---- THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS ----
(9/19/14) Introducing Apex Parks Group (MORE...)
(9/18/14) Remember the Naked & Scared Challenge Haunted House? (MORE...)
(9/18/14) Alterface Working on The Marvel Experience Traveling Attraction (MORE...)
(9/12/14) More about Funtime's Skyfall Portable Tower (MORE...)
(9/11/14) Funtime To Sell Skyfall, a Portable 262 Ft Drop Tower
2013 Park Attendance Report - (6/4/14) The annual theme park attendance report from TEA and AECOM has come out for the 2013 season and can seen here or downloaded in PDF form here. For the most part, attendance was up at many of the popular parks, through the SeaWorld Parks chain saw losses almost across the board.
The biggest gains of the year in the US were seen by Universal Studios Florida (14%) thanks to the addition of the Transformers ride as well as the Springfield themed area. It was the only park in the US to see double-digit growth, though Disney’s California Adventure would be a close 2nd with a 9.5% increase in attendance.
Globally the Disney parks did very well with double digit growth also reported at the two Tokyo Disneyland Resort theme parks as well as Hong Kong Disneyland who saw a 10.4% increase. It should be noted that the increase in attendance over the prior year experienced by the Tokyo Disney parks is misleading however, as the parks were finally recovering from the poor attendance year they suffered in 2012 when the resort was forced to completely shut down for an extended period of time due following the Tsunami that hit on March 11, 2012.
Lotte World in South Korea also saw huge growth in 2013, with attendance up by an amazing 15.9%. Follow the links and read through the report, as there is some fascinating data in there, though keep in mind that most of the attendance figures are simply estimates and best guesses as most parks do not release their actual attendance figures, and some estimates seem a bit high to me… especially the elevated looking attendance figures posted for some of the Walt Disney World theme parks.
You can also still download most of the previous years attendance reports too:
Download the 2012 Report
Download the 2011 Report
Download the 2010 Report
Download the 2009 Report
Download the 2008 Report
Download the 2007 Report
Download the 2006 Report
General News - (7/14/14) MTV has a new Theme Park based TV series launching on September 30th called Happyland. According to the description, it revolves about the not quite so glamorous jobs and behind the scenes lives and drama of a group of teens working at a popular theme park called Happyland. You can see the teaser trailer for it below. It appears as if they are shooting on site at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which stands in for Happyland in many of the outdoor scenes.
(6/10/14) A new media attraction concept from Attraktion and Intamin called the DomeRide Theater will be announced on June 19th. Check out the preview site here.
Internet Fun - (9/18/14) You may recall reading about the Naked and Scare Challenge event at the Shocktoberfest haunt last year, where guests would be given the option of walking through the Pennsylvania haunt completely naked. The haunt caught some flack for it, and instead tones the event down to just going through in their underwear instead. Theme Park University caught up with the owner one year later to talk about how it all went down and if they would ever consider doing it again.
(9/4/14) We seem to be getting a glut of new theme park related game/simulation titles once again… as yet another title has taken to Kickstarter to try and get funding. This one is called Parkitect and while they are close to their goal, I’m a bit confused by the lure here, as the software looks like a re-creation of Roller Coaster Tycoon 1 & 2… with about the same graphics level from that time period. My first thought was that perhaps this was for mobile platforms (Android & iOS) but it’s not… this is meant for full blown MAC/PC machines. So if you are looking to relive that old style RCT2 itch once again and have lost your old CD, Parkitect may be the thing for you.
(8/21/14) If you spend any time on the Social Media networks then chances are you’ve seen at least one to a dozen of these ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos. Today our friends at Attractions Magazine made their own video and it may be the greatest one of all, as they do it all while riding a wooden roller coaster. Check it out below!
(7/4/14) In an interesting announcement, our friends over at All American Thrills have officially formed All-American Thrills, LLC along with Jim Bowers, a known source for information about drone piloting, which will be put to use with the purchase of a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone unit in which they hope to bring their coverage of theme parks to new heights. I’m very curious to see what they have planned.
20th Century Fox - (6/12/14) While construction of the first 20th Centry Fox World theme park is underway in Malaysia at Resorts World Genting, Jeffret Godsick, Fox’s president of consumer products claims that similar projects in China and Brazil will also soon be announced.
