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Walt Disney Co. will stop paying more than 100,000 employees this week, nearly half of its workforce, as the world’s biggest entertainment company tries to weather the coronavirus lockdown.

Suspending pay for thousands of so-called cast members will save Disney up to $500 million a month across its theme parks and hotels, which have been shut in Europe and the U.S. for almost five weeks.

But slashing fixed costs in a more severe way than other theme-park owners, such as NBCUniversal and Warner Media, poses significant risks to the reputation of the century-old empire behind Mickey Mouse.

The decision leaves Disney staff reliant on state benefits — public support that could run to hundreds of millions of dollars over coming months — even as the company protects executive-bonus schemes and a $1.5-billion dividend payment due in July.

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