Disney will increase Shanghai park attendance by 5,000 per week, CEO says

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Disney plans to increase capacity at its Shanghai park by 5,000 people each week until it reaches the limited capacity figure set by Chinese government, CEO Bob Chapek said Monday. 

“I look at this as a stair step. We’re going to be very conservative, we’re going to be very prudent, we’re going to be very disciplined about how we open up,” Chapek told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “And then we’re going to ramp up and increase.” 

Disney reopened its Shanghai theme park Monday, making it the first major park to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has mandated Disney operate the park at 30% capacity, or about 24,000 visitors, though Chapek said the company is currently operating well below that capacity. By the time Disney reaches 30% capacity, the government could increase its limit and Disney could continue slowly increasing attendance, Chapek added.

Disney declined to provide specific attendance figures at Shanghai Disney.

If successful, the reopening of Shanghai Disney could serve as a blueprint for the company as it looks to reopen its theme parks in the U.S. and Europe once the government lifts restrictions. Disney’s theme parks and cruises business were the darkest spot in its first-quarter earnings report last week, showing a 58% drop in operating income for the segment.

“We’re going to see how it goes,” Chapek said. “This is a first step, it’s a baby step, but we’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing in Shanghai.” 

Chapek added that part of parks successfully reopening hangs on guest behavior, who are asked to wear face coverings and adhere to social distance guidelines. So far, Chapek said guests in Shanghai have been “extraordinarily diligent” in maintaining social distancing.

“If guests continue to behave in the way we have I think we can approach [full capacity],” Chapek said.

–CNBC’s Sarah Whitten contributed to this report. 

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