by Ray Keating
August 23, 2020
The headlines and even the content of a few news reports seem to indicate that Universal Orlando is experiencing a bounce back in attendance, while the Disney parks continue to suffer. In reality, both Universal and Disney continue to be hit hard in this pandemic economy.
Reporting based on an analyst note from Deutsche Bank published on August 20 seems to strike a rather cheery note on Universal attendance, and a grimmer tone on Disney’s. Yet, each company’s park attendance is down dramatically from last year. It’s really a matter of which is suffering a bit more.
Based on Deutsche’s proprietary geolocation data, Universal Orlando’s attendance is down by 68 percent compared to last year, while the analysts’ estimates on attendance for Walt Disney World and Disney’s international parks point to the number of Disney guests being down by 80 percent. So, -68 percent vs. -80 percent? It's not happening for anyone here.
The continued ills being faced by Universal was summed up last week by Blooloop.com: “Comcast announced that its Universal Studios theme park division saw a 94% decrease in second-quarter revenue due to COVID-19 closures. Revenue dropped from $1.5 billion in 2019 to $87 million this year. Two rounds of layoffs have also forced Universal Orlando to close several attractions. These are Fast & Furious: Supercharged, Fear Factor Live, Poseidon’s Fury, Storm Force Accelatron and Kang & Kudos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl.”
Among a few other specifics widely noted, Deutsche pointed out that attendance numbers at Animal Kingdom and Epcot are running head of crowds at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
Also, Universal Orlando’s recent improvement in attendance – again, still down markedly from last year – is being seen most notably on Saturdays.
In the end, though, there’s really no good news here, other than a hopeful quote from the Deutsche report pointing ahead: “Given this ongoing improvement in Universal’s attendance and declining new daily COVID cases in Florida, we believe that Disney World will also soon see some benefit.” And at another point, it was stated: “While Disney World appears to be lagging the COVID case reduction, we would expect the data to relieve some of the admissions pressure in the near future.”
Of course, that’s the key for Disney, Universal and all other theme park operators – along with businesses in all other industries – that is, declining coronavirus cases, and most important, vaccines and therapeutics coming to market addressing the pandemic.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.