Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company and former head of Walt Disney Parks and Experiences, speaks during a media preview of the D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, Aug. 22, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
The coronavirus pandemic has decimated theme parks, movie theaters, live sports and other major entertainment industries in the last 10 months, yet Disney stands strong.
The entertainment giant’s stock had a record close of $154.69 Thursday, just ahead of the company’s annual investor event, in which it is slated to divulge its plans for 2021 and beyond. Disney shares also hit an intraday all-time high of $155.34 on Thursday.
After the closing bell on Thursday, Disney will spend four hours discussing its newly minted strategy, which focuses heavily on its year-old streaming service Disney+.
On the heels of rival Warner Bros. announcing that it will release 17 films on HBO Max and in theaters on the same day next year, analysts and investors are keen to see how Disney will maneuver through the uncertainty still poised by a global pandemic.
Most believe that the company will opt to place smaller budget titles on its burgeoning streaming service to help bolster its content library and entice new subscribers. Its big budget films, like its slate of Marvel titles, Avatar films and Star Wars flicks are likely to remain firmly as theatrical releases. After all, Disney had seven movies surpass $1 billion at the global box office in 2019, a feat that is not easily replicated through streaming.
In fact, analysts are still waiting for Disney to divulge how “Mulan” performed on premium video on-demand, something the company has said it will talk about during the meeting.
The company already has a hearty slate of Marvel content in production and set to arrive on Disney+ over the next few years. It is believed that the company will announce additional Star Wars programs following the success of “The Mandalorian” and the final season of the animated series “The Clone Wars.”
Additionally, investors will be looking for updates about Disney’s theme parks, which have been slammed by the ongoing pandemic. In particular, its California parks have been unable to reopen after closing in March due to strict guidelines in the state. Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland have also been forced to reclose in recent months.
In November, Disney said the Covid-19 outbreak cost its parks, experiences and products segment around $2.4 billion in lost operating income during its most recent period. The segment, which includes its theme parks, cruise lines, resorts and merchandising, saw revenue fall 61% to $2.6 billion.
In the fiscal second quarter, the company had reported it lost $1 billion in operating income due to the pandemic, and in the third quarter, the pandemic cut its operating income by $3.5 billion.
Prior to the pandemic, Disney had plans to open a new Avengers-themed land in its California park and had been working on a number of projects at Epcot in Florida.