Apex Parks Group - (9/19/14) Interesting news today as we now have a new theme park / attraction chain called the Apex Parks Group. Apex was formed by the purchase of 14 Family Entertainment Centers and one waterpark from Palace Entertainment (the American division of Spain’s Parque Reunidos company) by Broad Sky Partners and The Edgewater Funds.
The newly purchased FECs exist as several well known brand names: Boomers!, Malibu Grand Prix, Moutasia, and SpeedZone, as well as the Big Kahuna waterpark.
The new CEO of Apex Parks Group is a name many in the industry will recognize… Al Weber, former CEO of Palace Entertainment and COO of Six Flags Theme Parks.
Apex Parks Group chain attractions:
10 Boomers! locations in: Boco Raton, FL, El Cajon, CA, Fountain Valley, CA, Fresno, CA, Irvine, CA, Livermore, CA, Modesto, CA, San Diego, CA, Santa Maria, CA and Upland, CA
1 Malibu Grand Prix location in San Antonio, TX
1 Mountasia location in Houston, TX
2 SpeedZone locations in: Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA
and the Big Kahuna’s Waterpark in Destin, FL
(8/6/14) A few new pictures from the B&M track fabrication plant in Ohio came in today, showing off the usual variety of track sections and colors we’ve been seeing for several weeks now. Mostly there is just Orange track left, waiting to be shipped off to Holiday World for Thunderbird, some interesting two-tone Blue/Neon Yellow track segments, and the Teal, some of which was being loaded onto a flatbed truck, which means it will be going to a domestic park. Carowinds maybe? Keep your eyes open. There were also more of the orange Hapag-Lloyd international shipping box-trucks on site as well that were previously used to send the white track to Gardaland. I also have added a few pictures taken on July 31st as well, where they were shipping off big loads of the brown Thunderbird supports. The dark blue steel framework pieces that were there last week also appear to be gone now as well.
(7/4/14) A few new pictures from the B&M track fabricator have been posted to the TPR forum showing off more than the White & Yellow track pieces from before. There are now five different colors represented… including new sections in Teal, Orange and possibly something painted a dark Blue.
The final home for the “White” coaster has been identified as Gardaland as well, as you can see in the last photo of this update that more orange Hapag-Lloyd shipping containers, as seen previously on CarowindsConnection in Ohio, are also on site in Italy where they are unloading white B&M track for their suspected new ‘D6’ Dive Machine.
While the other coasters are not really known, one of these should be for the new Carowinds 2015 coaster as well. Since the nearby Intimidator is red, I would hope Cedar Fair wouldn’t choose Orange track. They already have Nighthawk in the park that has Yellow track as well, so I can only guess that the Teal track pieces may end up being for the Carowinds ride, giving it a similar look to Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland.
(6/17/14) Carowinds Connection has posted some pictures from the B&M track fabrication plant in Ohio showing off some of the old Yellow track on site along with some newer White track sections. Unfortunately the site was active and no one could get a close up of the tags on the track segments to try and find out what they were for.
(4/24/14) While I'm not sure of the damage done, the local news reports that there was a Two-Alarm fire at the Clermont Steel Fabricators building, otherwise known as the place where the world's B&M track is manufactured. According to the picture posted, the yellow B&M track we reported on back in February is still on site at the plant.
(2/26/14) Our local Screamscape spy dropped by the B&M Track Fabricator plant in Ohio and snapped up pictures of brand new bright yellow coaster track. If I’m reading the label right this is for a new B&M Flying coaster, and they do have one on the way to China for the Wanda Group set to open in 2014 at the Xishuangbanna International Resort park. The concept art for this coaster found on VHCoasters however had blue track and not yellow, so while this track could be for another project, I’m still thinking this is still the Wanda coaster unless someone knows of another B&M Flyer in the works.
Cedar Fair - (9/19/14) The ongoing legal case between Jack Falfas (former COO of Cedar Fair) over this wrongful dismissal continues. The latest report is that the Ohio Supreme Court has reversed the decision of the lower court, saying that Jack is not entitled to be reinstated as COO of Cedar Fair. The sent the case back to the Erie County Common Pleas Court, which had previously determined that he was however entitled to his back pay and other company benefits, before that ruling was later overturned. While the issue isn’t finished, I think we are close… and likely that while Jack wont be working for Cedar Fair again, he’ll probably walk away with a nice fat check to retire with.
(9/5/14) Cedar Fair reports that their year-to-date revenue up through Labor day was at a record level of $939 million, with attendance of 19 million. Average guest per-cap spending in the parks was $45.53.
