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3 Dates for Disney Investors to Circle in May

By Rick Munarriz – May 1, 2020 at 8:15AM

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It's going to be another big month for the media giant, with a notable Disney+ release, a telltale earnings report, and all eyes watching the potential reopening of Disney World.

There is never a dull month when it comes to Disney (DIS -3.20%). The media giant's stock has been a wild child for investors this year. The shares have risen 37% since hitting a five-year low in mid-March, but they still find themselves down 25% year to date through the end of April.

May will offer just as many opportunities for Disney to succeed or fail. Let's look at some of the dates that will go a long way toward revealing whether Disney will continue to claw its way back to its pre-Thanksgiving all-time highs.

Mickey Mouse in regal attire in front of Cinderella's Castle.

Image source: Disney.

May 4

There have been a lot of big movies hitting Disney+ earlier than expected, and the latest blockbuster to hit the fast-growing streaming service is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The ninth and final installment in the original Star Wars saga will hit the service on Monday, two months ahead of schedule. 

Disney's Frozen II and Pixar's Onward are two of the other major releases to give families fresh content sooner than originally planned as a result of the shelter-in-place orders amid this pandemic crisis. Disney+ has been a beast, growing to top 50 million subscribers worldwide since its mid-November launch.

The date of next week's addition to the growing Disney+ catalog is not a coincidence. May 4 has evolved into an unofficial holiday for Star Wars fans. "May the Force be with you," is a popular line from the series of films -- and hence, May the Fourth.

May 5

There have been a lot of moving parts at Disney through the first three months of the calendar year, and that makes up Disney's fiscal second quarter that it will go over next week after Tuesday's market close. Disney's theme parks, cruise ships, and the movie theaters showing its films all shut down in mid-March. We'll get our first read on how the rest of Disney's segments are pulling their weight.

Analysts see revenue clocking in at $17.8 billion for the quarter, well ahead of the $14.9 billion it delivered during the same three months a year earlier. There are two good reasons for the expected top-line increase. Disney closed on its $71.3 billion deal for Fox assets on March 19 last year, so the year-over-year results are padded by Fox's incremental presence through all but the final two weeks of the period. The other reason for the widely expected gain is that most of Disney's shuttered businesses were doing just fine through all but the final two weeks of the period.

The real test will be the quarter that started in April, and that's not going to be pretty. Wall Street pros see a rare quarterly loss on a nearly 30% plunge in revenue. It will be up to Disney to provide some more color on how things are holding up on Tuesday.

May 31

Disney's domestic theme parks have been closed since the second weekend of March. Disney originally planned to open its Florida and California resorts on April 19, but that timeline was eventually pushed out indefinitely.

No one expects Disneyland in California to open anytime soon, but it could be a different story in Florida. COVID-19 cases in Orlando have declined for four consecutive weeks, and local authorities are offering up recommended guidelines for the area theme parks to reopen. The sooner Disney World opens, the more safeguards that will need to be put into place, but it would not be a surprise if the world's most visited theme park resort doesn't open in some capacity in the coming weeks. May 31 is the final day that rival Universal Orlando expected to remain closed, so we should have an update at some point before the end of this month if the leading theme park attractions expect to open at some point in June.

All of the volatility at Disney may be rattling some shareholders. There are real uncertainties for an investment that had routinely been touted as one of market's safe stocks before the coronavirus crisis shut down several of its businesses. The risks and potential rewards are high as we head into a very important month for Disney. 

Rick Munarriz owns shares of 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 July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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