There is quite the battle looming in California between theme parks and the Mayor of Anaheim versus the Governor of the state.
My goal with this blog post isn't to fuel the flames or have a political rant over US political systems. Rather, I'd prefer to look more objectively at what's happening and provide some real meaningful insight.
The Business Side (Disney and the Mayor of Anaheim)
On the business side, not opening these theme parks has meant significant financial losses for the Walt Disney Company (and others), along with a drastic property tax loss to the city. For employees of Disneyland and nearby businesses, this has meant a loss in their income due to the lack of guests and employee furloughs.
When this is coupled with the loss of studio revenues, visitor/travel revenues, and theatrical releases and store closures in some areas, the impact is magnified.
The Walt Disney Company has to release financials for their quarter and year end (which happens at the end of September) that relied upon at least some revenue from Disneyland that now won't be there.
Let's be clear, this is real money lost, real people who hold shares in this company for their pensions and investments for the future, and for the average person, small business owners are suffering and Disneyland employees aren't able to go to work and earn a living.
The Position of the Governor of the State of California
For Governor Newsom and the state, this is not their highest priority right now.
With fires raging in the state and poor air quality as a result of those fires, the Governor is rightly focused there. Forest fires must take precedence over theme parks. We may not understand why they can't just say "ok, you can open" but the truth is, the focus is on forest fires.
On top of that issue, many places are starting to see an increase in the number of cases, and although the US overall is seeing a reduction in the number of new daily cases compared to earlier this summer, it's still not ideal.
For Disneyland, the challenges they face are different than those of Walt Disney World, since they do not rely on so many out of town visitors in Anaheim. Disneyland is a park that caters mainly to locals. This means that the import of COVID-19 cases from across the US is lower than it would be in Orlando, but the risk is still present.
Who's Right (and More Importantly, When Will Disneyland Open?)
This is probably the question that should be asked as both sides are becoming a little more entrenched.
The answer in my mind is probably November 1st, and here's why.
If you look at the state of readiness of the parks and reservation cancellations, it's clear that the parks are as close to ready as they can be with one very notable exception...seasonal decorations. To put up the decorations would take at least a day and would likely be spread over multiple days.
On top of that furloughed employees would need to return to work, be trained on new procedures, and there would be Cast Member and Annual Passholder previews. With reservations cancelled through October 3rd, it's safe to say that Disneyland would still need at least 2 weeks to get everyone in place and ready to open to everyone.
As time continues to go by, and the potential opening date gets pushed to mid-October, then late-October, it's becoming clear that there will be no Halloween decorations in the park and that they should start getting ready for Christmas. That said, starting Christmas in October makes little to no sense. Hence, November is going to likely be the month of full park re-opening.
What could happen is a few weeks in late-October for the previews and sales for all merchandise that needs to be cleared out to make room for Christmas merchandise, then a brief closure for a few days while the park is decorated and staff put out Christmas merchandise in time for park opening.
It's probably not something many of us want to hear, but I think this week was the last one to reasonably salvage an October opening and that door is now closed. Economically, this timeline is the best possible option for Disneyland and, depending on the success of the state to fight the forest fires and air quality to improve (not to mention COVID-19 daily cases), is most likely to happen.
Image by James Hills from Pixabay