Walt Disney World Cuts Theme Park Hours Again

August 7, 2020, 6:36 PM · The Walt Disney World theme parks today published reduced operating hours for their fall season.

Starting Tuesday, September 8:

Epcot's hours remain 11am-9pm. In October, Epcot's closing time moves to 7pm, according to the Disney World website. However, the website has Animal Kingdom's hours going back to 8am-6pm in October. Disney has not posted theme park hours for November and beyond.

The reduction of an hour or two after the Labor Day holiday weekend wouldn't normally be a big deal. Disney's theme parks typically roll back operating hours after the busy summer season.

But this hasn't been a busy summer season - not with the pandemic keeping the parks closed until mid-July and tourists not yet returning to Central Florida. That Disney is cutting its operating hours further after the summer suggests that the resort does not see a return of tourists to the Orlando on the horizon this fall, nor does it anticipate enough of an increase in local visitors to justify keeping its current operating schedule - which was sharply reduced from a typical summer.

Replies (20)

August 7, 2020 at 6:59 PM

Actually after about 5-6 hours of mask wearing you’re pretty much ready to go anyway!

August 7, 2020 at 8:30 PM

They need to cut the ticket prices if they are cutting the hours. I was so looking forward to going to Disney but now not as much. Certainly not getting my money’s worth.

August 7, 2020 at 11:14 PM

This is not surprising at all considering the attendance they have been having, by the late afternoon the parks are pretty much empty. Sadly this is the low hanging fruit, it looks like the pandemic may go on the rest of the year or even into next year so "packages" for senior employees may be the next step in this ordeal, increased healthcare prices, etc. Also if Disney is hurting you know its got to be worse for all the businesses in Orlando that depend on them. It's pretty much guaranteed the economic fallout from this will get worse before it gets better.

Also on another note according to the Orlando Sentinel yesterday UCF already has 451 cases and they just went back this week, so knowing that not only business is too slow for the college program they may also be too scared to start that up because of the living situation until after there is a vaccine. They also still have tons of people still out on furlough and it could be a long time before their jobs can come back (all the conventions people, for example). And now that the waterparks have missed summer you have to wonder if they will come back this year. So unless they get laid off Disney is going to have to try and find something for these people to do while the economy is shrinking. All of this means its going to be a long time before Disney hires anybody and people who have dreams of moving to Orlando and working in the business are pretty much F'ed for the forseeable future.

August 7, 2020 at 10:56 PM

Also in reference to my "going to get worse before it gets better" comment, in today's sentinel there is an article saying Virgin has terminated their licensing agreement with the Brightline development, meaning the Virgin branding is being dropped from the Florida high speed rail. It does appear that it's still being built but is going back to the Brightline name and branding.

August 7, 2020 at 11:41 PM

Yeah, this is why I wouldn't even consider a trip to Florida this year if it weren't for a particular event. Right now, you're essentially paying $15 an hour to spend time in a Disney park (assuming you stay the full day), which while not outrageous is still 50% more than under normal operating hours. Fortunately, you can probably experience 50% more attractions in a day and 8-9 hours is about the longest most people can withstand a face mask, but if you're concerned about time vs. money this year is definitely on the losing end. That said, I am debating whether to cut my Disney time on my October trip back from three days to two, especially since Universal across town is offering some pretty great deals.

August 8, 2020 at 7:18 AM

I think how quite it is now you can get more bang out of your bucks than when you go on a crowded day with longer hours.
But it shows Disney is doing terrible financially and will for a long time to come.

August 8, 2020 at 2:23 PM

Wow, they basically are giving up on people spending money on dinner at the parks. Maybe they are hoping to funnel crowds towards Disney Springs?

If the locals are going to be their core base for a while they really need to open later in the day and stay open late in the evening. You are not going to capture that crowd when you close before they can get off work and make it to the parks. Doing this would still take care of the tourist that are visiting and capture a local crowd as well.

