It was a rough week for the House of Mouse. Investors bailed on Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) after it posted disappointing quarterly results on Tuesday afternoon. The same market darling that had hit a new all-time high just hours before the report spooked the market after falling short on the top line.
Shares of Disney would go on to surrender 11% of their value through the next two trading days. That's an unusually big move for one of the steadiest of blue chips, but declining ratings at ABC, and a gloomy outlook for its cable properties, were enough to sink the good ship lolly stock.
Thankfully for Disney shareholders, the wait for a potential catalyst might not take long. The D23 Expo will take place in Anaheim next weekend, offering Disney fans a glimpse of things to come.
One presentation in particular, on Saturday afternoon, will be dedicated to Disney's theme parks business, and that's where the now-mortal media mogul can become a hero again. Disney has been neglecting many of its gated attractions, and now it will have the chance to announce -- or at the very lease drop some clues about -- what it plans to do to update some of its tired parks.
Extreme Makeover: Theme Park Edition
The family-friendly media giant is widely expected to announce a massive redo of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disney World's least-visited theme park. It's been closing rides and attractions on the west side of the park, paving the way for what many expect to be a major Pixar-themed expansion.
The juicier chatter involves Star Wars Land -- at Disney parks on both coasts -- and that's a no-brainer given Disney's roughly $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm three years ago, and the new movie that hits theaters this holiday season. The challenge for Disney will be if it can announce something that's worthy of the Star Wars franchise without having to make fans wait for several years like what has transpired with the Avatar-themed expansion at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It's been four years since that addition was announced, and we're at least a year away form it becoming a reality.
Disney drags its feet on new things, and rival Universal -- owned by Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) -- has taken advantage of that by moving quickly on major annual additions. Comcast's theme parks grew eight times faster than Disney's industry-leading properties last year, growing attendance by 10.4% versus 1.3% at Disney according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. Comcast is raising the bar, and Disney better be brushing up on its pull-ups.
There's too much at stake for Disney not to make game-changing improvements, especially with Comcast building more hotels at Universal Orlando, and Harry Potter working a levitation spell in California early next year. Disney will, and next weekend's presentation could be just the ticket to get investors worrying less about the problematic cable network properties, and focusing more on what Disney can do with the right handfuls of pixie dust at its theme parks.
Breaking ground trumps cutting cords.