Coming off what could arguably be its most challenging year ever that was 2020, The Walt Disney Company (DIS 3.29%) is bouncing back. The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is trending lower in the U.S., paving the way for easing restrictions on businesses. That's great news for individuals and Disney alike. The House of Mouse can cautiously start to reopen operations it had to pause. And with consumers finally allowed more entertainment options outside of their homes, the pent-up demand could be a boon for Disney shareholders.
These positive trends can partly explain why Disney's stock is up by nearly 50% in the last six months. But that's not the whole story. Let's go a little further to answer what's got everyone talking about Disney's stock.
Disney parks in California will be filled to capacity when they reopen
California announced it would allow theme parks to reopen, albeit at reduced capacity, starting April 1. After confirming this was not some cruel April Fool's joke, Disney had cause to celebrate. After all, this means Disneyland and California Adventure parks in Anaheim can open the turnstiles again. Disney does not break out the figures separately, but you can assume that the California parks are a major contributor to the parks, experiences, and products segment that brought in $6.8 billion in operating income in 2019.
Southern California has had some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in all of the U.S. Folks are ready to go out, and they trust Disney to provide a safe environment. Indeed, when Disney announced "A Touch of Magic" experience, a limited dining and shopping event at Disney's California Adventure park, with tickets on sale for $75 per person, it sold out within hours. That pent-up demand makes it likely parks will be filled to whatever capacity they are allowed to once they are open, and it will allow Disney to start increasing prices.
What this means for investors
Disney's other major business -- streaming services -- continues to thrive. At the annual shareholder meeting, CEO Bob Chapek announced Disney+ had reached the 100 million subscriber milestone. Combined with the 51.1 million paying members of Hulu and ESPN+, the company now has a total of 151.1 million subs. And it's not done expanding, with plans to offer streaming services in additional countries throughout 2021.
2021 appears on track to be a banner year for Disney and its shareholders. Theme parks, movie theatres, resorts, and cruise ships may generate operating income by the end of the year. Meanwhile, its streaming business will continue on an upward trajectory as it expands into new countries and adds fresh content to the platform.
Summing it all up, it's no wonder there is a buzz in the investor community about Disney stock. Long-term investors will do well by acquiring shares in Disney before it's clear to everyone that 2021 should be a great year for the entertainment giant.