And might a Mickey Mouse-themed attraction be replacing Disney Worldâs dusty Great Movie Ride?
Disney is counting on its theme park division to help offset slowing growth at ESPN. Last year, Disney parks generated $17 billion in revenue, a 5 percent increase compared with a year earlier, and $3.3 billion in operating income, a 9 percent increase.
In particular, Disney has been pouring money into Disney World. Robert A. Iger, Disneyâs chief executive, wants to use technology to make its parks more immersive and relevant to a new generation of children. The expansions are also designed to make each of Disney Worldâs four major parks â the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom â an equally powerful draw for tourists. That might help better distribute crowds across the resort.
Most people, for instance, make a beeline for the 110-acre Magic Kingdom, where attendance totaled roughly 20.4 million last year, and then add on half-days at parks like Epcot, which hosted about 11.7 million visitors last year despite being more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.
Disney World, which is gearing up for its 50th anniversary in 2021, also faces stronger competition from nearby Universal Orlando, which is undergoing a building boom of its own.
In 2012, Disney opened a $500 million expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Animal Kingdom recently unveiled a $500 million addition, with an âAvatarâ theme, that has been mobbed by visitors. (Lines for some of the new âAvatarâ rides initially stretched to three hours.) Hollywood Studios is in the midst of what Bank of America Merrill Lynch has estimated is a $1 billion project to add myriad âToy Storyâ and âStar Warsâ rides.