Captain Marvel has exceeded early expectations, posting great numbers despite what has been a somewhat lackluster box office thus far in 2019. After just three weekends, the film has already produced $912 million at the ticket counters worldwide.
Strong female leads seem to be a hot spot in the film industry at the moment and Captain Marvel appears to be the latest superhero to capitalize on this trend (following in the footsteps of DC's Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, which pulled in $821 million at the box office in 2017).
The film's success in recent weekends bodes well for Captain Marvel's prospects of joining the recent Beauty and the Beast live-action film starring Emma Watson and the recent Star Wars films (starring Daisy Ridley) as $1-billion blockbusters with female leads. Furthermore, at this point, it's very possible that Captain Marvel can surpass the $1.1 billion that The Dark Knight Rises produced at the box office in 2012, which would cement its place as one of the top-25 most successful movies of all-time.
And this success is likely just the beginning of what I believe will be a record-breaking year for Disney's studio division. Disney set the single year box office record back in 2016 with its $7.6- billion haul. It nearly eclipsed that total in 2018, posting $7.33 billion in sales at the ticket window. And while Disney management might have been discouraged at missing a new record last year, I don't think that disappointment will last long.
Looking at the company's film slate for 2019, the House of Mouse looks poised to smash previous records, with Captain Marvel just the beginning. Later in the year, we'll see Avengers Infinity War Part II, which will likely be the highest-grossing super hero film of all-time. There are also a handful of live-action remakes of Disney's classic animated films set to be released in 2019, including The Lion King, Dumbo, and Aladdin, which all have the potential to flirt with the $1-billion box office mark as well. Disney is hoping to get its Star Wars franchise back on track with a big winter release in December And, if that wasn't enough, Frozen 2 is set to be released during the holiday's as well.
Looking over this release schedule, $8 billion at the box office in 2019 is likely and I wouldn't be surprised if the company made a push towards the $9-billion mark when it's all said and done.
With this massive box office line up, the upcoming integration of the Fox assets and the combined success of the ESPN+ service, which boasted more than 2 million subscribers at the end of the most recent quarter and the excitement surrounding the upcoming Disney+ streaming service, it seems to me that the argument about who is the true king of content in today's media market is over (Disney+ will include all of the company's animated movies that were previously held in the "Disney vault").
The Mouse clearly retains the crown in this competitive space. From a shareholder's perspective, you can get access to Disney's world class studio segment, its theme parks, its highly profitable media division and its merchandising sales, for a 15.3x trailing twelve-month price to earnings ratio, which is well below the company's long-term average in the 20x range. This price is also well below the triple-digit multiple that the market has placed upon its primary rival in the streaming space, Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report .
To me, Disney's current price of around $110.50 is more than fair for exposure to the uniquely positioned, multi-tiered, Disney ecosystem that operates in virtuous cycles, allowing the company to produce sustained success on both the top and bottom lines.
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Nicholas Ward is long Disney.