Walt Disney Co(NYSE:DIS) is a conglomerate unlike any other in the media/entertainment industry. Its assets span from television networks to movie studios to theme parks, cruise ships, and even retail stores.
While some analysts have argued at times that the company is too diversified, one strength of extending its brand to virtually every avenue of entertainment is that it gives more mileage to its most popular characters and themes, and there has been no better example of that than the movie Frozen.
Not only did Frozen rake it in at the box office, with $1.3 billion in ticket sales, making it the fifth best-grossing film of all time and the #1 animated feature, but the movie has also been parlayed into a hundred other revenue streams.
It is a major reason why Disney operating income was up 21% in fiscal 2014. Over a year after its debut in November 2013, Frozen-inspired toys were still flying off the shelves during the holiday season, and sales of related merchandise -- which includes games, clothes, and toys -- was expected to hit more than $1 billion in 2014. In fact, retailers carried twice as much Frozen merchandise for the 2014 holiday season as they did the year before, showing that its popularity has yet to ebb.
For Disney on Ice, the Frozen performance this season was expected to sell close to 3 million tickets, with 700,000 of them flying out the door in the first week, making it the production company Feld Entertainment's hottest item in its 45-year history. And with average ticket prices of $89 on the secondary market, the show will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, the Frozen soundtrack sold 3.5 million copies in 2014, coming in second by a hair to Taylor Swift who moved 3.7 million albums, but the Disney soundtrack racked up 219 million in streams to just 26 million for Swift, making the animated feature the most popular album of the year, according to aggregate figures.
DVD sales have topped 15 million, bringing in over $250 million, and of course, Disney has begun working on opening a Frozen-themed ride at the Epcot Center in Disney World. To illustrate the drawing power of Frozen at its theme parks, the wait time at Disney World to meet Elsa, the most popular princess from the movie, has been as long as five hours.
The strategy going forward
For Disney, turning movies into franchises is its bread-and-butter and a big part of the reason why it acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm in recent years, which gave the company access to a trove of famous comic book characters as well as the much-loved Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Those acquisitions have already paid off with hit movies such as The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
Disney has been a bit coy on future plans for Frozen, but CEO Bob Iger called the franchise one of his company's top five properties with plans to "take full advantage of that over the next five years." This means, not surprisingly, that Disney is already working on a sequel, and if that one does well, the studio will likely release a third installment.
The good news for Disney investors is that most of the hard work has already been done. Unless the sequel bombs, the hit parade of Frozen merchandise sales and other tangential products should continue, though it is unlikely to be as strong as the original blockbuster performance. Most importantly, Disney has succeeded in connecting with the newest generation of consumers, as children who love Frozen will keep those fond memories with them as they grow up and are likely to continue their relationship with the company.
Disney has proven itself a master at stoking those flames, releasing adjunct items like a sing-a-long subtitled version of the movie, a karaoke app, and quizzes on the main characters, long after the initial release, and will continue to milk its newest cash cow again and again. Though the stock is already at an all-time high, the success of Frozen could continue to propel shares to new heights for years to come.