The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) ended last quarter on a sour note. Fresh off the acquisition of Fox and the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland, investors had high hopes for the quarter. Unfortunately, several underperforming movies from Fox and lower theme park attendance left investors disappointed.
Disney reported revenue of $20.24 billion, up 33% year over year, but more than $1 billion short of analysts' consensus estimate of $21.48 billion. Profits also took a hit, with adjusted earnings per share of $1.35, a decline of 28% and far short of expectations of $1.75.
Disney will have an opportunity to redeem itself when it reports the results of its fiscal fourth quarter (which ended Sept. 29) after the market close on Thursday. Let's take a look at three things that could make or break the quarter for Disney.
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1. Rebounding visitor numbers
Last quarter, even as Disney opened its long-awaited Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction to California visitors, its overall theme park attendance declined by 3%. Annual passholder visits to Disneyland in Anaheim fell, likely due to passholders avoiding the expected crowds at the new Star Wars attraction. Additionally, some guests delayed their visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, until after Galaxy's Edge opened there on Aug. 29.
One of the most important metrics investors will be watching this quarter will be attendance at Disney theme parks. The company reportedly spent more than $1 billion each on the two 14-acre expansions to bring these Star Wars attractions to life, so another quarter of falling attendance will signal that the project was a bust.
2. Box office success
Disney has been having a record-breaking year at the box office, already producing five movies that generated more than $1 billion in ticket sales and nabbing nearly 40% of the global box office so far in 2019. Unfortunately, the company's performance over the past several months has been hit-or-miss. The Lion King generated more than $1.6 billion in box office worldwide, but Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opened Oct. 18 and sales so far have disappointed, totaling just $385 million in global ticket sales. For comparison, the original Maleficent's final global tally reached $758 million.
The studio segment was already facing tough comps. In the prior-year quarter, Disney scored strong sales with both Incredibles 2 and Ant-Man and the Wasp, driving its studio entertainment revenue up 50% year over year. Based on what we know so far, it's doubtful that Disney will achieve similar year-over-year success.
3. Disney+ subscriber news
We're just days away from the highly anticipated debut of Disney+, with its launch scheduled for Nov. 12. The Disney marketing machine has been hard at work reaching into every corner of the company's fandom, hoping to hit the ground running with its nascent streaming service. Disney offered special pricing incentives to some of its most ardent fans, including annual passholders and those who attended D23 (its biennial fan convention). The company has bet big with its entry into the TV streaming market, stocking its catalog with viewer favorites while also creating original programs and movies to entice potential subscribers.
Investors will be hoping Disney provides some indication of the level of demand so far, or how many subscribers have signed up in advance of the Disney+ launch.
A final note
It's important to remember that consumer discretionary stocks can ebb and flow, and Disney is no different. The company has been working to integrate Fox into its massive empire, get fans excited about Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and prepare for the launch of its streaming service. There were bound to be some stumbles along the way. But over the long term, Disney is positioning itself to thrive for years to come.
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Danny Vena owns shares of Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2020 $130 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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