Disney says trips to its US theme parks have surged, while subscriptions to its streaming service beat expectations.
The company said sales at its domestic attractions climbed above pre-pandemic levels, but warned it expects parks abroad to still be affected by Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Disney+ added 11.8 million subscribers in the last three months of 2021, taking the total to almost 130 million worldwide. The firm also forecast further subscriber growth for this year.
Disney+, the company’s two-year-old streaming service, helped to keep the business afloat when the pandemic disrupted its legacy theme parks, resorts and cruise operations. Its latest film Encanto has been hugely popular, with one of its songs We Don’t Talk About Bruno making it to number one in the UK top 40 – the first original Disney song to do so.
The boost in sign-ups to Disney+ also suggests that some pandemic-related stay-at-home habits may be sticking, despite concerns after Netflix had warned that its own growth was slowing. Chief executive Bob Chapek said he believed the streaming service will have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.
“This marks the final year of the Walt Disney Company’s first century, and performance like this coupled with our unmatched collection of assets and platforms, creative capabilities, and unique place in the culture give me great confidence we will continue to define entertainment for the next 100 years,” he said.
However, even as Disney+ subscribers jumped, executives warned that revenue from cinema releases has yet to recover. In contrast, sales at Disney’s US amusement parks hit a record in the last three months of 2021. Overall, the company’s revenues rose by 34% year-on-year to $21.8bn (£16.1bn) for the quarter, while profits surged to $1.1bn.
Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Disney’s parks were “doing much better than feared, despite ongoing Covid-19 fears”. “Getting customers through the gates is one thing, but being able to sell them mountains of branded food, toys and gifts is what truly makes Disney a remarkable business,” she added.
“It’s impossible not to be impressed by recent growth in Disney’s streaming subscriptions. However, the market cares a great deal about the streaming business, and churning out the levels of growth expected is only going to become a more difficult task. “If you didn’t get a Disney+ subscription while trying to home-school in lockdowns, chances are you may never get one.”