The clock is now ticking on 2021, and Walt Disney (DIS -1.70%) is no stranger to ticking. The media stock bellwether has interests in broadcasting, theme parks, film studios, and streaming services. There's always something going on at the House of Mouse.
Let's look at some of the more interesting things coming as December plays out for Disney. From upcoming movies to a potentially game-changing move at Disneyland, these are the dates for investors to watch.
One thing that's been keeping Disney stock back in 2021 is the surprising slowdown in Disney+ subscribers. The service got off to a blazing start, but it had 118 million accounts worldwide at the end of September after a sequential increase of just 2 million more subscribers.
The content pipeline will be flowing this month. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is being given new life as an animated feature. Jeff Kinney's popular book series will arrive on Disney+ this Friday. Marvel's Hawkeye series, which began last month, will wrap up later this month. We're also getting Home Alone 4, as well as the service debut of recent releases Encanto and Ron's Gone Wrong. Star Wars fans already have Dec. 29 circled as the start of the new series featuring bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Most of the movies that Disney will be releasing theatrically this month come from 20th Century Studios, which it acquired two years ago. There are some potential winners in that lot including The King's Man and Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley, but the one to watch is West Side Story.
Live-action remakes of classic musicals have largely fallen flat with multiplex audiences. Cats was a dog. Dear Evan Hansen got a Dear John letter from film buffs. Even the critically praised In The Heights fell flat this summer, and that one was actually pretty amazing.
Why should we care about West Side Story? Well, it's being directed by Steven Spielberg. It's definitely not his typical gig, but just his presence at the helm will draw attention to the updated musical.
In a controversial but potentially bar-raising move, Disney World began offering paid access to its expedited queues on Oct. 19. The debut of Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lane+ in Florida gives guests the ability to pay $15 a day for access to most of the former FastPass lines that have been rebranded as Lightning Lane queues. Some of the resort's more popular attractions -- two currently at each of Disney World's four parks -- are on a different system. They have Lightning Lane+, where guests can pay a premium between $7 and $15 for one-time access.
The system is set to come to Disneyland, and at a higher $20-a-day price for Genie+. There is still not an official launch date for the original California resort, and the website only says that it's coming this fall. Fall ends on Dec. 20. If the platform doesn't launch by then it could be a sign that things in Florida haven't gone as well as expected and tweaks are in the works.