Throughout the week, Christine McCarthy, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Company, has given a number of talks at numerous banking conferences regarding the state of the company and its ongoing projects. During today’s Bank of America Virtual 2020 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, McCarthy spoke to various construction projects that have been prioritized across Disney Parks in light of recent changes and economic hardships due to the COVID-19 theme park shutdown.
McCarthy confirmed that the company will continue to invest in its theme parks, given the high returns they get on these projects. That being said, investment spending will be “prioritized” to continue select projects already underway. Among the projects she listed were Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World, plus Avengers Campus and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland Resort.
While other major projects, like the EPCOT reimagining, were not mentioned, it is worth noting that active construction is still ongoing throughout the park, with work well underway at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the Play! Pavilion, the park’s entrance, and the gutting of Innoventions. However, in July, it was confirmed that both the large-scale refurbishment of Spaceship Earth and the Mary Poppins-themed section of the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT had been postponed indefinitely.
Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, recently disclosed that many projects would be moving forward in “stages”:
While several projects, like Avengers Campus—at both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Paris—are able to surge forward based on where we were in development, there are others that will be picked back up in stages—like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and TRON—and some that are longer-term that we will need more time to assess.
Earlier this year, it was announced that there’d be a $900 million decrease in CAPEX spending anticipated for FY20, mostly due to postponed construction and refurbishment projects during the closure of the Disney Parks around the world. That number was recently reduced to $700 million, due to lowered spending on domestic Disney resorts, including Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort.
Reservations for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser were said to go live “later this year” back in February. The immersive “Star Wars” hotel experience was originally slated to open in 2021, but with no specific month ever indicated for the opening, a delay may simply mean it opens in the latter half of the year. Avengers Campus, delayed from its initial July 18 grand opening, may also be opening in 2021, if not sooner. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was recently announced to be pushed back a full year to 2023.