Disney's theme parks set attendance records while hauling in more profits
Written by Robert Niles
The Walt Disney Company reported this week that it's taking in more than a billion dollars a month from its theme parks, for more than $600 million in profits for the first three months of the company's current fiscal year. Disney reported record attendance at Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disney and Hong Kong Disneyland, offsetting attendance dips at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.Tweet
Disney CEO Bob Iger is probably a very happy man, given Disney's recent financial performance.
It's great news for Disney, which is also hauling in the cash from its media divisions, thanks in part to the overwhelming success of Frozen. But theme park fans might also be interested in a couple of other tidbits from Disney's earnings call.
First, Disney's reporting that it spent $539 million on capital investments for its theme parks during the quarter. Remember that Universal's been earning widespread praise from theme park fans for declaring that it will be spending $500 million a year in new capital on its parks. If Disney continues to invest at the same rate it has this quarter, that would put Disney on pace to be spending more than $2 billion a year on its theme park and resort expansions and improvements.
Of course, Disney's got a lot more capital to support, with six wholly-owned theme parks (all in the United States) to Universal's three. Plus, Disney has spending on international parks outside Tokyo (including the new Shanghai park), the Disney Vacation Club properties, and the Disney Cruise Line falling under the Parks and Resorts' capital budget, so one should expect Disney to spend more than Universal overall. But this week's report suggests that Disney's spending just as aggressively as Universal, if not more, on a per-park basis.
Disney's Chief Financial Officer, Jay Rasulo, also noted that Disney World's MyMagic+ system allowed the resort to handle more than 3,000 additional guests a day in the Magic Kingdom during the recent holiday period. That might sound like an impressive justification for the expensive new reservation management system, but let's consider this perspective: 3,000 people per day when the park is operating from 8am to midnight works out to an effective capacity increase of about 188 people per hour. An off-the-shelf spinner ride could deliver that same capacity increase for a fraction of the cost of developing and implementing MyMagic+.
Disney's got plenty of reasons for developing this system beyond better capacity management. But adding the capacity of an extra B-ticket ride isn't Disney's strongest argument in favor of this system.
Finally, Rasulo said that the Magic Kingdom's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would open "in a few months," further fudging the attraction's once-promised "spring" opening date. At this rate, a cynic might joke if Shanghai Disneyland's version of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train might see its debut before the Florida version.
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