(7/2/14) Cedar Fair filed for an interesting new trademark this week to use the name “Rougarou” in their theme parks. I’ve no clue yet just which park may get to use this name, but Rougarou is the French name for Werewolf. The use of the French name could be a hint that it could end up in Canada’s Wonderland, but you never know…
Disney - (9/18/14) Alterface has posted a new update on their website that tells about their involvement in the new traveling “The Marvel Experience” attraction project, working with Hero Ventures and Marvel Entertainment. Alterface is currently creating “an original 3D-animated interactive gaming cinema allowing fans to be part of the action.”
This is fantastic news for Alterface, especially as they are also involved with Six Flags new Justice League: Battle for Metropolis dark rides coming in 2015, giving them the chance to work with the best of both Marvel and DC Comics properties.
(8/25/14) Walt Disney Imagineering has files some crazy new patents that would put an army of flying quadcopter drones to use over their parks in a variety of methods. According to the report at Disney & More they talk about using them to hoist projection screens over the park for night shows, using them as flying lights and effects as flying “flixels”, or even pulling some huge ribbons through the sky around the castle at the Magic Kingdom. They even go so far as to claim that with enough of them in the sky at one, loaded with lights, they could even replace fireworks. Other uses would be to hold up and animate huge character figures as they walked around the park, sort of like having a giant robotic marionette walking a parade route.
(8/6/14) According to this article Bob Iger told shareholders that a “far greater Star Wars presence” was being worked on and details would be announced sometime in 2015. It was also announced last week that Philippe Gas has been named as the GM of the new Shanghai Disney Resort, while Tom Wolber will replace him as President of the Euro Disney Resort.
(7/17/14) The Marvel Experience is teaming up with attraction director Jerry Rees and visual effects house Rhythm & Hues and Lexington Design & Fabrication to create and launch The Marvel Experience later this year. According to this article, the traveling production will feature a large dome that will be home to three theaters used to tell the story via multi-media and interactive technology. It will include a 4D motion ride and a 360º 3D display system.
(7/2/14) For those desperately wondering and waiting for Disney to announce some kind of concrete information on the rumored Star Wars Land projects that are apparently being planned for the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World and possibly even Disneyland Paris… you might have to wait a few years more until any of these are given the green light.
According to Disney & More, while Disneyland Paris may very well finally be the last park to convert their old version of Star Tours into the new “Star Wars: The Adventure Continues” (aka: Star Tours 2) by 2016, the plans to build an entire land are likely on hold until well after the new Star Wars VII film hits the theaters in December 2015. With a whole slate of new Star Wars Universe films in development, there will be new worlds and new characters along with new amazing vehicles and technology as well.. all of which creates a new problem.
Should the locations within a Star Wars themed land and attractions be themed to the original trilogy (Episodes 4-6), the prequel trilogy (Episodes 1-3), or how about this new trilogy in the making (Episodes 7-9)? Each generation of the films will have their own fans, so how do you please everyone and include favorite elements from them all? Plus this doesn’t even begin to consider the rumored Spin-Off films. Things get even more complex for California, where a Star Wars themed land could be shoved into a tiny existing space within Disneyland, or they could opt to do something more grand as part of the long in development 3rd Park plans (along with a possible Marvel Land). So it makes sense that the best plan of action right now may actually be to wait and see what the initial fan reactions are to Episode VII so they can include the new film concepts into the mix as well.
(1/10/14) The first concept art of the traveling “The Marvel Experience” superhero amusement attraction has been released, featuring a huge 6-story dome structure. Inside will be 4D rides, games and interactive Marvel character magic that will let the guests become part of the Marvel universe. The dome itself is themed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Mobile Command Center, and through this portal you will soon find yourself engulfed in a story that will unfold before you as you travel through the attraction and interact with both Marvel Superheros as well as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Coming in at a budget of at least $30 million, the traveling experience will be visiting cities across the US and Canada, able to set up shop on any available 2 acre site. The cost of admission is expected to be in the $30 price range.
Dynamic Attractions - (6/30/14) Dynamic Attractions pulled back the tarp of a new attraction concept they will begin selling at the Asian Attractions Epxo last week in Beijing. They call it the SFX Coaster… and it does bare some striking similarities in what it can do with what we saw from the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction at Universal Orlando. Check out the video they released for the concept below.
