The BLOG FLUME - It Sucks to Be Them
Disney is having problems again... in Florida, Hollywood and Paris. Steve Wynn, on the other hand, can do no wrong.
Written by Kevin Baxter
SUCKING IN FLORIDATweet
Orlando Sentinel - Jun 7
Walt Disney World has been basking in an improved economy, but is the resort doing as well as Eisner claims? The resort's hotels are offering $30 discounts on Budget hotels, $60 on Moderate hotels and $85 on Deluxe hotels to Florida residents between July 5 and August 28. Meanwhile, Universal is not offering any discounts and bookings are up by double-digit percentages over 2003.
So, is WDW hurting? Considering the discount covers WDW's busy summer season, this is certainly a sign. As I mentioned earlier this year, just because WDW attendance is up, it doesn't mean hotel attendance is up. And the hotels are where WDW makes the vast majority of its Orlando profits. With the film division doing so poorly this year, Michael Eisner's promised 30% increase will have to come mostly from the parks. This could be interesting.
Speaking of the film division... Eisner's expected negotiating problems with Miramax's Weinstein brothers are ramping up quite nicely. The contract between the two is supposed to be up in 2009, but a stipulation allows Disney to renegotiate in 2005. So Disney is starting to renegotiate. Surprise! At issue are Miramax's rising budgets and the Weinsteins' salaries. Which is extremely rich coming from a company with skyrocketing budgets - The Alamo, Brother Bear and Home on the Range to name three recent budget busters - and skyrocketing salaries - Eisner, natch.
Still, there is something that might hurt negotiations even more: Eisner's mouth. Another surprise! Eisner claimed publicly that Miramax has been unprofitable three of the last five years. I find that a little hard to believe since there have been a lot of big movies out of the studio in the past few years, like the Spy Kids franchise, the Scary Movie franchise, Chicago, the Kill Bills, etc. But Eisner's Number One Flunky Bob Iger piped up to agree with his bossman. Another major surprise! The best part is Iger's comment that pair aren't "applying current accounting rules." You know, those rules that allow Disney to claim every film as unprofitable, except at shareholder meetings. Even better is Iger's belief that "our side of the story is a rather credible side." He THINKS? RATHER credible? Strong words, no?
Anyhow, the Weinsteins got the last laugh as a spokesperson challenged Disney to sell Miramax back if it was so unprofitable. Which no one believes Disney wants to do. If Disney decides to play hardball with the Weinsteins, the brothers could simply walk away from the company and start another studio, essentially ending any future for Miramax. Plus, analysts believe there is little money to be made, but lots of credibility for credibility-challenged Disney. What happens to the film studio when yet another creative force races away from the fold?
Euro Disney just got a lifeline it desperately needed, but it may be like curing cancer with Bactine. Disney itself is being forced to help out the company, as well as the parks it owns 39% of. With Disney's help, three French banks will restructure the theme park company's debt and Euro Disney will have to sell more shares of stock. Evidently this is not a perfect solution since Disney itself may be expected to buy as much as $120M worth of the new Euro Disney shares, making them a much bigger partner in the failing resort. How much this will hurt Eisner's proposed 30% profit increase is unknown, but owning more of this loser certainly won't help.
Although the Paris parks are suffering, they appear to be the only ones even remotely interested in Donald Duck's 70th birthday. While nothing major occurred at Disneyland Paris, at least SOMETHING occurred. I haven't heard of a single peeps about Disney's second-biggest icon - supposedly - in the stateside parks.
In a surprise move, Tony-winning underdog Avenue Q will open in Steve Wynn's new lavish Vegas resort next year. Most Broadway shows do the National Tour thing after a healthy New York run, but Q's producers wanted Broadway-like venues for the show, which aren't common in most cities. Instead of a cavernous hall, the show will open in a cozier 1200-seat theater for an open-ended run. How long it will last is up for debate, but the show does bring something entirely original to Las Vegas, and originality has proven to be a winner there. Add in adult themes and songs with titles like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet is for Porn," "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" and "If You Were Gay" and this could become the alternative for adults who don't want to look at boobies for entertainment. (BTW, "It Sucks to Be Me" - the source for this Flume's title - is another song from the show.)
As if that wasn't enough news for Vegas aficionados, Wynn Las Vegas promises a whole lot more when it opens. Not only will the hotel feature yet another free spectacle outside - Wynn was the man behind The Mirage's volcano, Treasure Island's pirate battle and Bellagio's fountains - but another intriguing show inside. Franco Dragone, who directed Cirque du Soleil's Mystere and O extravaganzas - both in Vegas because of Wynn - as well as Celine Dion's Caesar's show, will be directing a new show for WLV also. The showroom, a 2000-seater, will be spherical in shape and will somehow have water above, below and around the audience. The show itself will take place within 40 feet of every single seat in the theater. It looks like I am going to have to spend a long weekend just at this hotel!
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