There's no doubt that gazing at quarterly financial statements are dreary exercises at best, even to the most seasoned bean counter out there. Disney is different, though, as it tends to add some plans on the drawing board to entice investors after summarizing all the billions it raked in.
Such was the case with one recent statement projecting that streaming video will render movie theaters obsolete, virtual reality will be the norm in entertainment, and the trend of Marvel and Pixar flicks will be even bigger. And while an international health crisis is getting worldwide attention at this writing, The Mouse is writing it off as a short-term hiccup that will disrupt that gargantuan cash flow for a time but will be a minuscule speed bump to what the company hopes will be a bigger windfall than ever before.
Much of the attention is being diverted to fatten the theme park cash cows, both domestically and internationally. They're already taking steps to modernize with EPCOT's Spaceship Earth dome slated for shutdown in May for extensive upgrades that may take up to two years to complete. Also on the Orlando-based site, pavilions will be refit with new attractions like a Mary Poppins sideshow at the U.K. section and a Ratatouille structure in the French area.
Count on Disney to invest heavily in its six theme parks for one reason only: the revenue streams are increasing more than any of the other Mouse properties. Its theme parks in 2018 brought in $4.5 billion, double the receipts five years earlier, while media networks like ABC and ESPN, despite earning $6.6 billion, are steadily dropping by at least three percent annually.
It's enough for Disney to project what it has in mind for 2030 and no doubt, vacationing fans can't wait.
Disneyland Paris could double in size
Executive sights are being set on expanding Disneyland Paris, which sits on 5,500 acres of real estate, to double its size in 10 years. Much of that new ground will be converted by theme park amusements based on characters popularized by Marvel, the movie Frozen and the Star Wars franchise.
The total cost of the investment is reportedly at least $2.26 billion, and won't be limited to upgrading the park. Disney also plans to increase the number of resort suites to 14,700 by 2020, almost triple the occupancy of current accommodations complexes.
The top brass is pushing this expansion in light of figures indicating that visitation has dropped steadily since the park opened in 2012. But despite that, patrons are spending more, since revenues have increased to the point where Disneyland Paris finally turned a profit in 2019, thanks to a record $2 billion that folks spent that year.
A virtual reality theme park is in the cards
Disney's top brass also let out a fascinating—and even frightening—a prophecy that's in their blueprints, namely the establishment of a theme park dedicated to virtual reality. The scary part is, that the technology might enable the company to license the rights of actors to use their images in a video or holographic shoot if they're unavailable for a variety of reasons, including death.
One financial report has it that the idea for the park stems from a scene from the movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in which tourists visit a gigantic mall called The Big Market where they put on VR headgear and entertain themselves accordingly.
So far, Disney's Orlando operation includes VR in one attraction called The Void: Step Beyond Reality where customers don the high-tech helmets to portray spies in enemy Imperial territory, but how much more immersive the experience will get, let alone the site of the VR park is still unknown.
A robotic Mickey on the loose in the park
To be fair, Disney's had robotics at its theme parks for decades, starting with an animatronic version of Abraham Lincoln in 1964. What the upper echelons have in mind, though, is something more animated than ever.
The company cited in one of its financial reports the possibility that robotics could operate Disney characters strolling about the park, replacing their sweaty costumed human predecessors. A more ambitious vision involved a live-action show dominated by stunt robots.
Disney's animatronics division is already using trapeze settings to test its robotic subjects, using Stickman technology that employs rotation and orientation technology, as well as a feature they call laser rangefinders to help the robot define distance in the course of performing a stunt. So far, the brains behind these ventures report some awesome progress although they admit that practical applications to have them park-ready by 2030 are still speculative.
Still more Star Wars movie themes
One thing for certain is indelibly stamped into Disney's future is that the saga that took place a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is going to stay with us for at least a decade since the conglomerate cheerily declared that more Star Wars outings will be on the way at least until 2030.
That can mean several things, one of which is that these future endeavors will somehow manifest itself into a theme park draw. The question is which ones will make the cut. Even though the nine-flick serial is done with, there's no shortage of other projects on the go, such as an Obi-wan Kenobi TV series, a three-film spinoff created by Episode VIII: The Last Jedi screenwriter Rian Johnson and a streaming series focusing on survivors of the Rogue One release.
Those alone will keep the Disney brain trust pondering how any of those can translate into theme park revenue.