A week ago I saw four dates Walt Disney (dis -0.09%) Investors to watch in April With Disney’s annual shareholder meeting, the opening of the Tron Lightcycle Run roller coaster at its most-visited theme park, and some new content coming to movie theaters and streaming services, it’s shaping up to be a big month for media stocks.
It turns out there’s more going on at Disney this month. Big changes are coming to Disney World. A new timely show is coming to Disney+. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things happening at the House of Mouse in April.
There’s always a burgeoning pipeline of content coming to Disney+, and catalog additions generally don’t move the needle. Anyone can argue Renewal — a new four-part series that debuts Wednesday — isn’t going to be a game-changing show. It stars an Oscar-nominated celebrity who also happens to be a construction buff, renovating purpose-built vehicles to meet the needs of a community.
Let’s say that here is the celebrity Jeremy Renner, hence the name of the show. Renner made headlines earlier this year, nearly dying after a catastrophic snowplow accident. He has a long road to recovery, and it remains to be seen where Renewal The show goes on from here. It will still attract more attention as usual as Rainer has been in the news in recent months.
One of the more unpopular changes at Disney World and Disneyland is the park’s reservation requirement after the coastal resorts reopen after prolonged pandemic-related closures. Guests must secure reservations for free, but this is easier said than done during peak travel times. The reservation system is also a bit confusing, as reservations may expire for annual passholders but are still available for visitors with one-day tickets or people staying at Disney-operated hotels.
Back in February, Disney announced that it would soften its reservation requirements. Starting April 18, annual passholders will be able to visit a park after 2pm without an advance reservation as long as it’s not the blockout date for that particular pass level. The only exception to the relaxed policy would be Magic Kingdom — Disney World’s most popular gated attraction — on a Saturday or Sunday.
Passholders — or, more specifically, aspiring Disney World Annual Passholders — are in for another treat later this month. The Florida resort will resume selling all four levels of annual passes to new buyers starting April 20. This is a very big deal. Disney World has stopped selling most of its annual passes to new enthusiasts at the end of 2021.
Since then the only year-round admission offered is the entry-level Pixie Pass, available only to Florida residents. Pixie Pass is limited to weekday use, and has even been blocked from use on some historically busy weekdays. Existing passholders are able to renew their passes when the year ends, upgrading or downgrading them at that turn.
Disney World bringing back annual passes could be a sign that the leading theme park operator is finally getting comfortable with capacity. It is slowly bringing back pre-pandemic experiences and introducing new ones. In the past it may have used promotions and price increases to spur or drive back demand, and with an onslaught of annual passholders in the mix it may feel comfortable enough to navigate these ups and downs. It would obviously be a boost for Disney’s theme park segment to bring back annual passes, as long as it doesn’t mean turning away less frequent visitors who pay a lot more each day to visit one of Disney World’s gated attractions.
Rick Moonridge holds positions at Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has articles on and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney. Motley Fool has a revealing policy.