(1/16/14) Empire Industries Ltd has announced that their Dynamic Attractions division has signed two new major ride contracts, both for the United Arab Emirates, but each for a different customer. One is to deliver one of their Dynamic Flying Theater attractions (like Disney’s Soarin’) and the other is for a new “special effects indoor roller coaster” attraction. (Note: Dynamic Attractions provided the hardware when Disneyland rebuilt their Space Mountain coaster in 2005 and was confirmed as the fabricator for the new track system installed on Big Thunder Mountain reopening in 2014.) Both contracts will be executed over the next 18 months.
Any ideas who these may be for? Dynamic already built a Flying Theater at Ferarri World that opened back in 2012 called Flying Over Italy, so perhaps they will return for an indoor coaster, or perhaps the indoor coaster could be for the IMG Worlds of Adventure park, who also appears to have bought a second attraction from Dynamic as well.
Funtime - (9/12/14) Funtime tells us that the first Skyfall prototype actually made a debut at Oktoberfest in 2013, so there are a few Skyfalls already running. Another great video of the Skyfall in action at Oktoberfest can be found below. I love the rotating logo on top of the tower… that’s a nice touch. Plus we get a peek at the great light package on it in the night footage too.
For our European readers who want to track down and ride them currently, you can follow along with two versions through their Facebook pages. One is called Skyfall while the other is Mega King and features a King Kong figure on top.
(9/11/14) Would you believe that someone is now offering a 262 foot PORTABLE drop tower ride? Yep… Funtime is now offering this exact thing under the name, Skyfall. I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but apparently it also does not require a crane to set up either and it holds 24 passnegers per run for a 700 pph capacity. Funtime tells us that they’ve already sold four of them which will arrive at sites around the the world soon. Check out the video below!
Great Coasters International - (2/2/14) A peek at the layout for GCI’s new Viper coaster going to China in 2015 was tweeted out by ACE over the weekend.
(11/20/13) GCI will build their biggest roller coaster ever in China to open in 2015 at the Wanda (Nanchang) Culture Tourism City. Check out the preview video animation of “The Viper” below featuring a 50 meter (164 ft) tall lift hill and 1,500 meters (4921 ft) of track.
Huss Rides - (7/15/14) Huss Rides has announced the launch of the Condor G2 ride system, after the first one just opened in June at Happy Valley Beijing. The G2 version features the same 31 meter tall central tower with four arms of rotating cars, each of which has seven two-person gondolas than swing outwards as they spin.
The second Condor G2 will open in 2014/2015 in the Chinese Shandong Province. For 2015/2016, Huss confirms that they have contracts to open two Top Spin Suspended rides and a Giant Frisbee 40 in China, and will deliver a King Kong ride to the Middle East.
IAAPA Conventions - (5/28/14) Good news for fans of IAAPA’s Orlando location… IAAPA has announced that they have signed a new agreement that will extend the run of IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando by an additional 6 years… which will take it through to the 2025 show.
(5/21/14) IAAPA has announced that Hong Kong will be the site of the Asian Attractions Expo 2015 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The event will take place June 16-19, 2015.
(12/23/13) IAAPA has announced that the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo 2014 will take place from June 17-20 at the China National Convention Center in Beijing. This will be followed by the Euro Attractions Show in Amsterdam at the Amsterdam RAI Convention Center from Sept. 23-25, and then IAAPA Attraction Expo 2014 in Orlando, FL will take place from Nov. 17-21 at the Orange County Convention Center.
Merlin Entertainment - (1/29/14) In an interesting move the Displays Development Director at SeaLife (part of Merlin Entertainment) is reported as teaming up with the WDC organization (Whale & Dolphin Conservation) to create the world’s first Dolphin Sanctuary. The Sanctuary’s purpose is to rehabilitate retired captive dolphins and eventually attempt to release them back into the wild. They do note that this will be on a case by case basis, as for some the option of release “may just be too cruel”. In those cases they will still be taught to catch live prey with the goal of retiring them to “huge sea pens at the Sanctuary” where they can live a more natural life. While I am not opposed to park’s like SeaWorld, I respect that Merlin has opted not to continue the practice of keeping dolphins in any of their parks and is taking a realistic pro-active approach as to how they will take care of the dolphins that are still in their care for the years to come.
