Bob Chapek comments on Walt Disney World's growing attendance and mask use but no opening dates for upcoming attractions

19 days ago in "The Walt Disney Company"

Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke to investors during today's earning call, and briefly commented on Walt Disney World.

According to Chapek, attendance grew significantly from Q4 to Q1 thanks to increased capacity at the parks and desire for guests to visit Walt Disney World's theme parks. Bob specifically credited Walt Disney World's industrial engineering team for increasing capacity, which is presumably the installation of plexiglass dividers on many attractions that have seen more guests being loaded into ride vehicles. Capacity is apparently still capped at 35% according to CFO Christine McCarthy, and Bob Chapek mentioned that capacity will be driven by rates of vaccination, but that mask wearing and social distancing is expected for the remainder of the year. Chapek expects masks and distancing at the parks to be gone in 2022.

Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Harmonious and Galactic Starcruiser were all mentioned as coming, but no opening dates or any other new details were given.

Notably there was no mention of TRON, which we understand has been delayed until 2022.

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Article Posted: Feb 11, 2021 / 4:41pm ET
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disneycp14 days ago

can you just stop? Your comments add absolutely nothing of value to this conversation. Thanks.

GoofGoof14 days ago

I wasn’t responding to you and I’m not sure why you see the need to attack every post I make. I don’t think anything I’ve said is controversial or inflammatory but I am sorry if I somehow offended you anyway. @JoeCamel said this thread was about the earnings call and I was just pointing out the 2 questions on the earnings call where they talked about the vaccine rollout and its impact on current year earnings. I posted the exact transcript. In any case I’m done with this back and forth so please don’t bother to respond to this telling me how I’m wrong again.

dreday314 days ago

oh my gosh....

havoc31514 days ago

Ahh, you replace his actual words with wishful thinking. He talked about the "end of the year" but with no clarity if he meant the end of the fiscal year (9/30/21) or calendar year (12/31/2021). He said there was "no doubt" social distancing AND masking will still be in place through the end of the year. He did not say vaccine availability in April "would" make Disney accelerate their expectations. That's your wishful thinking. He said it "could" lead Disney to accelerate their expectations. Basically, all he said was, "no question we are going to have social distancing/masking through the end of 2021, and no doubt we will have less social distancing and masking in 2022. If vaccinations really speed up, we might be able to move up our own timeline a bit." You're turning that into, "if we stick to the current vaccination timeline, we are going to get rid of motion restrictions by summer!" Stick to what Chapek actually said, and what WDW is actually doing (not readying most entertainment for return, readying FOTLK for a modified socially distanced summer return, keeping thousands of on-site hotel rooms closed for the summer, etc). If one were to interpret Chapek's words with your level of spin, one could just as easily say, "full restrictions will be in place for the rest of 2021, but will start to relax in 2022. Maybe, if vaccinations start moving a whole lot faster, maybe WDW eases up on some restrictions a little sooner, a couple months after herd immunity." Now -- I don't believe that paraphrase is accurate either. It's an overly pessimistic paraphrase of Chapek's comments.

havoc31514 days ago

I'll let my posts stand, and yours stand. I've very clearly said I expect some changes over the summer -- Not nothing changes. I said we may see capacity increase to 40%, maybe even 50%. Some modified entertainment may return. But social distancing, masks, and capacity limits will almost certainly remain over the summer. You have suggested that by the summer, they will mostly eliminate social distancing, that they will allow pre-Covid summer attendance levels, etc;. That they won't cap attendance at 50% or lower, etc. You have suggested, your exact words, that with an effective vaccine rollout "most of the Covid restrictions are gone sometime this summer"... So yes, you're the one who said WDW may return to mostly normal before the fall. Which is pretty inconsistent with Chapek WDW statements and actions, which show no signs of removing "most" restrictions by summer, even under the best case scenario. Yes, I'm very confident that we will see some changes over the summer. But you're the only one I've seen strenuously arguing that "most" of the restrictions may be gone by the summer.

