It wasn't exactly business as usual this morning for Central Florida's leading theme parks. Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Universal Orlando parent Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) opened their theme parks for the first time since Hurricane Irma devastated Florida over the weekend. All six of the popular gated attractions -- Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios Florida, and Islands of Adventure -- closed earlier than usual on Saturday night, remaining closed on Sunday and Monday.
Closures are rare for the leading theme park operators. There was a shorter closure last year when Hurricane Matthew threatened the area, and this is just the sixth time that Disney World has had to shutter its parks in its 46-year history.
Storming the castle
Disney World isn't entirely back in business today. It still hasn't opened its two water parks. The media giant also had to cancel a couple of cruise ship sailings.
Things could be worse. Some of Comcast's and Disney's smaller local rivals aren't ready to open yet. Legoland Florida remains closed, and that includes the park's two resort hotels that remain powerless. SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) isn't opening its Orlando and Tampa parks until Wednesday at the earliest.
It's a rough time for nature to trip up the industry. Disney was already struggling with flat attendance last year and a dip in occupied room nights in its latest quarter. Comcast's Universal Orlando has fared better, but growth has decelerated sharply in recent quarters. SeaWorld remains a whale of a mess.
This used to be a quiet time for the industry, given the tourist lull between the potent summer and holiday vacation periods. However, both Disney and Comcast had to cancel segments of their Christian music festivals over the weekend. This is also when the parks start getting ready for Halloween events, hard-ticket offerings that peak in popularity in October but Disney was already cashing in on the fete.
There is no good time to have to go all Wally World and tell folks that a park's closed, and the nixed operating days will weigh on the quarters. We're not just talking about park days that no longer happened. Disney tried to make the most of the situation to resort guests by offering discounted meals and had characters entertaining patrons, but you just know that Disney and Comcast have had to issue a lot of refunds over the past few days. Many Florida airports remain closed, temporarily shutting off the pipeline of arriving guests. Hurricane Matthew left its mark on the financial reports of Disney, Comcast, and SeaWorld last year, and the impact will be even more pronounced this time around.