Disney’s park earnings set a record, even after $65 million Ian loss

ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney’s theme parks division generated $7.4 billion in revenue last quarter, despite Hurricane Ian’s path near Disney World in late September costing the company $65 million, executives said Tuesday.

As the company celebrates the parks division’s record fiscal year revenue of $28.7 billion, its frontline theme park workers say they deserve raises that reflect their work to keep the parks running and guests happy as Orlando’s cost of living climbs.

But even as Disney World proposes gradual raises for workers during contract negotiations with employee unions, it is also looking to cut costs company-wide.

On Disney’s fourth-quarter and fiscal year-end earnings call Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said Disney is “actively evaluating [its] cost base” across the company and “looking for meaningful efficiencies.”

She did not specifically mention layoffs. Theme park rival Universal’s parent company Comcast similarly said it was looking into cost-cutting measures during an earnings call last month, hinting at potential staff reductions.

Disney’s big numbers came as its theme parks were packed with crowds willing to spend on park admission, hotels, food and beverage and merchandise during the quarter ending Oct. 1, McCarthy and Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday.

The Parks, Experiences and Products division’s quarterly revenue increased by $1.9 billion from 2021′s fourth quarter and $770 million from 2019′s, before the pandemic. The division ended its 2022 fiscal year over $12.1 billion ahead of 2021′s revenue and nearly $2.5 billion ahead of 2019′s.

The high attendance and guest spending at Walt Disney World and Disneyland last quarter offset the cost of Hurricane Ian, McCarthy said. From July through October 2022, per capita spending increased 6% from 2021′s fourth quarter and around 40% from 2019′s due to “premium offerings” such as the introduction of the paid skip-the-line service Genie+ last October, she said.

Disney World closed Sept. 28 and 29 as Hurricane Ian approached Orlando, but its hotels remained open to guests who had booked a stay before the storm. The resort reopened on Sept. 30.

Chapek thanked Disney World employees for working through the hurricane, which left many parts of Central Florida flooded.

“[They] went above and beyond to help keep our guests safe and entertained during the storm,” Chapek said. “From protecting the many animals in the Animal Kingdom, to packing thousands of meal kits, to donating and delivering emergency supplies to the community, I am so proud that our team came together to support our guests, our neighbors and each other.”

Disney’s parks are on stable footing for the future, Chapek and McCarthy said. As evidence of that, Chapek said demand for the parks exceeds park capacity “on many days,” and over half of the dates for Disney World’s ticketed Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party have already sold out.

Ticket prices for the holiday event range from $149 to $199 a night.

Disney workers have recently said increasing company profits should lead to employee raises.

Last week, unionized Disney World food and beverage and housekeeping employees spoke at a Unite Here Local 737 news conference to press for an $18 minimum wage across the resort, explaining that the current $15 hourly pay does not cover necessary expenses.

The union is currently in bargaining with Disney. In an unsigned statement, a Disney spokesperson said the company has proposed to gradually increase its starting wages to $20 an hour over the next five years, pointing out that proposal would “continue to outpace Florida minimum wage by at least $5 an hour.”