As Disney turns 100, its business is on a rollercoaster ride – The Economist

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Business

Splash Mountain, a popular ride in Disneyland, towers over attractions that encapsulate the 100-year history of the Walt Disney Company. To the south, on Main Street USA, a little cinema screens “Steam Boat Willie”, in which Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928. In the centre of the park the Sleeping Beauty Castle evokes the classic Disney animations of the 1940s and 1950s. On the outskirts are areas themed around Star Wars and the Marvel universe, which Disney took over during an acquisitions spree in the 2000s. Passengers at the high point of the ride have a few seconds to take in the view. Then, with a lurch, their car makes a near-vertical plunge and everyone gets drenched.Listen to this story. Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Your browser does not support the element.Listen to this storySave time by listening to our audio articles as you multitaskOKIn the run-up to its centenary, which Disney will start celebrating on January 27th, the company itself has been on something of a rollercoaster ride. The world’s biggest entertainment firm, with a market value of $180bn, still rules the box office, with four of the ten highest-grossing films of 2022 (including the sequel to the most lucrative ever, “Avatar”). Its American theme parks have bounced back from pandemic shutdowns to generate record profits. Its broadcast and cable-television networks continue to rake in billions of dollars a year. And in streaming, the medium of the future, Disney has racked up more subscriptions than anyone, last year overtaking Netflix. During 12 thrilling months in 2020-21, investors clung on as the company’s share price doubled.Then came the plunge into cold water (see chart 1). In the past year Wall Street has realised that Hollywood’s old formats are decaying faster than its new ones are growing. Cinema has not fully recovered from covid-19, and may never. Cable is in steepening decline. Meanwhile Disney’s streaming division is still losing more than $1bn a quarter as …

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