Harvard Business School
Rev. June 4, 1993
Euro Disney: The First 100 Days
This is the most wonderful project we have ever done.
Michael Eisner, CEO,
The Walt Disney Company1
A horror made of cardboard, plastic, and appalling colors; a construction of hardened chewing gum and idiotic folklore taken straight out of comic books written for obese Americans.
Jean Cau, French Critic2
April 12, 1992 was a cool and hazy day in Marne-la-Vallee, France, home of the Euro Disney Resort complex. Built on a site one-fifth the size of Paris and 20 miles to its west, boasting scores of rides, attractions, hotels, restaurants, entertainment facilities, a campground, and even a championship golf course, Euro Disney opened that day on time and within its $4.4 billion budget.3
Roy Disney, nephew of the founder of The Walt Disney Company, addressed the opening day crowd from a platform half way up Le Chateau De La Belle Au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty Castle). He described the complex as an emotional homecoming for the family, which traced its roots to the French town of Isigny-sur-Mer. However, notwithstanding a $10 million ad campaign in anticipation of the opening, attendance at the event was less than some had expected. As evidence of a cool French reception to Euro Disney, commuter trains leading to the park were on strike, protesting staffing and security problems, residents of nearby villages demonstrated against the noise, and a terrorist bomb had just missed disabling nearby electrical facilities the night before.
Research Associate Robert Anthony prepared this case under the supervision of Professors Gary Loveman and Leonard Schlesinger as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. The case was prepared from published sources, and the Walt Disney Company is in no way responsible for the completeness, accuracy, or fairness of presentation of any information contained herein. Copyright © 1992 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies, call (617) 495-6117 or write the Publishing Division, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School. 1
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Euro Disney: The First 100 Days
On June 9 Disney reported that attendance for the park's first seven weeks had been over 1.5 million.4 While the company previously had projected 11 million in attendance for the first year, it was thought likely that the majority of visitors would be attracted before the wet and colder fall and winter seasons. Also, research showed that the attendance of nearby French residents, who were projected to account for half of the park's attendance, was running well below the expected rate.5 In New York shares of The Walt Disney Company dropped 5% following the June attendance announcement.
On July 24 Euro Disney announced that revenues for its first quarter of operations were $489 million ($451 million at April 12 exchange rates), but that it would incur a loss for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1992. The company blamed the loss on the fact that it had geared up for a higher level of operations than had actually been attained. Attendance had been 3.6 million through July 22. Shares of Euro Disney, which traded on the French Bourse, dropped 2.75% following the announcement, capping a 31% drop since the opening of the park.6 Disney managers remained optimistic that Euro Disney would prove to be a dramatic extension of its founder's dream to "make people happy." Chairman Michael Eisner defended the performance of the park by stating that attendance at Euro Disney exceeded that of Disney's other 7...
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