GoofGoof14 days ago

From the earnings call, talk on the financial prospects of the parks: Ben Swinburne Thanks. Good afternoon. Bob can you -- I know visibility is limited, but can you tell us how you think about the parks through the rest of this year? In particular, Christine mentioned strong underlying demand. But do you expect to be able to increase capacity limits and fulfil that demand? And as you do, are there things that you've done on the technology or cost side that can help us think about the ramp back to breakeven? Bob Chapek Okay. In terms of the outlook for the parks for the rest of the year and the capacity, it's really going to be determined by the rate of vaccination of the public. That to us seems like the biggest lever that we can have in order to either take the parks that are currently under limited capacity and increase it or open up parks that are currently closed. So that is sort of the gating factor if you will. As Christine suggested, we have ample demand for our parks. Despite everything that's happening with that pandemic, I think we've made a pretty big impression on our consumer base and prospective guests in terms of the safety measures that we've undertaken at our parks to give assurances to people that they should come in and bring their families. And we're very, very pleased with what we're seeing in terms of future bookings. In terms of the cost savings and the technical side of things, not only has our industrial engineering team at Walt Disney World and some of our parks like Shanghai across the world figured out ways to have increased capacity with the same safety measures that we've had in place, which has enabled us to increase our, if you will, our attendance. But there we have been able to substantially manage our cost side at the same time to right-size, if you will, our -- not only our fixed cost base, but also our variable cost base to match what's happening. And I think that's evidenced by what Christine said that all of our parks, regardless of what conditions they're operating under, assuming they are operating, are in positive net contribution side. I would also add you didn't mention this, but I think it's important to add that given those per caps that Christine referenced in terms of the double-digit increase in per caps, this is sort of the ultimate situation where demand has exceeded supply. We've had that -- been fortunate enough to have that situation for the last couple of years and we've learned how to yield this business. And I think this is the ultimate situation where we've got supply greater than demand. So not only working on the cost side, but we're also working on the revenue side. And I think you see some of those results at play at Walt Disney World. Jason Bazinet Thanks. I just have a question on parks. Since the vaccine came out last year, the buy side has this soft expectation that anyone that saw a revenue downturn because of COVID will get back to 2019 revenues by 2022, once we have herd immunity and the vaccines distributed. And every once in a while, I read some article that suggests that social distancing will still have to be in place even when herd immunity is around and people will still have to wear masks. So, do you guys have any counsel or insight in terms of how you're thinking about sort of how the parks will operate by the time we get to 2022? And any reason, not to believe that we won't sort of get back to 2019 revenues assuming that the economy is fine and all that? Bob Chapek Yes. I won't specifically comment on whether we anticipate getting to 2019 revenues by 2022, but I will tell you what our expectations are in terms of the state of the world by then. We have no doubt that when we reopen up in parks that were closed or increase the capacity that we'll have some level of social distancing and mask wearing for the remainder of this year. That's our expectation. But I believe that Dr. Fauci said earlier today that, he hopes that there's vaccines for everyone who wants them by April this year. If that happens that is a game changer. And that could accelerate our expectations and give people the confidence that they need to come back to the parks. Will there be some overlap until we know that we've hit herd immunity? Sure there will. But do we also believe that we'll be in the same state of 6-foot social distancing and mask wearing in '22? Absolutely not. So in the 2 bolded sections Chapek is essentially saying that the outlook for the parks segment for this year (ends 9/30/21) will be determined by the rate of vaccination of the public. He also said that if Fauci is correct and the vaccine will be available for anyone who wants it starting in April that that would be a game changer for the parks and would accelerate their expectations. There were many other questions on Disney+ and other topics as well.

GoofGoof14 days ago

I haven’t seen anyone here arguing that life would return to normal before the Fall. There’s a big difference between nothing changing this summer and a full return to normal. I have said from the start of this discussion we would have a gradual easing of restrictions as cases drop and the vaccine rollout continues. I don’t believe we will need to wait until the Fall to see any changes. I’m not sure how me saying that if the manufacturers meet their targets we will have enough doses for anyone who wants one by end of May into June for 2nd shots has anything to do with being a denier. It’s a basic math equation. I said multiple times that manufacturing delays and/or failure to get enough people to accept the vaccine could delay the process. As far as WDW goes, they can and will see increased crowds and increased business before there’s a return to full normal.

