What could Disney crowds look like when the park reopens? We take a guess at the numbers

Disney hasn’t said when its 4 theme parks will reopen amid coronavirus pandemic

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the quarter two earnings call Shanghai Disneyland will begin a phased reopening on May 11. The park cannot exceed 30% capacity and when it opens next week Chapek said it will be well below that capacity at first.

ORLANDO, Fla. – As Florida is in full Phase 1 and approaching the next plans of reopening, many are wondering if theme parks will be included.

Though Disney hasn’t revealed any further plans to welcome back park-goers amid the coronavirus pandemic, we’re taking a stab at what that could look like under the varying possible capacity restrictions.

[MORE: Here’s a glimpse at theme park reopening plans | Behind the closed gates: What’s been happening at Central Florida theme parks during pandemic closures]

Disney is opening its Shanghai park cautiously as it evaluates reopening other parks around the world. Parks are a crucial revenue driver for Disney. Parks, experiences and product division accounts for around 30% to 35% of total revenue.

What the company learns in Shanghai could become a guide, executives said in a conference call to discuss earnings last week.

Typical capacity in the Shanghai park is 80,000 visitors a day, but the government has cut that to about 30%, or 24,000 a day, said CEO Bob Chapek.

Disney shares a photo of how the parks will implement social distancing for lines for rides. (Disney)

During a roundtable discussion, Disney executive George Kalogridis said the company is considering reopening its U.S. parks with 20% to 30% capacity.

He told Vice President Mike Pence that the company’s Shanghai park sold out of tickets for the first day of reopening at 20% capacity, saying guests will want to head to the parks, even under restrictions.

We gathered information based on the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ 2018 annual attendance estimates, which are the industry standard, and applied the rules set in place by other Disney parks.

The graph below illustrates the number of guests allowed on a normal day compared to the number of people allowed in the park if capacity were set at 30%.

ParkCapacityCapacity at 30%
Magic Kingdom57,000 people17,100 people
Epcot34,093 people10,227 people
Hollywood Studios30,843 people9,252 people
Animal Kingdom37,671 people11,301 people

As you can see, the parks would appear very empty if leaders decided to open with 30% capacity. Just to have a little fun, we also looked at a 25% capacity.

ParkCapacityCapacity at 25%
Magic Kingdom57,000 people14,250 people
Epcot34,093 people8,523 people
Hollywood Studios30,843 people7,710 people
Animal Kingdom37,671 people9,417 people

A park at 25% capacity would mean very minimal wait times. Not to mention, getting that picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle with no one in the background would be much easier to get.

Just to reiterate, Disney officials have not announced how they will reopen parks in the U.S.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said in previous interviews that U.S. parks will likely require much of the same from both cast members and guests. Chapek has said it’s ultimately up to how comfortable people are and how they react to the parks reopening their gates.

Disney Springs reopened its complex to visitors Wednesday, and the retail district is also limiting guest capacity. Visitors have to also undergo temperature checks and cover their faces as part of the dining complex’s phased reopening plans.

“A lot of it has to do with guest behavior as much as it has to do with Disney operations," he said. “Everyone knows COVID-19 is a serious manner. Therefore, we’re all playing a part in this ecosystem of safety. We’re going to do our part and we need our guests to do their part too.”

Once parks reopen, it’s safe to say that new security measures may be put into effect to prevent guests from getting sick.

Disney officials said that upon entering the parks, you may have your temperature taken at the security checkpoint.

Disney executive Bob Iger spoke about the new normal for the amusement parks in an interview with Barron's Magazine.

He said temperature screenings are a possibility to meet health guidelines and make visitors feel safe.

MORE: You can fly: Get a bird’s eye view into a deserted Walt Disney World

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Photo: Jonathan Michael Salazar

It’s clear that Disney officials want the reopening to be as safe as possible and that’s good to see. The next time we visit a Disney theme park, it’ll be like going for the first time.

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