Disney Reportedly Facing Major Changes at Theme Parks Due to Coronavirus, May Skip Theaters for 'Mulan'

As coronavirus-related restrictions continue to ease and businesses begin to reopen across the country, Disney is potentially preparing to make several changes that will not only affect its many theme parks across the globe but also its business on the entertainment front. In a conference call discussing the global pandemic's impact, Wall Street analyst Michael Nathanson revealed that significant changes in the form of theme park ticket prices and the release of Mulan could take place, according to Deadline.

Mulan, Disney's live-action remake of the 1998 animated film of the same name, was initially set to hit theaters in North America on March 27. However, Disney pushed back its release as the coronavirus resulted in nationwide lockdowns. Currently slated for a July 25 release, something that exhibitors and Disney have reportedly held firm on, Nathanson suggested that a theatrical release might be scrapped in favor of it being put out via premium video on demand. The move, Nathanson said, would primarily come down to whether or not the majority of movie theaters will be open by July 25 and if moviegoers will feel comfortable buying tickets. Currently, AMC and Cinemark are anticipating a reopen in about a month, though it remains unclear if people will be flocking to theaters in the same way they once had. Opting for a theatrical release would also require Disney to "un-furlough a lot of their employees" in distribution and marketing.

Of course, the company's films, many of which have been pushed back to 2021 releases, is not the only part of the business being impacted and reevaluated amid the pandemic. While Disney temporarily closed its theme parks, they are preparing to reopen, with the potential of change.

According to Nathanson, who said that "until you have a vaccine, you're going to have the parks run very cautiously," the firm's financial models assume that theme parks will operate at 25 percent their standard capacity for the rest of 2020, jumping to 50 percent in 2021 and 75 percent in 2022. As a result, some dynamics will shift, including flex pricing. While "Disney had really been able to use flex pricing and act like Uber and jam people on pricing and raise prices when demand was spiking," flex pricing has not been allowed in Shanghai, something that will likely carry over to the States. According to Nathanson, "pricing is a key lever here, and it takes a while to come back."


Currently, Disney's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks plan to reopen on July 11. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios plan to open on July 15. Meanwhile, Disney Springs began a phased reopening on May 20. As they resume operation, all Disney parks have a list of new measures to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, including temperature checks and the requirement of face masks or coverings.