Walt Disney World crowd sizes over the July 4th long weekend were “shockingly” thin, according to tracking data provider Touring Plans, which predicted that the low-attendance trend seems poised to continue amid ongoing conservative backlash to what some describe as a woke agenda.
Disney has been embroiled in a legal and political fight with Florida governor Ron DeSantis which was triggered by the company’s opposition to a bill that bans discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The company has also faced streaming losses and its stock was recently downgraded in part due to fears of lower attendance at its Disney World and Disneyland theme parks
While Disney executives have said they expect weaker performance from their U.S. theme parks this year, the recent attendance numbers suggest reality could be even worse than pessimistic predictions.
“This is not normal. These are not peak summer crowds. These are shockingly low crowds,” wrote Becky Gandillion of Touring Plans in a blog post in which she detailed some of the dismal data.
Touring Plans uses a 10-point scale to measure crowd size. The latest data show that June 27–29 scored a six on each of the days at Disney’s theme parks on average. This was followed by a crowd level five on June 30.
The numbers then plunged to a reading of two on July 1, rising to a three on July 2 and a four on July 3.
Some individual theme parks saw worse numbers than the average, with the EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida notching a crowd level one on July 1.
“This is madness in a chart. We have a park at a crowd level eight and a park at crowd level one just three days apart,” Gandillion wrote in commentary on the data. “We almost never see that, outside of party season at Magic Kingdom.”
“The crowds on July 1 and 2 look more like Labor Day than July 4th. This is absolutely crazy,” she added.
The unusually hot weather on some of the days may have been partly to blame, with a larger share of locals likely opting to stay home.
However, Touring Plans believes that Disney will continue to see sparse crowds going forward.
“Let’s face it. If this weekend didn’t turn crowds around at Walt Disney World … crowds aren’t going to turn around,” Gandillion wrote. “All signs point to this continuing in the short and long term.”
Disney did not return a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Stock Downgrade Amid Backlash
Recent weeks have seen Disney’s stock hit with a downgrade amid fears of sluggish growth.
Investment company KeyBanc Capital Markets recently lowered Disney’s rating from overweight to sector weight.
“While Disney appears less expensive versus its historical average, we believe the stock is unlikely to work until a number of items have line of sight to being resolved,” analyst Brandon Nispel wrote, Barron’s reported.
Mr. Nispel touched on several areas of concern for Disney in the note, including sluggish subscriber growth, sagging content sales, and concerns over stagnating crowd sized at its U.S. theme parks.
As of July 10, Disney’s stock stood at about $88. Even after it brought back CEO Bob Iger in recent months, the company’s stock remains far below its early 2021 peak of $200 per share.
While Mr. Nispel made no mention of Disney’s wading into social issues, some consumers and conservative influencers have called for a boycott amid the company’s stance on a Florida law that prohibits teachers from instructing young children on transgender issues and sexuality.
Disney Embroiled in Controversy
Disney became embroiled in controversy when it pushed back against the introduction of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
In March 2022, Florida lawmakers passed HB 1557, or the Parental Rights in Education act, which was signed into law by Mr. DeSantis on March 28 of that year.
The same day Mr. DeSantis signed the bill, Disney waded into the controversy, a statement that was highly critical of the measure and saying it was the company’s objective to have it repealed.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads.
Disney stated at the time that it was the company’s goal “for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”
Supporters of the legislation have argued that it gives parents more power to decide how and when topics relating to LGBT issues can be introduced to their children. It also gives parents the opportunity to sue school districts for violating the rules set out in the legislation.
In the wake of the controversy, Mr. DeSantis ended a decades-long deal allowing Disney World to govern its vast Central Florida resort by itself. The Republican governor has explained that the action was aimed at holding Disney accountable.
“The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” he said in February. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
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