Of course while the article doesn’t come right out and say it in the main text, if you read the sub-text under the last three pictures on Page 3 it says, “People from all over the world will be able to visit the facility, which will create an unprecedented experience. Observance of the retired dolphins would be through one-way glass.” While they don’t mention an admission charge, I can only assume that there would still be a cost associated with visiting a Merlin Dolphin Sanctuary, as the costs for the care and rehabilitation of these dolphins is going to be astronomical.
So for the cynical out there… while Merlin has the best of intentions, have they really just created the Next-Gen concept for the next wave of Marine Life Parks? Those who are highly critical of SeaWorld’s own motives have long claimed that the true purpose of SeaWorld’s many rescue and rehabilitation programs was the abuse the loophole that would allow them to keep any rescued animals that they deemed were not suitable for release. Time will tell I suppose, but I do wish Merlin the best in their efforts as they are still seeking a proper site in which to locate their first Dolphin Sanctuary.
(1/16/14) Merlin are planning to add a new and unique attraction to London in the same County Hall building structure where the SeaLife Aquarium and London Dungeon are located. The new unknown attraction will take groups of 40 guests on a tour through a series of 10 show rooms, with each experience to last approximately 6-minutes, one of which will also include a simulator ride to be located in the “Rotunda space”. The space they are taking over was formerly home to the London Film Museum.
(12/11/13) BlooLoop reports that Merlin will open a new Madame Tussauds location in Singapore at Imbiah Lookout on Sentosa sometime later in 2014. The new wax museum will open next to the existing Images of Singapore attraction which will also be “refreshed”.
PARC Management - (4/30/14) As rumored a few weeks ago, NASCAR Speedpark Myrtle Beach has now closed down, and PARC Management is out of the picture. Site owner, Burroughs & Chapin has announced that the site will reopen as the Broadway Grand Prix go-kart park in the near future, and will be under the management of Mark Lazarus.
(4/7/14) Over the last couple years we’ve seen PARC Management lose some management deals or be forced to close or sell off certain attractions and now Screamscape sources tell us another similar wave of change may be coming over the next month that could possibly impact their remaining Myrtle Beach, SC properties... the Myrtle Waves waterpark and the nearby NASCAR Speedpark. Stay tuned for the details as we uncover them.
(1/9/14) Last month we reported that PARC Management had failed to renew their management contract for the Pavilion Nostalgia Park and Carousel Park at Broadway at the Beach. Since then their PavilionNostalgiaPark.com website has been taken down and now auto-forward you to the Broadway at the Beach website.
This week it was confirmed that their NASCAR Speedpark attraction in St. Louis has also closed down for good as well. While the attraction has closed, it was built in as part of the St. Louis Mills mall (now renamed St. Louis Outlet Mall). It is worth noting that while run by an entirely different company, the former NASCAR Speedpark that closed last year at the Concord Mills mall has apparently leased out outdoor portion of the attraction to a new operator who has kept the karts and mini-golf up and running, and renamed it as “The Speedpark”. It is possible that a similar resurrection could be possible in St. Louis.
Ride Entertainment Group - (3/24/14) Want to see a little more about how the AirSurfer attraction? Then check out a video made for the Branson SkySurfer, featuring “Greg Brady”. I’ve also got the skinny on how the two are related. The Branson SkySurfer was a home brewed attraction that opened in 2013, but Ride Entertainment has since purchased the intellectual property for the Branson ride and now own it, and are reengineering the attraction and operating system to better fall in line with true amusement industry standards, as well as improve the ride experience.
(3/21/14) I have not been able to confirm if there is an official connection or not, but it seems the first AirSurfer style attraction exists in Branson, MO under the name SkySurfer at the Xtreme Racing Center of Branson. Has anyone tried it yet?
(3/20/14) Ride Entertainment Group sent Screamscape a picture of their newest attraction concept, a little something they call AirSurfer. Before you go any further, click on the concept artwork… and when you done picking your jaw up off the floor, come on back.
Yes, you are looking at what appears to be a Stand-Up ZipLine style experience, that is also able to navigate through tight turns as well as go down… and up inclines. If you don’t want to take on the ride standing up, Silver Surfer style, then you can also ride it sitting down, or even laying down in a Superman style flying pose.
According to the press release, they already on finalizing plans to debut the first AirSurfer somewhere in the United States by late 2014. I can’t wait to see where this ends up… and where it goes from there, as the possibilities for this kind of concept could be limitless.
