Comcast says Universal theme parks could break even in 2021

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

Gregg Newton | Getty Images

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

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

Overall, CNBC’s parent company reported third-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines. 

For now, Comcast has only been able to open its parks in Florida and Japan. Its 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 residents. It’s seeing 11 cases per 100,000, up from 10.1 a week ago.

The company is also gearing up for the opening of a new theme park in Beijing by summer.

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

Halloween Horror Nights take place after traditional park hours and require a separate ticket purchase. So Universal was making money from guests who visited during the day and those who ventured out after sundown.

Last year, Halloween Horror Nights helped boost fourth-quarter revenue for theme parks to $1.6 billion, up 3.2%.

NBCUniversal head Jeff Shell said the theme parks business is typically quite successful, but Covid-19 has weighed heavily on operations.

“I really feel that parks are going to be very strong business,” Shell said about the segment’s recovery. “Nobody can tell the pace of how that’s going to go given what’s happening, but so far, we’re rebounding fairly nicely in Florida and Japan where we’re open.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC.

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