“Here in Los Angeles, it’s a big day tomorrow,” said NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Shell, with California set to drop most pandemic restrictions.
“Tomorrow is the day that we can go to full capacity [and] we feel very good about demand” at Universal Studios Hollywood, including a new attraction for families and kids based on the Pets franchise. Shell told a Credit Suisse media conference Monday he’s “just excited about that opening, and the whole society opening up here in California.”
Parks was the first topic Shell and Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek — speaking later at the same event — chose to address when asked about corporate business trends.
Shell noted that Universal Studios Orlando, which reopened over a year ago, has had 11 million visitors from then to last month and in some cases attendance is ahead of 2019, even with almost no international guests. Pre-Covid, overseas visitors made up 20%-30% of the total depending on the time of year, and they would usually spend more per capita than locals. But recent Stateside visitors have taken up the slack. “People are buying stuff. Harry Potter wands!” he said.
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“With no capacity constraints, the summer is looking pretty strong,” he said, citing both pent up demand and the new Jursassic World-themed VelociCoaster. The apparently super-scary ride opened June 10.
Chapek told the same conference that the Avengers Campus opening at Disneyland earlier this month “has gone spectacularly.” Walt Disney World’s Epcot has been undergoing a “massive transformation” to bring on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride (first premiered in Paris); a new nighttime water show called Harmonious and a rollercoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Shanghai Disneyland is working on a Zootopia Land and Tokyo on a major DisneySea themed-port expansion including Frozen, Tangled and Peter Pan areas.
Beyond IP, Chapek stressed the advanced number crunching and data work the company has been doing over the pandemic to analyze ticket sales and guest patterns and optimize both pricing and experience. The idea is to boost margins “without having to put more people in the parks.”
He said forward looking reservations to the theme parks “are really strong.” Disney’s cruise line, still currently closed for business, will launch a new ship next year, the Disney Wish, which Chapek said “has seen a strong response to its inaugural season.”
NBCUniversal’s Shell said Chinese authorities are in the process of testing rides one by one at its newest park in Shanghai, which is on track to open later this summer.
Universal Studios Japan, home of the first Super Nintendo World, reopened last June when Orlando did and saw “some pretty good numbers until the first quarter of this year, then closed again.” It recently reopened on a limited weekday basis and, Shell said, will hopefully reopen fully in the next couple of weeks as Covid numbers in Japan come down.
He said Super Nintendo World will be the “cornerstone” of most Universal theme parks.