Roller Coaster Tycoon World - (9/3/14) We now have four official screen-shots from the new Roller Coaster Tycoon World game to drool over this week, freshly released from Atari. The detail level looks fantastic as they show off four different themed park environments. While this is just a taste of what is to come, so far I’m impressed. Another good impression of the work-in-progress program can be read here.
(8/13/14) ATARI has announced that the next-gen RCT game, “Roller Coaster Tycoon World”, will come out for PC in early 2015. Based on the very brief animation released, it appears to be a 3D rendered world once again, but with a realistic appearance as opposed to the cartoon look RCT3 had when it was released way WAY back in late 2004! (Can’ you believe it has been 10 years since the last one was released?)
The interesting new features that will come into play in RCT-World is that your massive theme park can be cooperatively built and worked on by up to four players at once. RCT-World will also take your creation online as well, allowing you to visit and tour other player’s parks as well. And to put your fears as rest, this will be a full release title that promises to be “micro-transaction free”, giving you access to the full range of content right out of the box.
S&S WorldWide - (8/14/14) S&S Worldwide has confirmed the signing of a deal with the Wanda Group to design and build two Space Shot tower rides for new theme parks at Wanda Harbin Tourism City and Wanda Hefei Cultural Tourist City that will open in 2015 and 2016.
(8/8/14) According to this article S&S Worldwide will build their first 4D Free Spin coaster project at an unknown North American theme park to open for the 2015 season. They say the coaster will cost $7 million, hit 38 mph on a 1,265 foot long track. They describe it as a more family friendly version of the 4th Dimension coaster, where every time you ride you will get a different experience.
Very interesting… now to just figure out where it is going to be installed.
ScreamRide - (8/19/14) Frontier, who I believe were the developers behind Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, have an interesting new game in the works exclusively for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 called ScreamRide. You are in control of a theme park, but instead of building a successful park, your goal this time is to create the biggest amusement ride disasters using real-world physics. It’s sort of a merger of Roller Coaster Tycoon with the Crash Mode from the Burnout driving game series. Look for it in Spring/Summer 2015 and check out the trailer here.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment - (9/10/14) SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will launch a special offer to honor all the men and woman who have previously serves as members of the U.S. armed services. This “Waves of Honor” salute will offer them 50% off a single-day admission to any SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place park for themselves, as up to 5 guests. Tickets must be purchased by Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) and used by December 21, 2014. For all the details visit www.wavesofhonor.com.
(8/21/14) More interesting news about SeaWorld this week has it was announced that they were dropping their appeal to the OSHA Citations that have been preventing trainers from swimming in the waters with the killer whales during shows. While they can still do it behind the scenes for training purposes, this effectively brings to an end decades worth of Shamu show memories for park guests of all ages. The park is still allowed to do it with their other animals just not with the killer whales any longer. So for many of us who grew up with SeaWorld as children… you can now thank the government for letting another fond childhood memory die along with lawn darts, missile shooting Battlestar Galactica toys and helmet free bike rides.
In more frightening news, while I posted the question about what would happen if Comcast were to buy SeaWorld, Behind The Thrills now goes much further with a theory that all the parks could be sold… but to different companies, tearing the entire SeaWorld parks chain apart between Comcast, Hershend and Six Flags living the dream to finally get a park in Florida. Check it out.
(8/20/2014) This rumor is going to sound totally crazy… but if you check out this rumor on PopWrapped that was expected to be announced last Friday (it wasn’t), they claim that Comcast was expected to announce that they are buying up the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment chain.
This isn’t the first time this has been mentioned… but the last time it was mentioned was four or five years ago when Comcast purchased NBC-Universal, and then doubled-down by buying up all of Blackstone’s half of the Universal Orlando resort as well. Back then no one expected that Comcast, of all the companies in the world, would see the light in owning a major theme park brand and begin to pump millions upon millions of new capital into the Universal parks. Back then most were predicting that Comcast would gobble up the broadcast and studio entertainment bits and spit out the theme park division to the highest bidder… but that didn’t happen.
Jump ahead to today… and SEAS stock price is still stuggling in deep end of the pool, trading currently in the same $18 range where it has been since the disappointing Q2 report came out last week. Comcast stock is trading high and looking strong, and SeaWorld has never been in a weaker position than they are right now. If there was ever the right financial time for a quick and easy takeover of SeaWorld by another company, this would be it.
