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Disney loses $1.4bn due mainly to park closures

Disney has lost an estimated $1.4bn in the last three months due primarily to a loss of ticketing revenue from COVID-19 forcing the closure of its theme parks.

The world’s largest media company announced its operating revenue had fallen 37% to $2.4bn for the three months ending March 28 after it was forced to close parks, cancel cruises and delay future movie productions.

With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease off in China, its Shanghai park is scheduled to reopen on May 11, having been closed since January, along with its Hong Kong park. The Disney theme park in Japan was shuttered in February before closing resorts in the US and Europe a month later. These closures caused the most significant losses for Disney after missing out on ticketing and other experience revenues.

The company estimates it lost $1bn over the three months in its parks, experiences and products segment.

Chief executive Bob Chapek said the company would take a “phased approach” to reopening its parks, beginning with Shanghai, requiring advance reservations to limit attendance.

He added: “We are seeing encouraging signs of gradual return to some semblance of normalcy in China.

“While it’s too early to predict when we’ll be able to begin resuming all of 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.”

Ticket sales for the Shanghai park will be available via the resort’s official online channels and official travel partners’ channels beginning on May 8, with a limited number of tickets available each day during the initial reopening.

In addition, Disney+, the company’s new streaming service, had 33.5 million paid subscribers by the end of March and passed the 50 million mark in April as global stay-at-home measures were enforced and extended due to COVID-19. However, the firm’s direct-to-consumer and international unit, which includes Disney+, posted a loss of $812m in the quarter.

The firm’s advertising business, which supports its television output, has seen significant declines, due primarily to a lack of live sports, which has cut viewer numbers on Disney’s ESPN sports channel.

Last month, Disney furloughed more than 100,000 employees, around half of its workforce, who were mainly theme park and hotel workers.

The firm has reported its Q2 revenues were up 21% year-on-year to $18bn, but saw its profits fall to $460m from $5.4bn in the prior year, a 91% decline.

“I have no doubt that we will get through this but it will take some time,” Iger said.

Image: Annj28