Disneyland Closure to Lapse One-Year Mark

The Happiest Place on Earth says its doors will likely be closed through March

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Before the coronavirus pandemic, Disneyland had only three reported unexpected closures in the past six-and-a-half decades: after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake; and after the attacks on September 11, 2001. They were all single-day closures.

In March 2020, Disneyland Resort and California Adventure closed for what was expected to be one month. But the Anaheim landmarks have not reopened since, and officials now expect to lap that first closure, according to Los Angeles Daily News. Local health officials warned last fall that Southern California might not reopen one of its staple tourist attractions and Orange County’s largest employer until at least the summer this year.

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“Our current expectation is that Disneyland and Disneyland Paris will be closed for the entirety of the second quarter,” said Christine McCarthy, CFO of The Walt Disney Company, on an earnings call yesterday to discuss results for its first fiscal quarter ending Jan. 2. That translates into the parks’ closure through March, at least.

Illustrating just how “unprecedented” the effects of the pandemic are, that means Disneyland is set to be closed for more than a full year now. And, so far in 2021, the park has dispensed far more vaccines than tickets to ride.

“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,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on the conference call. 

Large theme parks can open in California with 25-percent capacity restrictions once the region reaches the fourth tier on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. That will happen when Orange County sees less than one new daily case per 100,000 people. The county and most of the state is currently in the first tier. 

In 2019, Disneyland attracted some 18.6 million visitors. But it has been a painfully long rollercoaster ride for the park since the pandemic closures were first enacted. Even at the height of the coronavirus surges in 2020, it wasn’t anticipated that Disneyland would be closed into 2021.

Park officials spent most of the year lobbying state lawmakers to create a path to reopen. Local lawmakers including the mayors of Los Angeles and Anaheim joined the push for reopening tourist attractions like Disneyland and Universal Studios. Some of the workers were anticipating that the parks could reopen, but California faced massive second and third spikes in coronavirus cases, and health officials and lawmakers reinstated closures.

Last week, state lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow large theme parks, including Disneyland, to reopen earlier than currently planned by Newsom.