Common theme parks might break even in 2021, based on Comcast

A visitor takes a selfie at Universal Studios theme park on the first day of the coronavirus pandemic reopening on June 5, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.

Gregg Newton | Getty Images

Brian Roberts, Comcast CEO, said theme parks may have been the “biggest drag” for NBCUniversal’s quarter, but executives are optimistic that the division will break even in 2021.

Amusement parks were one of many industries hit by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly due to forced closings and limited capacity restrictions when reopening. Revenue for Comcast’s theme parks fell nearly 81% to $ 311 million in the third quarter, the company reported Thursday.

Overall, CNBC’s parent company reported earnings in the third quarter that exceeded analyst estimates on the income statement.

So far, Comcast has only been able to open its parks in Florida and Japan. The California-based park will not be able to resume operations until Los Angeles County reaches a coronavirus infection rate of less than 1 case per 100,000 population. There are 11 cases per 100,000, down from 10.1 a week ago.

The company is also preparing to open a new theme park in Beijing by the summer.

Comcast will also face tough comparisons in its parks in the next quarter, in part because the annual Halloween Horror Nights events are canceled this year. This would have been the 30th anniversary of the event.

Halloween Horror Nights take place outside of traditional parking hours and require a separate ticket purchase. So Universal made money with guests who came to visit during the day and with guests who left after sunset.

Last year, Halloween Horror Nights helped boost theme park revenue to $ 1.6 billion in the fourth quarter, an increase of 3.2%.

Jeff Shell, head of NBCUniversal, said the theme park business is usually quite successful, but Covid-19 has put a heavy load on operations.

“I really think parks will be a very strong business,” said Shell of the segment’s rebound. “Nobody can say how fast this will go given what happens, but so far we’re recovering pretty well in Florida and Japan, where we’re open.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC.

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