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Disney Slashes Park Hours for Fall

Mask wearing cast members, Disney

Travel across the United States remains at a standstill. Though almost all stay at home orders have been lifted and the majority of states are “open for business”, a Morning Consult poll, recently revealed that 72% of American adults say that they are uncomfortable visiting an amusement park right now.

In response, theme parks across the country are either shutting back down, or not opening at all. In Orlando, most theme parks have managed to at least stay open for the time being, but with reduced hours and days of operations, to try and conserve capital for their owners while guest levels are depressed. 

Over at Universal Orlando Resort, we’ve already seen a number of cuts in recent months, with a handful of attractions not running (including the recent Fast and the Furious: Supercharged attraction), and hours reduced at the parks across the board. And while Disney has already made several cuts at Walt Disney World, it looks like even more will be going into effect very soon. 

Hours cut for fall

Though Walt Disney World has already gotten rid of early mornings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, late nights at the Magic Kingdom, and all Extra Magic Hours. However, starting September 8, park hours will be cut even further at all four Walt Disney World parks, with the new schedules as follows:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM)
  • Epcot: 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM (from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM)
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM)
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9:00 AM to 5:00 pm (from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM)

Right now these hours are only in effect for the month of September, however, we’d expect them to continue through the fall as guest levels are predicted to go even lower after the summer ends. And with Halloween events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party cancelled Disney won’t be having any late night events to keep the parks open for. 

Reasons for reducing hours

The biggest reason that Disney is looking to reduce hours is likely to cut costs. Disney has done this in the past to keep their budget low, and this is an easy way for Disney to quickly save some money without massively affecting the guest experience. However, there are also some other reasons why it makes sense to cut hours, specifically in the evening. 

Now that there are no nighttime spectaculars at any park (and Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Rivers of Light has been shelved permanently), guests have no reason to stay in the parks after hours, and with wait times very low at attractions due to decreased crowds, many find themselves “doing everything” at a theme park by mid-afternoon. And with park hopping still not allowed, guests who have done everything they want to are just leaving in the middle of the day, resulting in nearly-empty parks every evening. 

Finally, there is also the consideration of the difficulty of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing in the dark, particularly at Epcot, which has low lighting around the World Showcase. 

These early closures at Walt Disney World theme parks are certainly disappointing (particularly for locals who often look forward to evening visits to Epcot during the Food and Wine festival) and though it’s possible we could see longer hours this holiday season, it seems more likely that this “new normal” with reduced hours will last through the rest of the year. 

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