Shanghai Disney attendance will increase by 5,000 per week: CEO Chapek

Disney plans to increase the capacity of its Shanghai park by 5,000 people every week until it reaches the limited capacity figure set by the Chinese government, CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC on Monday.

“I see it as a stair step. We’re going to be very conservative, we’re going to be very careful, we’re going to be very disciplined about how we open up,” Chapek told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “And then we will increase and increase.”

Disney reopened its Shanghai theme park on Monday after being closed for 15 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first large theme park to reopen.

The government has mandated Disney to operate the park at 30% of its capacity, or about 24,000 visitors, although Chapek said the company was operating well below this capacity. By the time Disney reaches 30% of its capacity, the government could increase its limit and Disney could continue to slowly increase attendance, added Chapek.

Disney declined to provide specific attendance figures to Shanghai Disney.

If successful, the reopening could serve as a model for the company as it plans to reopen its theme parks in the United States and Europe once governments have lifted the restrictions. Disney’s theme parks and cruises activity was the darkest point in its report on earnings for the first quarter of last week, posting a 58% drop in segment operating profit.

“We will see how it goes,” said Chapek. “It’s a first step, it’s a small step, but we are very encouraged by what we see in Shanghai.”

Chapek added that part of the parks reopening successfully depends on the behavior of the customers, who are asked to wear face covers and to respect the social distance directives. So far, Chapek has said that the guests in Shanghai have been “extremely diligent” in maintaining social distance.

“If customers continue to behave as we have done, I think we can [full capacity]”Said Chapek.

–CNBC’s Sarah Whitten contributed to this report.

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