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Disney targets July 11 to begin reopening flagship Florida theme park

Walt Disney Co. plans to reopen the world’s largest theme park, Walt Disney World, in phases beginning on July 11, if the governor of Florida approves.

Disney wants to reopen Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11 and Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15, according to Jim MacPhee, senior vice-president of operations for the Walt Disney World Resort, who presented plans during a webcast meeting.

The successful reopening of its parks is a signal event for Disney and the rest of the world as governments and companies strategize how to move out of lockdown while the novel coronavirus is still a threat.

After MacPhee’s presentation, an Orange County task force OK’d the plan, sending it to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval.

When the Disney parks reopen, guests and employees will be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The resort will suspend parades, fireworks displays and other activities that create crowds. It will “enable and encourage” contactless payment systems and expand its existing mobile order systems in restaurants.

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Disney plans to restrict the number of guests, who will be required to reserve their park passes ahead of time. Park guests will be greeted by signs requesting that they limit their handling of products at shops.

Starting in January, Disney closed theme parks around the world to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Timeline for Disneyland in California unclear

On Wednesday, Disney CEO Robert Chapek told CNBC the company currently has about 20,000 people per day visiting Shanghai Disneyland, which reopened on May 11 with mandatory masks, temperature screenings and physical distancing for visitors and employees. 

Disney will soon reveal plans for reopening its Anaheim, Calif., Disneyland amusement park, the company’s original themed attraction, according to a company spokesperson.

Welcoming visitors again to its parks is key to Disney’s recovery from the global shutdowns sparked by the pandemic.

Disney has estimated it lost $1 billion US at its theme parks division from January through March. In addition to the theme park closures, movie theatres went dark and television and film production were put on hold. As well, Disney-owned ESPN was left with no major live sports to broadcast.

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