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Monday, May 11, 2020

Chapek Talks Shanghai, Movies and More

by Ray Keating
May 11, 2020

Disney CEO Bob Chapek appeared on CNBC earlier today, and answered assorted questions about the re-opening of Shanghai Disneyland, the Disney movie business, and more. 

As is the case when company CEOs come on television, there’s a great deal said without really saying much at all. But there are worthwhile tidbits of information here and there. Following are points that we came away with after watching the conversation.

First, while the government in China would allow Shanghai Disneyland to operate at 30 percent daily capacity – or 24,000 guests – Chapek reiterated that they opened below that, and would raise attendance by 5,000 per week to get to that level. Chapek emphasized going “slow and steady.” What wasn’t mentioned was the number of tickets actually sold for each day this week.

Second, Chapek noted that not only would Disney operations be crucial in terms of operating Shanghai and other parks during this COVID-19 era, but so would “guest behavior.” Chapek seemed pleased with reports on both for day one at Shanghai Disneyland, which followed on the success at Disney Town in Shanghai for the past month. It’s clear that he expects much the same when Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs re-opens on May 20.

Third, in terms of key challenges going forward, Chapek highlighted the fact that both guests and cast members would be wearing masks, and while people in Asia are used to it, to a certain extent, that is not the case in the U.S., including during the humid summer months.

Fourth, Chapek was clear in offering no guidance on when other parks might be opened.

Fifth, on the movies front, Chapek asserted that the step-by-step opening on movie theaters might not be as big of a deal as many suspect given that, as he said, theaters traditionally operate at 25 percent capacity from Monday into early Friday. While true, of course, a big part of the challenge is financial in terms of extending limited capacity into the traditionally busy weekend period.

Sixth, Chapek made clear Disney’s commitment to the “theatrical experience” – in particular when it comes to tentpole movies. At the same time, he added that Disney needed to be “flexible and nimble,” and the Disney+ release option would be decided on a film-by-film basis.

Seventh, when asked about production being halted on movie, Disney+ and television projects, Chapek pointed out that pre-production and post-production were still happening, on that latter point citing Mulan and Black Widow as examples.

Eighth, when asked about pro sports leagues returning, Chapek didn’t comment on specifics, only noting that ESPN was working with leagues and would be ready to bring live sports into people’s homes.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution (now available at a deep discount) and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.

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