---- THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS ----
(8/25/14) Disney Imagineering Has Plans For a Drone Army (MORE...)
(8/21/14) More Interesting and Scary SeaWorld Park Rumors (MORE...)
(8/20/14) Could Comcast Be Planning to Buy SeaWorld Parks?
(8/19/14) ScreamRide - Part RCT, Part Burnout... All Mayhem (MORE...)
(8/15/14) SeaWorld Parks To Make Huge Investment Announcement (MORE...)
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 year’s 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.
(5/9/14) Talk about crazy… the local news reports that Bill Kitchen, known for his designs to create unique new thrill ride concepts was the victim of a home invasion in the greater Orlando area. While returning home from dinner, three people dressed as ninjas, captured him and a partner, bound them with zip ties at gunpoint and took escorted them around the home to where they kept their valuables. Very scary… lets hope the police can catch these people.
(5/2/14) The summer season is nearly upon us, and it’s time for the list of annual complainers to rise from the depths of their winter slumber and pretend to be in shock and awe about how a particular park or attraction has hurt their feelings or violated their rights for any number of reasons. The list evolves a bit from year to year, but if we follow the trend set for the past few we can expect to soon see articles about subjects like:
1) How a park’s policy on front of the line passess for disabled (mental or physical) guests just doesn’t work ‘for their family’ and how their complaints fell on deaf ears.
or 2) How decorated military veteran or handicapped guest who was missing one or more limbs was wronged by a theme park when they were told they could not ride XYZ coaster(s). Six Flags Fiesta Texas already kicked off this one back in mid March.
then 3) The annual complaint list by those seeking employment at any given theme park about how they were offered a job on the condition that they follow the park’s grooming standards, and how they refused to comply with the policy about (facial hair, no corn-rows, religious headwear, facial jewelry, etc…) and are now seeking legal council.
Then we have 4) No Hijabs or Turbans On Go-Karts.
It’s not even summer, but this particular complaint has already fired up in California as Sikhs and Muslim groups are complaining against this policy at the local Boomers family fun parks. The groups refuse to accept Boomers (Palace Entertainment’s) justified Safety Policy banning any kind of loose fitting clothing, extremely long hair or headgear on their go-karts as being legit. The religious groups says that past accidents at other go-kart tracks that have involved serious injury and death due caused by riders wearing headgear that becomes loose and quickly entangled into the speeding go-kart wheels should not be considered because they took place outside of the USA.
Yeah, that makes no sense to me either… or anyone else. People have died because of this and Boomers is not only legally protecting themselves, but these rules have become a global industry standard in the go-kart biz because of these prior accidents and injuries as recently as 2010! Much like how the military veteran who lost his limbs defending our country is unable to ride a coaster at his local Six Flags park, the rules are in place because other people have died when they were allowed to ride. Safety rules are in place for a reason, and no matter if you agree with them or not, it is the right of the park or attraction to enforce their safety rules.
Internet Fun - (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.
(6/6/14) Fun note… it seems the production of Jurassic World (Jurassic Park 4) is not just shooting in Hawaii… they are also shooting scenes inside the closed former Six Flags New Orleans theme park this week. The park has been used for film shoots quite a bit in the last few years, with scenes from Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes having used it as a location.
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.
(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 - (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…
(6/24/14) For those wondering what Cedar Fair may have had in mind for the name Centurion, we may never find out. After prompting by another reader, I dug a little deeper and looks like the name was also requested for use by another company for an entirely other purpose… and they are also hung up, because the name was filed for use by a third company for yet another purpose. While names can be used more than once for different business purposes, as long as the owners don’t object, there may not be time to get the issue resolved as quickly as they would like.
(4/15/14) The Ohio Supreme Court has been listening to the case between Cedar Fair over the reinstatement of Jack Falfas this past week. So far no judgment has been determined, but feel free to read through the official report and catch up with what’s been going on since 2010.