The real question however is, just what does Comcast have to gain from such a deal? Comcast is about as big as you can get right now on the entertainment side of things, owning a movie studio, cable and broadcast channels, as well as the pipeline to bring both broadcast and internet service to the public’s door. Live entertainment however is a new thing for them as they seek to grow the Universal Studios Hollywood park, as well as the Universal Orlando Resort. Buying up SeaWorld would effectively give them control of every major theme park in Florida not owned by Disney (with the exception of Legoland), and plus the addition of SeaWorld in San Diego. For decades SeaWorld and Universal have been happy to work with each other in a vareity of ticket deals anyway, to strengthen their offering against what The Mouse has to offer, so this part is understandable. I’m not so sure what Comcast would do with SeaWorld of Texas or the two Busch Gardens parks, plus little Sesame Place, but it would be interesting to find out.
Now, add in the fact that SeaWorld is in a new partnership with Village Roadshow to expand the SeaWorld brand name to new park projects in Russia, India and across Asia and this starts to sound familiar. Universal Studios has also been attached to an indoor park project in Russia and a couple of rumored park projects in Korea and China. It sounds like they both have similar agendas when it comes to International expansion doesn’t it?
And SeaWorld… what may it gain? Right now the brand is still struggling and damaged, looking for a comeback. The new Blue World plans to build bigger Killer Whale habitats are a great start, but I think the future of the SeaWorld parks isn’t going to be on expanding the number of animals they own, but in adding new forms of themed entertainment. Over the past decade we’ve seen the parks that were known mostly as animal show parks for years, add in themed rides and other forms of live entertainment to mix things up. The one weakness SeaWorld has had compared to the other big theme park players was a lack of IPs to draw from. SeaWorld has no animation studio pumping out blockbuster films like Finding Nemo, Madagascar or Despicable Me to use in their parks. When they do use characters like these, they are paying for them through special limited-term contract deals.
Think ahead a bit and envision what a Universal Studios branded SeaWorld park might be like. Big film characters, perhaps a WaterWorld stunt show and even the return of Jaws. Ok...maybe not Jaws, but Universal’s Jaws 3 was shot on-site at SeaWorld Orlando after all… and who wouldn’t be freaked out by an attraction that had the big shark attacking the glass of an underwater shark exhibit?
Anyway… like I said at first, this is totally crazy. But it could work out in very interesting ways. Of course if not Comcast... rumor has it China’s Wanda Group is also standing by, checkbook in hand.
(8/14/14) Interesting news from SeaWorld Parks on Wednesday afternoon after it was announced that they had signed a “letter of intent” to work with Village Roadshow to co-develop new SeaWorld branded theme parks to Russia, India and Pan-Asian destinations. After years of being forced entirely on the home front, SeaWorld is now choosing to focus on international growth. No more details were given, but I do have to wonder if this deal would also involve giving the existing Sea World Australia park (a Village Roadshow park) the official SeaWorld brand. This deal is separate from the chain’s preexisting deal to add a park in the Middle East.
Other news from SeaWorld Park’s Q2 report include attendance of 6.6 million (up .3% compared to Q2 2013), a small drop in revenue to $405.2 million from $411.3 million (1%) in Q2 2013 and news that the board has also authorized a $250 million share repurchase program that will begin at the start of 2015. Guest PerCap is also down 2.5%, which they blame on “an unfavorable change in the park attendance mix.” Roughly translated… they focused the park’s special offerings and deep discounts to those without cash to spend, and lost market share with the wealthy tourists who drop more cash on food and in the gift shops. (In other words… they pulled a Six Flags.)
Going forward they have announced initiatives to start shaving internal costs down now through 2015 in order to re-invest the savings into new attractions at their “destination parks”. News about these new investment plans will come later. So far the market has not responded favorably to the news and SEAS stock price is already down over 32% as a result.
(5/15/14) The Orlando Sentinel reports that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has signed a tentative deal that could see a new theme park built somewhere in the Middle East. While the article doesn’t identify the partner, nor the country where it would be built, if I had to make a guess on my own, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Discovery Cove style marine life park built in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, or a park that could be a mixture of an Aquatica and Discovery Cove combined.
Six Flags - (8/6/14) According to this article, Six Flags is expected to announce all their chain wide new additions for the 2015 season on August 28th.
