Disney leans into ‘Moana,’ Taylor Swift and ‘Fortnite’ for future growth



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The Walt Disney Co. is banking on a trio of pop-culture juggernauts to help juice its bottom line in the near future.

Disney
DIS,
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revealed a slew of coming attractions in its earnings report Wednesday afternoon, including the streaming premiere of Taylor Swift’s blockbuster concert movie, a sequel to the wildly popular animated movie “Moana” and a strategic partnership with Epic Games Inc., the company behind the massive hit videogame “Fortnite.”

“The stage is now set for significant growth and success,” Chief Executive Bob Iger said on Disney’s call with analysts, according to a FactSet transcript.

Also read: Opinion: Disney is making progress on a key goal, and is ready to pull another lever

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will stream exclusively on Disney+ starting March 15, featuring five additional songs that were not featured in the theatrical or DVD releases. “Cardigan,” from Swift’s 2020 album “Folklore,” is one of the new songs, but Disney did not reveal the others.

The movie was originally released in theaters in October, and went on to set a record for the highest-grossing concert film of all time, earning $260 million.

 “‘The Eras Tour’ has been a true phenomenon that has and continues to thrill fans around the world, and we are very excited to bring this electrifying concert to audiences wherever they are,” Iger said in a statement.

In a surprise move, Iger also announced that “Moana 2” will hit movie theaters Nov. 27. Development of a “Moana” series for Disney+ had been announced in 2020, but since returning as CEO in 2022, Iger has pushed for Disney’s biggest productions to debut in theaters rather than streaming.

“This was originally developed as a series, but we were impressed with what we saw and we knew it deserved a theatrical release,” Iger said on the call.

The return of “Moana” is such a big deal because, well, the movie is still a big deal, seven years after its release.

The original “Moana” reaped $687 million at the box office, and it was still the No. 1 streaming movie on any service last year, according to Nielsen, with 11.6 billion viewing minutes. Since it started being available to stream in Disney+ in 2019, “Moana” has been been viewed for 880 billion minutes, Nielsen said — the equivalent of the full movie being watched 775 million times.

Iger also touted a slate of other upcoming Disney releases, including “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” “Deadpool 3,” “Alien: Romulus” and “Mufasa: The Lion King,” all coming to theaters in 2024.

Meanwhile, Disney also announced a strategic partnership with Epic Games that includes a $1.5 billion equity stake. “This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of videogames and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion,” Iger said.

The deal will create “a transformational games and entertainment universe that integrates Disney’s world-class storytelling into epic’s cultural phenomenon ‘Fortnite,’” Iger said, specifically pointing out “tremendous” opportunities for iconic Disney brands such as Marvel, “Star Wars,” Pixar and “Avatar.”

Iger said he was impressed by how much screentime younger audiences spend on videogames — as opposed to TV or movies — and that an IP deal with Epic was a low-risk, high-reward venture.

“Just as we take our IP from our movies and our television and have them expressed in our parks, this is a great way to do it in games,” Iger said. “It’s a way to have skin in the game …  but also build a world where we’re actually not creating too much risk for the company.”

Investors apparently liked what they heard: Disney shares surged nearly 7% in after-hours trading Wednesday.



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