforce and their patrons. They have to go overboard with the prices and protective measures or they might as well stay closed.

April 18, 2020 at 11:47 AM

@Tim Hillman I’m sorry, but with all due respect, I just don’t agree with you about that. I wouldn’t consider myself upper or middle class, but I absolutely think that my family and i should be able to enjoy a trip to those parks. We work hard and save hard for it; so if you’re telling me that, because of my social standing and because I would have an issue with paying double, Disney and Universal isn’t for me and my family, then I find that quite insulting.

April 18, 2020 at 2:33 PM

@80sMan - I apologize if you feel that I insulted you. That certainly wasn't my intent, and if it came out that way then I need to do a better job of stating my positions.

First of all when I say that "the premium parks like Disney and Universal aren't for everyone" I'm really stating the fact that Disney and Universal are moving away from lower income families. Here's why:

$21.92 1971 MK General Admission Ticket (adjusted into 2019 dollars)
$39.25 1982 MK General Admission Ticket (adjusted into 2019 dollars)
$125.00 2019 MK General Admission Ticket

Now, as with all statistics, there's a lot left out of these numbers, but the one thing that stands out is that since 1982 when Disney did away with the ticket books, the prices have more than tripled. You could argue that Disney has vastly improved their parks since then, but the impact to your wallet is still a tripling of the effective price you were paying 40 years ago.

So, the fact that you make it a priority to be able to afford a Disney or Universal vacation at your income level is commendable because neither Disney nor Universal is making it any easier for anybody in the middle or lower class income categories to afford a visit. Yes, people like you and me can still afford a nice visit every now and then, but they're marketing more and more to the folks with a lot of disposable income.

April 18, 2020 at 5:11 PM

If you don't have to fight the usual crowds, and wait times are consistently short so you can do a lot more rides per hour, how is that a reduced experience?

In addition, look at all the mind-boggling levels of planning you have to do, in order to beat the crowds these days. I was the planner for a family trip (7 people) last October, and I beat my brains out, planning for dozens of hours, to make sure we had very few long waits for rides. None of that would be necessary if the crowds were sparse.

Not a lot of people will be able to go to Disney this year? How about one quarter of the usual crowds? That sounds realistic to me. There you go, that's 25% capacity.

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