Universal and SeaWorld seem to be doing the same thing. This is going to remove the local crowds from the parks during the weekdays and leave them only with the limited tourist crowds.

Does anyone know the thought process for this type of business move?

August 8, 2020 at 4:02 PM

Right now, according to Bob Chapek, half the park is filled locals and half the park is coming from out of state. The same site that I got that info from is also saying that those with single or multi-day tickets can get in nearly every park they want on the day they want, while AP holders must get a reservation a a week in advance for Epcot and HS, two weeks for MK, and a whole month for HS!

We can speculate the reasoning Disney is doing this and whether it is a good move or not. They have more info than week do. But I suspect they know how full their hotels that are open will be after Labor Day and making a decision that is best for their bottom line.

As for those who think Disney should discount their tickets: if they can find people to pay full price now, what should they discount them? I’m seeing this in the casino industry right now. The big comps and specials for the weekender are virtually gone, as are low limit tables. If they can still bring in the big spenders, then no reason to cater to the small players.

August 8, 2020 at 5:28 PM

I was talking to a pass holder at work last week, and she's been to Epcot, MK & DAK over the past couple of weeks, and said apart from Epcot, the parks are "safe and empty" (her words) She and her family didn't like Epcot because the food and wine event didn't afford good social distancing and not a lot were wearing masks, for obvious reasons.

Typically for a passholder she was only in there a few hours, but that's what we do. They didn't do any rides or eat at the restaurants, but she did say FofP was only 20mins. Crazy really.

With news like this from someone who's been, it's no surprise Disney's hours will be cut after Labor Day. I haven't heard if the other 2 parks are doing the same.

My first planned Disney visit is still 9/24 to DAK, so I'll see how I feel about going as that day draws closer. For someone like me, who only goes in for a walk round, and maybe a browse thru the stores, at the moment I see no reason for not going, but a lot can change in 6 weeks.

I still haven't been to SWO either, but plan to visit after Labor Day. As a platinum pass member, I still have my $50 "gift" to spend ... :)

Stay safe everyone

August 8, 2020 at 8:30 PM

@ Rave5 - I don’t claim to know the answers for sure, but my thought is that Disney would not try to funnel dinner customers into Downtown Disney, as that would take money out of their own pocket to benefit 3rd Party Tenants.

Being a Commercial Real Estate Professional, I can tell you that Landlord’s (Disney in this caee) have no responsibility to ensure a tenant succeeds, provided they don’t intentionally cause the issues. I’d also be shocked beyond belief, if a company like Disney didn’t have every single lease fully guaranteed down to the penny. With that said, there is in all likelihood no threat at all to Disney on collecting their full rent, from say T-Rex Cafe, regardless of how poor they do (or even if they shut down). Therefore no reason to funnel business to them, if they are hurting themselves.

What I definitely agree with you on is that if they hope to get the park filled with locals, they will need to remain open later in the day. Logic suggests that people who have the disposable income to buy tickets and annual passes work during the daytime.

My best guess is that their profits and loses analysis shows that the longer they stay open, the less money they make (or more they lose). If I had the answer for how to do things better, I’d probably be working a high profile position for a company like Disney. The best I can come up with is maybe try opening later, instead of closing earlier, which would allow for a mix of tourists (who don’t feel like getting up at 7am while on vacation) and locals.

August 9, 2020 at 12:15 PM

Twobits: "Right now, according to Bob Chapek, half the park is filled locals and half the park is coming from out of state."

Me: When did he say that? Got a link? I mean, I am not doubting you, I am just looking for the quote.

August 9, 2020 at 12:45 PM

I'm not a local but if I was...I agree with others in the later opening and closing hours. I'd much prefer going to the park later in the afternoon and staying through dinner. Seems like the smarter choice to capture more F&B revenue as well.

