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Disney Will Rule the World in 2015

By: Minyanville
Posted: 6/25/2013 4:39:00 PM
Referenced Stocks: DIS;DWA;LGF;RGC;TWX

Come 2015, Disneyland will be celebrating its 60th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the Mouse House will be expanding its theme park empire, with the opening of a new and massive Shanghai Disneyland and the addition of a $500-million Avatar-themed section to Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom.

But while the theme parks will surely draw in huge crowds, it's The Walt Disney Company 's ( DIS ) film division that is poised to bring home the bacon for the Burbank, California-based conglomerate in 2015.

Disney's The Avengers was a massive hit, and its sequel will clean up at the box office, too.


Disney's 2015 film release schedule is packed with surefire box office hits on an unprecedented level.

There's of course the annual feature from Disney's Pixar animation division. Pixar will release its sixteenth feature, Inside Out , in June 2015. Though few details have been released thus far, expect Inside Out to be a hit - consider, after all, that the average domestic gross of Pixar films in the last 10 years is an impressive $268 million. With continuing ticket price inflation and 3D premiums, Inside Out should be good for a domestic take of $250 million.

But while there's still an element of risk that an original film like Inside Out might bomb, Disney's franchise properties are all but guaranteed to be record-setting hits.

Under the guidance of CEO Robert Iger, Disney successfully acquired Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, and Iger will reap the benefits of what he sowed with new Avengers and Star Wars sequels slated to open in 2015.

Likely to be the global box office champion of 2015 is Marvel's The Avengers 2 , the follow-up to 2012's The Avengers , which shocked industry experts and earned an eye-popping $623 million domestically and a total of $1.5 billion worldwide.

While it'll be incredibly hard to replicate the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle success of The Avengers , the sequel should be good for at least $450 million domestically -- and it has an outside chance of joining Avatar and Titanic as the only movies to cross $2 billion worldwide.

Most movie studios would be lucky to have one $400 million grosser in a year, but such is the strength of Disney's 2015 slate that it will have two; likely to open mere weeks after The Avengers 2 is Star Wars: Episode 7 .

Fans of the series might still be suffering from watching the prequels, but there's little doubt that they will still turn up for the new movie. The fact that director J.J. Abrams, who reinvigorated the Star Trek franchise previously, is taking over the helm from George Lucas bodes well for the quality of the movie, too.

Then there's Finding Dory , the sequel to Finding Nemo , which will come out at Thanksgiving. Finding Nemo is arguably the most beloved of all of Pixar's animated films (which is saying a lot), so Disney can expect a domestic gross north of $300 million for its sequel.

Finally, Disney also plans to release the fifth film in its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in July 2015. While this Johnny Depp-driven franchise has lost some of its luster, the movie should still comfortably cross $200 million in North America and perform robustly internationally, where the brand remains strong.

These five blockbusters, along with big-budget projects from other movie studios like Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. 's ( LGF ) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 , Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc's ( DWA ) The Penguins of Madagascar , and Warner Bros' ( TWX ) possible Justice League movie, should help propel the domestic box office past its current annual record of $10.7 billion, set in 2012. That can only be good news for cinema stocks Regal Entertainment Group ( RGC ), Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (CNK), and IMAX Corporation (IMAX).

As for Disney, though the stock has eased off from recent all-time highs thanks to worries about competition for ESPN from News Corp's (NWSA) Fox Sports 1, it still has great potential going forward.

"Disney is probably the highest-quality media giant based on its cable-business mix and the irreproducible nature of its character set," wrote Michael Santoli of Yahoo Finance .

Sure, Disney's movie division represented only 14% of the media giant's revenue in 2012, but the proportion is bound to rise in 2015. Additionally, Disney's other divisions, like Parks and Resorts, Consumer Products, and Media Networks, are bound to reap ancillary revenue from cross-marketing the Finding Dory , Pirates , Avengers , and Star Wars brands.

When CEO Robert Iger signed his last contract extension in 2011, he noted that his goal was to increase long-term value for shareholders.

"[I] am confident we will continue to do so through the successful execution of our core strategic priorities: the creation of high quality, branded content and experiences, the use of technology, and creating growth in numerous and exciting international markets," he said then, according to Variety .

Given the likely future success of Disney's movie division (a Star Wars movie, for example, is scheduled for release annually starting 2015) and the continued expansion of its parks business, it's safe to say Iger has succeeded in what he set out to do. He should be able to leave Disney with his head held high when his contract expires in 2015, when The Avengers et al. will lead Disney's domination of the box office.

Twitter: @sterlingwong