The platform's growth has trounced expectations, and has come at a time when Disney's parks, travel and film businesses are hobbled by the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone showing the
FILE PHOTO: A smartphone showing the "Disney" logo is seen on the keyboard in front of displayed words "streaming service" in this illustration taken March 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Walt Disney Co's Disney+ streaming service has surpassed more than 100 million paying subscribers around the world, Chief Executive Bob Chapek said at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday.

The platform's growth has trounced expectations, and has come at a time when Disney's parks, travel and film businesses are hobbled by the pandemic.

"Our direct-to-consumer business is the Company's top priority, and our robust pipeline of content will continue to fuel its growth," said Chapek.

Chapek also said Disney hopes to reopen its California theme parks to limited attendance in late April. 

The parks were closed a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world's second-most visited theme park has been closed for almost exactly a year, with the mega attraction near Los Angeles unable to reopen last summer even while other Disney resorts did so worldwide.

"Here in California, we're encouraged by the positive trends we're seeing and we're hopeful they'll continue to improve and we'll be able to reopen our Parks to guests with limited capacity by late April," said Chapek.

A precise opening date would be confirmed "in the coming weeks," he added.

The statement during Disney's annual shareholders meeting follows state officials' announcement last week that reopening criteria for theme parks and outdoor stadiums will be relaxed from April 1, as a winter spike in coronavirus cases rapidly recedes.

Theme parks will only be allowed to reopen if their county drops below the state's most-restrictive coronavirus "tier," and then initially at 15 percent capacity and for California residents only.

Chapek cautioned that Disneyland could not reopen on the first day of next month as it would take time to recall more than 10,000 furloughed staff members, and to retrain them in pandemic safety measures.

Disney, along with other operators and local officials, has ramped up pressure on state officials to allow swifter reopenings, after previous guidance meant theme parks would be among the last places to reopen in California.

The company had to scrap a planned July restart for Disneyland last year following a public row with state officials over safety guidelines, and partly blamed California restrictions for 28,000 job losses in September.

Chapek said the reopening would be welcomed by Disney staff and was "also good news for the Anaheim community, which depends on Disneyland for jobs and business generated by visitors."

In addition, Disney might be able to resume some cruise ship operations in the fall and the company aims to reinstate its dividend "at some point in the future," Chapek said.

Shareholders re-elected Chapek and nine others to the company's board of directors, according to preliminary vote tallies announced at the meeting. They include Executive Chairman Bob Iger, who previously said he will retire from Disney at the end of 2021.

In an advisory vote, 68% of ballots cast supported Disney executives' compensation.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies