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Disney highlights theme park revenue growth


Visitors can avoid lines at Disney World if they buy into the system.

Joseph Prezioso | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Disney‘s restructuring has triggered some changes in how the company shares its financial details, shedding light on just how strong its theme park business is for its bottom line.

According to a Wednesday filing, the theme parks segment had more than $24 billion in overall revenue for the first nine months ended July 1. That’s 17% higher than the first nine months of 2022. Theme park admissions alone accounted for nearly $8 billion of 2023’s nine-month total, up 21% from the same period in 2022.

Previously, Disney reported retail and wholesale sales of merchandise food and beverage as one category and merchandise licensing as another. Now, these revenues are being disclosed as three categories: parks and experiences merchandise, food and beverage; merchandise licensing and retail; and park licensing and other. The categories of theme park admissions and resorts and vacations remain the same.

Disney is leaning further into its parks business, too. The company is expected to nearly double its investment in the division, with plans to spend around $60 billion over the next 10 years. This is the most significant creative investment for the company in decades.

The changes in financial reporting are part of Disney’s restructuring, which segmented the company into three divisions — entertainment, sports and experiences — and comes as the company looks for a strategic investor for ESPN, which was long considered a crown jewel of the business, and just a few weeks before the company is scheduled to release fiscal fourth quarter earnings.

Entertainment contains all of Disney’s streaming and media operations, sports includes ESPN, and experiences includes the company’s theme parks, hotels, cruise line and merchandising efforts.

Read more: Disney gives investors a look at ESPN financials

The Wednesday filing highlights that Disney’s theme park revenue continues to grow even as the overall theme park industry has slowdown in attendance and hotel room occupancy.

Disney and Universal’s domestic parks, as well as region players like Six Flags and Sea World, have reported lower attendance this year. Travel agents have pointed to higher ticket prices and a rise in trips to Europe as the major factors in declining domestic theme park attendance.

Disney, among others in the theme park space, has raised prices to visit its domestic parks, but has also baked in discounted offerings for families, in particular, during its non-peak season between January and June.

What are Disney’s theme park growth plans?

Projects already in motion at Disney’s parks include redesigning Splash Mountain at both domestic resorts with a “Princess and the Frog” theme, as well as updates to existing hotel and resort locations. Disney also plans to nearly double the capacity of its cruise line, adding two ships in fiscal 2025 and another in 2026.

Internationally, Hong Kong Disneyland is set to open a “Frozen”-inspired land next month and Shanghai Disneyland has a “Zootopia”-themed land in the works.

The company provided “blue sky” ideas for its parks during its D23 Expo last year in Anaheim, California. These projects are still in early development and may not see the light of day. This included the possibility of revamping Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in Orlando to be themed as a “Zootopia” or “Moana” area.

At Magic Kingdom, Disney is asking the question: “What is behind Big Thunder Mountain?” The company teased that an area based on “Coco” or “Encanto,” or both, could be in that location. There were also talks about the possibility of bringing to life an area of the Magic Kingdom overrun by Disney villains.

Price points will vary for these projects, if they do come to fruition. The recent additions of the two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands in Disneyland and Disney World are estimated to have cost $1 billion each.

Notably, Disney closed its costly Star Wars-themed hotel, the Galactic Starcruiser, last month. The boutique hotel, which promised a two-day immersive in-canon experience, proved to be too expensive for general Star Wars fans.

Disney is set to report fiscal fourth-quarter earnings after the closing bell on Nov. 8.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.



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