May 30, 2024

3 Dates for Disney Stock Investors to Circle in January

It was a year to largely forget for Walt Disney (DIS -0.12%) investors. Shares of the leading entertainment stock squeezed out a 4% gain for all of 2023. That’s a positive result, but it fell well short of the market’s 24% ascent.

If Disney is going to finally beat the market in 2024, it’s going to need January to set the right tone. There will be new content on Disney+, a change to its theme park strategy, and other potential stock movers. Let’s take a closer look at the things to watch as a Disney shareholder in January.

Jan. 9

Disney has given cost cuts a starring role in its turnaround strategy, eventually seeking to trim billions from its annual content investments. In short, enjoy the big high-profile Disney+ releases when you can get them.

Echo is a new Marvel TV series coming to the premium streaming service next week. The titular character was introduced in 2021’s Hawkeye, and her storyline is interwoven into the Daredevil franchise. However, the series hopes to woo new viewers who don’t necessarily have to be current with the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unlike other limited Marvel series, this one won’t be dished out in weekly installments. All five episodes will be made available on the evening of Jan. 9.

It’s not just streaming fans that Disney will be hoping to attract next week. Changes are coming to the media giant’s most popular resort, as Disney will stop requiring theme park reservations for guests with day tickets starting Jan. 9. Disney World has required that visitors make advance reservations since reopening in the summer of 2020, a way to keep crowd levels in check and prioritize guests who spend more in admissions and in-park spending on a typical day.

The practice is not popular with visitors, since it adds another step to the trip planning process, but it has paid off financially for Disney. The reservations system — along with price increases and the addition of new premium experience-enhancing options — finds daily spending per guest at its gated attractions up 40% since pre-pandemic levels. The reservations platform will continue for annual passholders, but it will start introducing “good-to-go” days later this month for projected low-attendance days that will not require advance reservations.

It’s not just the end of reservation requirements for most guests. Dining plans for visitors with on-site resort stays are coming back on Jan. 9. Also worth noting, restrictions that limited park-hopping abilities to start in the early afternoon will be gone completely for all guests with multipark access. Disney World is healing.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at EPCOT.

Image source: Disney.

Jan. 10

Disney is back to paying semiannual distributions. The House of Mouse announced the move at the end of November, and the first dividend in four years went ex-dividend on Dec. 11. It gets paid out next week on Jan. 10.

The payout, $0.30 a share every six months, isn’t going to turn heads when it comes to income investors. The yield is just shy of 0.7%. Some may even argue that Disney is better off without the dividend, or that it’s not a good look when the company is trying to slash costs elsewhere. However, the distributions are a good way to reward patient investors in a time of sluggish growth.

Jan. 12

If you want to make some easy money, ask someone what the most popular show is on the Disney+ streaming service in terms of time spent streaming. It’s not The Mandalorian or any of the shows with the iconic Disney characters. The show that Disney+ subscribers spend the most time watching is Bluey.

Disney has worldwide streaming rights to the wildly popular animated series for preschoolers about a family of talking dogs. The episodes are just a few minutes long, but they’re easy to stream again and again for its young viewers. New episodes are on the way with a new season of Bluey, featuring 10 new installments on Disney+ on Friday of next week.

Turning to the multiplex, this year’s slate of Disney releases isn’t generating a lot of buzz. Disney has pushed out some of its high-profile films into 2025. However, Disney is trying something new with something old. It’s taking three of the animated features it put out exclusively on its streaming service during the pandemic — Soul, Turning Red, and Luca — and giving them a red carpet moment with movie theater runs. Soul kicks things off on Jan. 12, with the other two following in subsequent months. They aren’t likely to be big draws. They have been available on Disney+ at no additional cost to subscribers. However, if the box office receipts can overcome the distribution costs, it will be a smart way to extend the potential of the three franchises.

On the theme park front, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts returns for another year at the Disney World park on Jan. 12. Festivals have become a popular draw to the resort’s spacious theme park. This one features international food items as well as a place for artists and designers to show off their crafty creations.

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