(7/24/14) The latest earnings report from Six Flags is an interesting one, as they report that net income for the past three months (Q2) is up 30% over the same time frame from 2013 to hit $85.3 million. Guest PerCap spending is also up 11% compared to Q2 2013. What makes this interesting and somewhat curious is that overall attendance at the parks for Q2 is actually down 8% from last year to 8.2 million.
While this still appears to be good news on the surface of things, it does bring a number of questions to mind regarding the long term view. Higher profits with fewer guests can easily turn sour if attendance continues to fall, especially if the cause of your dropping attendance is due to high pricing.
Was attendance simply soft earlier in the year due to slow-to-open new attractions and/or bad weather issues? If attendance rises in Q3, it would show that guests may have delayed earlier visits due to those reasons. At the same time. Six Flags also claims that the number of guests in their “active pass base” (passholders / company membership programs) actually increased 9% from where it was in 2013. Again… I have to wonder, why the attendance drop? We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the summer pans out I guess.
(6/30/14) Six Flags has signed a deal with a real estate developer in China who plans on opening several new Six Flags branded theme parks to China over the next decade. You can read more here.
Skyline Attractions LLC - (7/2/14) A group of three former GCI staff have left to spin-themselves off into a pair of new amusement industry companies named Skyline Attractions, LLC and Skyline Design, LLC. According to the press release the group includes: Chris Gray, Jeff Pike, Evan Souliere who will join with Bill Wydra.
The goal of Skyline Attractions is to take what they have learned from a combined 50-years worth of experience in the business and apply it to offer new attractions and game concepts to the industry, both in fixed-site and traveling form. The group will also continue to work closely with GCI on select wooden coaster designs as well.
The first of many new ideas is already in the works and will officially be announced on August 1st, so stay tuned. You can also view the group’s new website at SkylineAttractions.com.
Thinkwell Group - (6/2/14) According to the trades, Lionsgate has tapped our friends at the Thinkwell Group to create a traveling exhibition themed to The Hunger Games film series. The traveling museum will be called “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” is expected to launch in the US by Summer 2015. Lionsgates also says that they are also in talks about possible theme park attractions as well as “other location based entertainment opportunities” where The Hunger Games series would fit.
Universal Studios - (1/9/14) Brian Roberts, Comcast’s CEO, predicted on Tuesday that they expect to take marketshare away from Disney and other theme park chains with their plans to invest in their Universal Studios theme parks. “We’re doubling down on theme parks.”
Meanwhile, while neither Comcast or NBCUniversal will say a word about any of the rumors about a new theme park in China, confidential Screamscape sources have confirmed that the a rough deal to build “Universal Studios Beijing” is fairly solid at this point. Enough so that Universal Creative is already starting the process of gearing up the staff needed to make it happen. Much like Universal Studios Singapore, the park and surrounding resort is expected to form very quickly once the green light is given, though it is said Universal will have a little more control about the rest of the resort complex as well this time around.
(1/7/14) According to this report at ThemeParkInsider, a report found from Shanghai Securities News claims that an application to begin construction on a Universal Studios park in the Tongzhou District of Beijing was filed, with work to begin in late 2014 on this $2 billion project. They claim that demolition of existing structures and site clearing on the site has already begun, with a goal of opening the park in 2018.
(1/6/14) Is Universal Studios working on a new theme park concept for China once again? It was reported back in March 2012 that Comcast/NBCUniversal was meeting with the city of Tianjin (China’s sixth largest city) to discuss a possible park or studio in the port city. Previously there are said to have been many on and off again discussions for building a possible Universal theme park in China over the years going back to when Hong Kong Disneyland was first announced.
Today we have a small piece of evidence that suggests that negotiations with China are still taking place and may be moving forward, as Universal Creative has job openings for several project managers who can speak Mandarin.
Wanda Group - (1/16/14) Wanda Group, a new name in China’s theme park industry has hit our headlines a couple of times in the past few months. Back in November it was announced at IAAPA that Great Coasters International would build “The Viper”, their biggest wooded roller coaster ever at the Wanda (Nanchang) Culture Tourism City to open in 2015. (Stats: 50 meter (164 ft) tall lift hill and 1,500 meters (4921 ft) of track) Earlier this month it was reported that the Wanda Group had purchased a new B&M Flyer Coaster for Xishuangbanna Interntional Resort project.
Today I found an interesting bit of news on the Dynamic Attractions website that confirms that they are now in the midsts of building Dynamic’s very first “Generation II Flying Theaters” attraction for Wanda as well.