rogerrabbitfan914 days ago

As a long term investor, I’m not sure how relevant this years theme park numbers are going to be in determining how theme park demand will look long term. I think demand is going to too noisy between pent up demand and the lead/lag between when an individual gets a vaccine and when they are going to be willing to book/go on a Disney trip.

havoc31514 days ago

Actually, this whole discussion is about the earnings call and what Bob Chapek said at the earnings call. But it might be wise to refocus the discussion: Chapek's exact words (which are open to a bit of interpretation): We have no doubt that when we reopen up in parks that were closed or increase the capacity that we'll have some level of social distancing and mask wearing for the remainder of this year. That's our expectation. But I believe that Dr. Fauci said earlier today that, he hopes that there's vaccines for everyone who wants them by April this year. If that happens that is a game changer. And that could accelerate our expectations and give people the confidence that they need to come back to the parks. Will there be some overlap until we know that we've hit herd immunity? Sure there will. But do we also believe that we'll be in the same state of 6-foot social distancing and mask wearing in '22? Absolutely not So some aspects that are clear and not clear: Clear: "no doubt" that "some level" of social distancing and mask wearing for the remainder of the year. Unclear: Yes = fiscal year (though October 1, 2021) or calendar year (Dec 31, 2021) Clear: Won't be in "same state" of social distancing and mask wearing in 2022. Unclear" rapid vaccination will "accelerate our expectations." So unpacking it: There will be "some level" of social distancing and mask wearing through AT LEAST the end of September 2021. Further, there is a good chance we still have "some" social distancing and mask wearing in 2022 -- Just not the "same state." I read all that to mean things will be closer to the abnormal side through the end of 2021, and closer to the normal side by 2022. But not that all social distancing and masking will be gone by early 2022, and not that all current restrictions will be in place at the end of 2021. His talk of "accelerating expectations" does not suggest to me that mask wearing or social distancing will be gone any sooner than the fall. Just that, if everything goes right, they might *start* to relax those things sooner rather than later. The gradual timeline could get advanced by a month or 2. Maybe they bring back fireworks in July instead of September... maybe they bring back more entertainment in September instead of November... I wouldn't look at "accelerating our expectations" as suddenly we will get back to normal in April. Nothing about the vaccine rollout has dramatically changed since the earnings call. As of the earnings call, the "no doubt" expectation was that masking AND social distancing would be in place for the "remainder" of the year. There hasn't been a massive increase in vaccination rates in the 5 days since the earnings call... so I don't think anyone can assume that there has been any major change in the "no doubt" expectation.

havoc31514 days ago

And we’re behind the December vaccination schedule. More recent statements have been even more pessimistic. These are all February: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/02/03/health/us-coronavirus-wednesday/index.html https://bestlifeonline.com/news-fauci-normal-warning/ COVID-19 is the leading cause of death in the United States, but an extraordinary year of vaccine science offers hope that the country can return to something resembling normal life by the end of 2021, said Anthony Fauci in a plenary address at the AAAS Annual Meeting. https://www.aaas.org/news/looking-back-and-forward-covid-19-anthony-fauci

dreday314 days ago

That Fauci quote is from December...

havoc31514 days ago

That’s truly absurd. Not only do I want the vaccination rollout to succeed, I’m relatively optimistic. But I also follow the experts and public health officials. None of which believe we will be able to lift the restrictions on larger gatherings before the fall or winter. Throughout, we have had deniers who claimed that the end was right around the corner. It would all be over by Easter 2020 etc. Throughout, the experts have correctly warned that we had to prepare for the long haul. Now, most experts are hopeful we can start to return to normal by the fall. Fauci: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.com/amp/news/2020/12/31/fauci-covid-normal-life-fall-2021-453055

JoeCamel15 days ago

Y'all going back and forth over a few months. It is amazing that we might get 300M people vaccinated in as little time as it has taken. This saved thousands of lives any way you dice the numbers. I'm not sure if it is to make a point or be right on the internet. BTW - this is an earnings thread, I get that normal equals money but that is a stretch to tie it to an earnings call.

mharrington15 days ago

So does Disney not investing as much in their parks from now on mean that they will never again be able to be as quality as they once were? By that, I mean, will they never be as good again?