August 9, 2020 at 1:34 PM

I just got back from 3 days - MK, DHS, and Epcot. Other than it being scorchingly hot, the crowd levels did not seem “low” despite them limiting the park to those on property or with a reservation. At DHS on Friday, the 10am Rise of Resistance virtual queue filled up in about 20 seconds - we missed out. Wait times for the majority of the rides (TOT, slinky dog, runaway railway) in the morning were 40-50 min. The sky is definitely not falling. I think Disney will be just fine.

August 9, 2020 at 2:14 PM

@ TH: https://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/202008/7633/

Last sentence of the article.

August 9, 2020 at 5:24 PM

Thanks.

August 10, 2020 at 5:57 AM

I personally think it’s a much better deal even at full price, if you can ride all the rides and experiences in 5 hours and skip the crowds, especially in the summer. I loved going in July without the huge crowds and wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I happily paid full price. As far as locals go, there are many retirees that can go anytime. In addition, locals have vacation days too. I sincerely doubt many would go to Disney for dinner often if it was open later when there are plenty of restaurant options in Orlando without the hassle of drubbing all the way to Disney. Finally, the regional crowd - Miami, Lauderdale, Tampa and Jacksonville can easily hike over for a day or two and with plenty of cheap hotel options. The Disney hotels are not a bargain right now and not necessary since there are low crowds and even parking is easy and close. Florida residents don’t need to go for 7 days and see every park as we’ve done it before many times.

August 11, 2020 at 8:53 AM

I was at Epcot and Hollywood Studios this past weekend. While not crowded it certainly was not empty either. Most waits were an 40 minutes to an hour. More people here for this visit for sure. The Magical Express seemed pretty busy and the Rivera hotel were we spent 4 days was not empty. I was surprised how many people traveled by air. Looks like people are finding a way to live with this pandemic. Social distance, good hygiene and masks. Family and I had a great time and will be back. Only down side was lack of food choices. Disney and Universal address both doing a great job!

August 11, 2020 at 9:11 AM

I agree with others, if you aren't getting the full experience and hours are cut. Prices should definitely be reduced. As for hours being cut normally in Sept. I disagree we usually go in Sept. and the hours weren't cut ,we had extra magic hours and the hours were still till 9 or 10 at nite. Not like know 6 and 7 at night.

August 11, 2020 at 11:41 AM

...cue all the "greedy corporations should lower prices etc etc" people lol.

Theme parks will do what makes the most money. If that means doing deals when they have low attendance in order to get people in, that's what it means, but they are not going to arbitrarily lower prices just because their hours are shorter. Nobody is going to decide not to go vacation at Disney World because the park hours are 9-6 instead of 9-7.

August 11, 2020 at 12:49 PM

the_man is absolutely right. FWIW, WDW's operating hours vary greatly depending on the time of year, which usually is based on crowds. If you go during the busy holiday season, MK is open 18 or more hours a day (more when you add in Magic Hours), but when you go in late January/early February, those hours can be cut almost in half. While there are slight price fluctuations now with WDW's demand-based admissions, it's not wildly different (typical delta of 10-15% on equivalent admission).

The fact of the matter is Disney makes these slight tweaks to their operational calendar all the time. In fact, they changed the DHS hours (and rules) a dozen times after Galaxy's Edge opened to adjust to crowd conditions and guest behavior, and during December, those changes were being made week to week. Given the scope and impact of the pandemic, it should not be surprising to see Disney making dramatic and frequent operational changes to adjust to how things are going in the parks. The demand is definitely still there to visit WDW, but Disney doesn't want to undercut themselves by providing dramatic discounts just to lure a few extra people during a time when the majority of the world is not inclined to take long vacations.

I do think it's odd that Disney is taking hours off the end of the day instead of the beginning of the day, but perhaps that's a nod to their safety-first philosophy. By making decisions to not bring in more guests that want to come to dine (without masks) and spend shorter times in the park, it would undermine their effort to create the safest possible environment for those families that want to spend the entire day in the park and have a safe experience.

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