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Disney’s Shanghai theme park has been open for three months now, but The Walt Disney Co.’s CEO is still basking in the glow.
Speaking at a Goldman Sachs investor conference Wednesday, chairman and CEO Bob Iger said the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort has been more popular than Disney expected, drawing visitors who stay two hours longer than anticipated.
While Iger said in August that the park had welcomed more than 1 million visitors since opening in mid-June, he would not give updated numbers on Wednesday.
The first 100 days would have been record-setting in terms of attendance for any new park if “typhoon-like weather” had not struck last week, he said. As it was, Iger said Shanghai Disneyland drew more in its first 100 days than “most parks that we’ve opened over the history of our theme parks.”
While the company expected Shanghai residents to flock to the resort during its earliest days, the crowds were “dominated” by people from China who lived outside of Shanghai.
“What that told us that was really interesting was that the marketing was really effective, and we didn’t even market that much outside of Shanghai, meaning word of mouth has been great,” Iger said. He said now that pricing at the park has moved to lower off-peak levels, visiting will be more affordable for locals who can go whenever they want.
The fact that the vast majority of visitors have been from China is welcome news for Disney, which sees the park as an entry point for the company’s wide array of brands and products.
“That is a great thing for not only the Disney theme park brand, but a great thing for Disney in that marketplace, which was one of the goals,” Iger said. “It’s a great, great brand beacon for the company.”
While Iger said the park has exceeded expectations in terms of popularity and how much visitors enjoyed themselves there, he said little about the financial picture.
Earlier this year, he said it would take “some time” for the Shanghai resort to contribute to the company’s profitability because of the cost of opening and the pace of initial operations. Disney will also have to share the profits from the park, which is a joint venture with the Shanghai Shendi Group, a state-owned company.
“In terms of what else it represents growth-wise for the company, we haven’t really been that specific about timing to profitability or absolute numbers,” Iger said. “I think we haven’t even gotten to the point where we’ve decided what we’ll say when we announce earnings in the quarter, but so far, so good.”
Outside of Shanghai, Iger said the company’s Orlando theme parks have not been hurt by the spread of the Zika virus elsewhere in Florida.
“No discernible impact whatsoever from that,” he said.