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Disney plans first park reopening next week

Disney plans first park reopening next week

TUESDAY, May 05, 2020

Disney is bringing its theme park business back to life - but only in China.

The company announced plans Tuesday to reopen Shanghai Disneyland on May 11, months after shuttering it in late January as the novel coronavirus spread in China, with new health and safety measures in place. An adjacent hotel, shopping complex and recreational area reopened in March, and the company said that experience is informing the theme park opening.

In an announcement, the entertainment giant said the Shanghai park will have "limited and pulsed attendance," meaning visitors will only be able to buy tickets for specific dates and annual pass holders will need to make a reservation before getting there.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek said during an earnings call Tuesday afternoon that the government is limiting capacity to about 24,000 visitors a day, or 30 percent of normal attendance. The park will wait a few weeks to get to that number, however.

"We're going to open far below that just to have our training wheels on with our new procedures and processes," Chapek said. Crowds will also be managed in lines, restaurants, rides and other parts of the park.

Guests will undergo temperature screening and have to use the government's health QR code system for early detection and contact tracing, and high-touch areas such as railings, turnstiles, rides and handlebars will be sanitized more frequently.

Employees - called "cast members" in Disney lingo - are being trained in social distancing and no-contact interaction with guests. Both visitors and employees will have to wear masks, except while eating. That will not apply to workers who play characters in costumes that don't cover their faces.

"The only characters that will not wear masks are the face characters, and they will be at a distance from crowds," Chapek said.

After closing the Shanghai park in late January, the company followed with its Hong Kong park that month, Tokyo in late February, and domestic resorts in Florida and California in mid-March. The company did not have a timeline for reopening its other properties in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

"While it's too early to predict when we'll be able to begin resuming all our operations, we are evaluating a number of different scenarios to ensure a cautious, sensible and deliberate approach to the eventual reopening of our parks," Chapek said during the call with analysts. "The approach we take may include implementation of guest capacity and density control measures as well as health and prevention procedures that comply with state and federal guidelines."