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Where is everyone?

In July, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis told radio hosts on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show that Disney’s “woke agenda” was to blame for the theme park’s lack of ticket sales. DeSantis and the entertainment giant have been embroiled in an ongoing battle over issues related to sex- and gender-identity education in schools. Conservatives supportive of DeSantis have been pushing for a boycott of the parks and the company’s streaming platform.

And the battle doesn't end there. In addition to two other lawsuits, DeSantis’ appointees to a board that oversees Disney World’s governing district launched a new complaint against Disney on Monday, calling $2.5 million in free passes and discounts for district employees unethical, according to a Tuesday report from the Associated Press.

But the data suggests those aren't the only factors at work here. Universal Park — a Disney rival that hasn’t been part of the ongoing culture war — saw its lowest attendance on record this past Independence Day, according to recent data. Six Flags and SeaWorld have also recorded lower attendance in recent months.

With a recession looming and Americans’ saving rates declining, consumers may simply be holding off on shelling out on expensive family vacations like visiting theme parks. Research from the Federal Reserve found that American households had completely depleted their pandemic-era excess savings.

Meanwhile, travel agents have pointed to higher ticket prices as a major factor in declining theme park attendance. On top of that, trips to Europe appear to be cannibalizing demand for domestic theme parks this year — likely both contributing to the downturn. In addition to the stormy political climate, experts also point to extreme weather and heat in Florida as a contributing factor.

But regardless of why Disney is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season, it may turn out to be a magical opportunity for eager investors.

More: Amazing 1-week vacations you can afford

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Disney stock is a cheap buy now

Disney stock (NYSE:DIS) hit a peak price of $197 in March 2021. Since then, it has plummeted 56%. The stock is currently trading at $85.56 as of Aug. 20, roughly the same price it was hovering at back in early 2015.

With Bob Iger reclaiming the CEO position and implementing layoffs, the company may have managed to cut enough costs to mitigate lower demand. Iger has also indicated that Disney’s dividend payouts could resume after they were suspended in 2020. Analysts, meanwhile, expect average annual earnings to grow 20% over the next three to five years.

The stock trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of 16.26 which could be justified if this double-digit earnings growth target is met.

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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