Disney Falls as Box Office Buzz Wanes

Stock markets are moving slightly higher today after a long weekend away from trading. The Conference Board said that its leading economic index, which is a composite of multiple economic indicators, rose 0.8% in March after incresing 0.5% in February. This is another positive data point for the economy and signals continued slow and steady growth.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) responded by rising 0.16% in late trading, but there's little conviction one way or the other and only 15 of 30 components were higher.

Theme parks are the second largest division at Disney, driven by well known box office characters.

Disney falls back to earth
Disney
(NYSE: DIS  ) has been one of the Dow's best stocks over the past decade but it's down 1% today and investors have to be considering whether a box office hit is in the works for this year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is in theaters now and has done well, grossing $587 million worldwide so far. However, this follows 2013's Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, which respectively grossed $645 million and $1.2 billion. The Avengers grossed $1.5 billion globally in 2012, the third highest box office of all time, so this could be the worst year for Disney's Marvel branch since 2011.  

These Marvel films have played a big role in Disney's rapidly rising net income over the past five years, and the studio business may see a decline this year.

DIS Revenue (TTM) Chart

DIS Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts.

Disney has done a masterful job of turning box office hits into revenue streams further down the business. Television networks play movies for years, new rides fuel theme-park visits, and content can be sold to streaming companies.

The challenge is that box office success isn't a guarantee, and movies like The Avengers only come around once in a while. This could be a down year for Disney at the box office, and that's why the stock's 22 P/E ratio looks high considering that potentially relatively slow growth from such a large company.

In the long term, Disney is still in a strong position with a very enviable set of characters, so investors should look at a sell-off as a buying opportunity. With that said, I'd like to see even more value when buying shares because investors are still pricing in a lot of growth in coming years. The current stock price leaves little room for error, something that's easy to do in the studio business.

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