Comcast: Universal's Theme Parks to Return to Profits Next Year

October 29, 2020, 12:42 PM · Revenue at Universal's theme parks dropped more than 80 percent in the most recent quarter when compared to the same period a year ago, NBCUniversal owner Comcast reported today. But Comcast executives remained optimistic about their theme parks, saying that they are seeing improvement in attendance and revenue in Orlando and Japan and expect the parks business to be back to profitability next year.

Those theme parks booked $311 million in revenue for the three months ending September 30 and $1.3 billion for the year to date. The year-to-date figure is down 71 percent from the same period in 2019.

The Universal Orlando Resort was closed from mid-March through early June due to the pandemic, while Universal Studios Japan was closed from the end of February through mid-June. Universal Studios Hollywood closed in mid-June and remains closed. (Universal Studios Singapore is owned by Genting Singapore and operates under license from NBCUniversal.) Though they are now open again, the parks in Orlando and Japan continued to operate at reduced capacity to promote safe physical distancing among guests and team members.

The theme park segment's Adjusted EBITDA loss for the quarter was $203 million and $526 million for the year to date. The third quarter's loss includes approximately $20 million in pre-opening costs for the upcoming Universal Studios Beijing resort, which Comcast officials said is on schedule to open by next summer.

"We anticipate cumulative pre-opening costs to be roughly $400 million, with approximately $100 million falling in 2020 and $300 million in the first half of 2021," Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh said.

"We continue to see improvement in underlying trends and expect the theme park business to break even at some point in 2021, independent of what occurs with Universal Studios Hollywood," he said.

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Replies (5)

October 29, 2020 at 1:11 PM

I think it comes down to two questions.

When will vaccines be ready for general distribution, and how many will take it.

October 29, 2020 at 2:51 PM

I thought it interesting that they said they could get in the black even without USH. Makes me wonder just how much cash flow they are expecting from the new park in Beijing.

October 29, 2020 at 3:12 PM

Hey Robert USH has been closed since mid March, You put mid June. They partially paid employees in June but weren't opened.

October 30, 2020 at 2:33 AM

I might go to Disney World in these current times, but not Universal. They don’t seem to enforce masks and social distancing very well. I don’t see how it’s possible for them to make more than a minor profit next year unless the virus is no longer an issue, or Universal is letting more people in their parks than they should.

November 3, 2020 at 9:17 PM

Some people may feel more confident about visiting next year having become a “little more” familiar with COVID 19 and improved treatments.

Additionally, it seems there could be inexpensive, highly specific PCR rapid tests available by then which could boost customer confidence that COVID is not transmitting in the park bubble (or quickly identified and contained), should those tests be required for Universal property.

Further, the tests might increase confidence for opening international (and domestic) borders and reduced just-arrived quarantine times.

The state of Florida seems to be the least restrictive on the spectrum of states’ intervention with the operation of business concerns during this pandemic. This is likely to continue into at least the next year.

Another factor could be the success they saw with modified haunted houses. Build it with plexiglass and they will come.

Let’s not forget that shiny new coaster sitting on the lake. : )

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