Disney shares hit a new all-time high on the heels of the company announcing at its annual shareholder meeting a "Frozen" sequel and details of how it will expand "Star Wars" with three movies over the next three years. Those announcements—as well as high box office expectations for "Cinderella," and the "Frozen" short running ahead of it—are about more than just hit movies.
They're valuable intellectual property, and epitomize CEO Bob Iger's strategy, which is to build or buy brands that exploit across Disney's divisions: movies, TV, consumer products, digital properties and theme parks.
Since Iger was named CEO 10 years ago Friday (he took over the role in October 2005), Disney shares have tripled, bolstered by that brand-focused strategy. Another key to Iger's successful run: savvy international expansion, both adapting Disney content and creating product specifically for overseas markets, such as India. (Iger's most ambitious international project is readying for launch—a massive park in Shanghai.)
Iger has also placed a huge emphasis on technology and experimentation. Disney has innovated with everything from digital distribution at ESPN, to launching MyMagic + wrist bands at the parks to enable shorter waits and cashless payments.
We'll see the power of Disney's brands this weekend. Boosted by audiences eager to see the "Frozen" short, "Cinderella" is expected to gross $60 million. The movie is expected to continue Disney's streak with live action remakes of classic fairy tales, starting with the "Alice in Wonderland" $1 billion plus gross in 2010. And it's projected to match the $750 million worldwide gross of "Maleficent" last year.
But "Cinderella," with a budget of $95 million, is expected to be a lot more profitable than the new take on "Sleeping Beauty" in "Maleficent," which cost about $175 million to make.