Disney stocks fall after ‘Avatar’ opening weekend softened

Avatar: The Way of Water

Courtesy: Disney Co.

shares of Disney fell on Monday after a weaker-than-expected opening weekend at the box office for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Disney shares closed up more than 4% at $85.78 after hitting a 52-week low. The company’s shares have fallen more than 40% over the past year.

Industry analysts have branded the long-awaited Avatar sequel a box-office hit for Disney and see the holiday season as a pivotal time for the film.

The film grossed $134 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, falling short of analyst expectations of $175 million and Disney’s own guidance of $135 million to $150 million.

Box office analysts aren’t worried just yet, however. Internationally, Way of Water grossed $300.5 million, bringing the opening weekend total to $434.5 million. The original film, released in 2009, grossed just $77 million in its first weekend but became the highest-grossing film of all time.

In the background, Disney has faced challenges since the pandemic began, when movie theaters and theme parks were closed for months. The cinema industry is still crawling back, except for hits like Paramount Global‘s “Top Gun: Maverick”. Visitors to Disney theme parks are also struggling with rising prices.

While Disney’s stock rose during the pandemic, as former CEO Bob Chapek helped weather the storm — topping $200 a share at one point in 2021 — it has since fallen.

Chapek and Disney have come under scrutiny over the past few months, particularly regarding the company’s performance. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Disney fell short of expectations for earnings and its key revenue segments, with both its media and parks businesses missing estimates. At the time, Chapek warned that Disney’s streaming business could also see slower growth in the future.

Shortly thereafter, Disney’s board of directors ousted Chapek and reinstated Bob Iger as CEO of the company. Shortly after his reinstatement, Iger fired some of Chapek’s top lieutenants and said the company would focus on a reorganization of its media division.

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