ORLANDO SENTINEL (FLORIDA)
BYLINE: Sandra Pedicini
SECTION: CENTRAL FLORIDA BUSINESS; D; Pg. 3
LENGTH: 719 words
HIGHLIGHT: PHOTO: Pandora: The World of Avatar will bring new experiences to Animal Kingdom. Pictured is Pongu Pongu, a drink location.courtesy of Disney Parks
The Avatar world opening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this summer is expected to transform the theme park much like Cars Land did at Disney’s California Adventure.
That’s what Christine McCarthy, chief financial officer of The Walt Disney Co., told analysts Thursday at the Citi Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference.
McCarthy said Pandora: The World of Avatar should create an attendance lift both immediate and lasting. She drew the comparison with the two-park Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., where the Cars-themed area at Disney’s California Adventure “rebalanced the mix” between the two parks.
Cars Land generated record attendance and California Adventure started drawing nearly half of the resort’s total visitation, up from as little as 25 percent in previous years.
“Even now, five years later, we’re still seeing a very good balance between those parks,” she said. “That lift was immediate. It’s also been sustainable.”
There has been some skepticism surrounding Disney’s selection of the “Avatar” franchise. It’s been eight years since the movie came out, though a sequel is expected in 2018. Also, some have questioned the film franchise because it lacks memorable characters, often a hallmark of Disney movies.
McCarthy also touched on the “Star Wars” lands under construction at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Don’t expect them anytime soon.
“These are very long-term,” McCarthy said. “These are massive projects and they take years to complete, so stay tuned on that.”
Moderator Jason Bazinet of Citi noted that a theme-park executive told him one of the only investments that created “a new permanent plateau” was the addition of Harry Potter-themed lands to Universal Orlando.
“Those are the kinds of step-function changes you can see in parks like this,” with the massive lands Disney is building, McCarthy said. “I’m not going to predict what will happen.
“I think when you look at the fan bases we have for all of these IP [intellectual properties], whether it’s Star Wars or Toy Story, both are powerful, powerful IP, as well as Avatar.”
Want an idea of how enthusiastic analysts are about theme parks? Those attending the conference answered a multiple-choice poll asking what would prevent them from investing in Disney stock.
*Almost 85 percent chose the answer that there’s too much uncertainty about how the company will navigate changes in the pay TV world.
*Fifteen percent said they needed to know who the next chief executive officer would be.
*Two percent said the string of movie hits could come to an end.
*No one chose the answer that the theme park’s success could wane.
McCarthy also touched on the Disney Cruise Line business, which will get two new ships in the next few years. When Disney doubled its fleet to four ships, the new ones were profitable in their first quarter of operation, “which is pretty phenomenal,” McCarthy said. “We expect the two new ships we’re building to also be very profitable.”
In 2016, she noted, Disney Cruise Line set records for revenue and operating income.
Disney recalls hoodies
There has been a recall of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ Minnie and Mickey Mouse infant hoodie sweatshirts because the snaps on them can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. The cotton-and-polyester-blend sweatshirts have a three-snap closure. They were sold in four sizes: 6M, 12M, 18M and 24M.
Consumers can call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc. toll-free at 844-722-1444 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. They can also go online at www.disneyparks.com and click on “Safety Recall” at the bottom of the page.
Tourist tax increases
Orange County collected nearly 7 percent more tourist development taxes in November than the previous year, the comptroller’s office announced Thursday.
The county collected $20.3 million.
New hire at ITEC
Orlando-based ITEC Entertainment Corp. announced Friday that Seth Foster has joined the company as senior project manager.
He will help lead ITEC’s global team of designers, planners, and technologists throughout the development and construction of the company’s entertainment-based projects.
Before joining ITEC, Foster held a number of positions with firms including Universal Creative, where he was senior show producer.
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LOAD-DATE: January 10, 2017
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