Universal Theme Parks Return to Breakeven

January 28, 2021, 11:34 AM · Comcast reported its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings today, announcing that its Universal Studios theme parks - not including the new Beijing park - reached breakeven in the fourth quarter, despite the ongoing closure of Universal Studios Hollywood and reduced capacity at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Japan.

The company said that its theme park division within NBCUniversal collected $579 million in revenue in the fourth quarter, down 63 percent from the 1.56 billion it collected during the same period in 2019. For the year, Universal theme parks $1.8 billion, down 69 percent from 5.9 billion in 2019.

Adjusted earnings were a loss of $15 million for the quarter, including about $45 million in pre-opening costs for the upcoming Universal Studios Beijing resort. Over all of 2020, Universal's theme parks lost $541 million in Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization, compared to a profit of nearly $2.5 billion in 2019.

"We are pleased with how quickly we were able to reopen Orlando and Osaka while ensuring the safety of our staff and guests," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said. "Our guests are responding as confirmed by our steadily increased attendance and our most recent financial results. What we saw this fourth quarter, especially in Orlando, gives us even more conviction of the momentum that our theme parks will experience when we reach a sustainable recovery. We may experience some near term setbacks with the most recent pickup in COVID cases, but I am optimistic as ever about the long term trajectory of this very special business."

The company did not mention the Epic Universe project, which it had previously announced had been "paused" due to the pandemic. Universal Studios Singapore is operated under license to Resorts World Sentosa, so its attendance and revenue is not included in Comcast's financial results.

Universal Studios Japan recently postponed its planned February 4 debut for its Super Nintendo World land, due to increased local Covid-19 restrictions in the Osaka area. No official opening date has been announced, though the land has been operating on a soft-opening.

Universal Studios Beijing has been set to open late this spring, however the company has not yet announced an official opening date for that park, either. Nor is there any sign of a reopening date for Universal Studios Hollywood, though Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in Orlando remain open, though at reduced capacity. For discounted tickets to the Universal Orlando theme parks, please visit our travel partner's Universal Orlando tickets page.

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Replies (4)

January 28, 2021 at 1:53 PM

This begs me to ask 2 important questions...

1. If they can break even under current conditions which limit attendance and attraction capacity (diminished experience), how much profit was the parks division really making when conditions were optimal?

2. Are the parks able to break even under pandemic conditions because they are money-making machines during optimal conditions, or because management made shrewd moves to make the parks even more efficient money-making machines than they were before?

January 28, 2021 at 5:08 PM

@Russell - It's fair to say that their breaking even do to the budget cuts they made. Don't forget about all the layoffs they did. Nothing brings down cost better then lowering your payroll.

Closing attractions saves some money but the biggest costs will always be employees. Universal and Disney definitely have pretty good benefits so lowering the overall workforce is were they saved the most money. I doubt they would be breaking even if they hadn't laid off people.

January 29, 2021 at 1:45 AM

The number is whatever they want it to be:

We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income attributable to Comcast Corporation before net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests and redeemable subsidiary preferred stock, income tax expense, investment and other income (loss), net, interest expense, depreciation and amortization expense, and other operating gains and losses (such as impairment charges related to fixed and intangible assets and gains or losses on the sale of long-lived assets), if any. From time to time, we may exclude from Adjusted EBITDA the impact of certain events, gains, losses or other charges (such as significant legal settlements) that affect the period-to-period comparability of our operating performance. See Table 4 for reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measure.

January 29, 2021 at 10:41 AM

Hmm. It looks like Comcast doesn't have a "Florida Problem."

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