March hasn't been kind for investors in Disney (NYSE:DIS). The stock hit a five-year low, with all of its theme parks currently shuttered and no viable theatrical outlet for its industry-leading movie studios.
Will things get better in April? Let's look at some of the dates that will go a long way toward dictating if Disney bounces back in the month ahead.
Pixar's Onward will become available on Disney+ on Friday, just four weeks after its theatrical release. This is not the way that Disney intended things to play out. But with the movie sputtering at the box office through its first two weekends at the local multiplex before stateside exhibitors shut down their theaters, it had no choice but to push up its home-release windows.
Onward became available as a digital purchase two weeks ago, and now it will be available to stream for the roughly 30 million Disney+ subscribers at no additional cost. It should be a popular release for families hunkering down during the COVID-19 crisis.
History won't look kindly on the computer-animated film's theatrical run. Onward delivered just $61.6 million in domestic ticket sales, a record low for Pixar. Less than 7 million people in this country got to see the movie on the big screen.
Onward never stood a chance. Folks were already starting to get nervous about spending two hours in a multiplex with the virus starting to spread, and a few days after its debut, there was no chance for strong word-of-mouth to build an uptick at the box office. With strong critical reviews and audience ratings, it should be a success on Disney+, but the media giant will have to take a one-time hit to write it down when it reports financial results in early May.
The seemingly crowded streaming-service universe is expanding next week with the launch of Quibi (short for "quick bites"). The platform will specialize in short-form content, consisting of short episodes of original shows as well as proprietary movies that will be served up in bite-size chapters. It's a premium service targeting mobile viewers.
Disney+ is the last major streaming service to make a splash in this niche with its November launch, but Quibi is one of the more serious contenders here. It has a star-studded roster of content that it's releasing for Monday's launch. It's also helmed by a pair of former Disney executives, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. It may not be a household name despite springing for a Super Bowl ad earlier this year, but it's launching at the right time with so many people hungry for digital entertainment.
Disney's domestic theme parks were originally closed through the end of March, but last week the timeline to reopen was pushed out indefinitely with coronavirus containment efforts across the country failing to control the deadly outbreak. The one date that Disney did put out last week was that hourly workers at its parks would be paid through at least April 18.
We should have a clearer picture at that time of a viable reopening date for Disney's theme parks. If the opening is pushed out into the summer, as some fear, it will be interesting to see how much longer Disney can keep paying its hourly workers for attractions and resort hotels that remain closed.
Disney's fiscal second quarter was brutal, and the stock has shed more than a third of its value since peaking just before Thanksgiving. If Disney wants to earn its keep as a leading blue chip stock, it's going to have to take some positive steps in April after backpedaling through all of March.