(2/21/14) Cedar Fair posted their Q4 report showing that their final quarter loss had nearly doubled from the previous year’s quarter to $20.48 million.Net revenues increased by almost $10 million from the previous year however to $139.08 million. You can listen in to the Q4 conference call here.
Chance Rides - (5/15/14) A fun video feature all about Chance Rides can be found at this link, as an episode in an online video series called “This Built America”. If the direct link doesn’t work, follow the instructions to get to the map of America, and click on Kansas to see the Chance Rides story. There are three videos, with a scroll down story in between to tell the history of the company and how they have survived. The first shows off the company as a whole, Chapter 2 is about their Trains and Chapter 3 focuses on their Carousel horses.
(3/26/14) A fun video clip shows off Chance Ride’s latest flat ride creation, the Freestyle, which can be seen in action at the Houston Rodeo this week.
Disney - (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.
(5/30/14) Today I’ve got a movie review of Disney’s latest feature film, Maleficent as seen by Kerry last night in 3D. She came home raving about it, so I guess I’ll have to add it to my list. Read on!
MALEFICENT (2014) - Film Review by Kerry Hart
So many of us grew up watching all the classic animated films from Disney and we love them! This love has enabled us to share them with our own children and Disney keeps bringing new things to the table. Many of us are still singing Let it Go (and our family hears it a lot compliments of our 4 year old daughter) and Frozen was a HUGE success, however now it’s time to “Let it Go” and move over to Maleficent!
I had the opportunity to go see Maleficent last night with a friend and I was so excited because like many of you I LOVE Disney Villians! The cast of the movie was incredible and Angelina Jolie was absolutely phenomenal, I don’t believe anyone could have played that part like she did. I don’t want to give away anything because I want you to leave the theater with the same reaction that I had…which is “WOW & I was not expecting that.” Kudos to Disney!! I HIGHLY recommend that you see Maleficent in 3D… it is definitely worth the extra money… the effects, the details, just all around awesome! I promise you will not be disappointed! As far as taking small children, I think most will be fine and my daughter was mad she didn’t get to go last night, so it looks like I get to go again!
Like most Disney movies, this one does have a happy ending… but it’s not the ending you will expect!
(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.
(8/8/13) Empire Industries has announced that their Dynamic Structures unit has been awarded an $18 million contract to build a new ride for “a global leader in amusement parks” that will be installed in a park in China over the next 18 months.
Screamscape Translation – The contract has been signed for Dynamic Structures to build the long rumored Soarin’ over the Horizon ride for Shanghai Disneyland.
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.
(3/20/14) 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.
(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?
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 - (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.
(8/13/14) I've been giving some thought as to where the S&S 4D Free Spin coaster may show up in 2015. While this isn’t a complete list, and is far from perfect, I’ve come up with a short list of possibilities as to where I think it might go:
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is one obvious location for the ride. On the “Pro” argument side, the MotoRama car ride being removed to make way for whatever the park has planned for 2015, it has the space available for a ride like this. Fiesta Texas was also rumored to have been considered as the site for the first 4th Dimension coasters back in the day, but was passed over by Magic Mountain. On the “Con” side against it… I think the MotoRama site is far too big a location for an S&S 4D Free Spin. Based on early concept art S&S was showing off at IAAPA, the final version of the ride should look like more like a giant version of an Intamin ZacSpin or S&S Screamin’ Squirrel, and take up only about the same amount of space as a large S&S El Loco.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – PRO: The space saving layout of the 4D Free Spin would be a benefit for landlocked Discovery Kingdom, and it should fit under the park’s height limit. The park’s last coaster (Superman) also opened in 2012, so 2015 would be a good time for a new one. CON: Six Flags management doesn’t add major new rides to this park often, so 2015 may be too soon.
Canada’s Wonderland – PRO: The park is removing SkyRider for SOMETHING, and the park has a history of occasionally trying out new ride hardware before they approve it to go into other parks in the chain. CON: Cedar Fair has never been known to rush into trying out prototype ride concepts, they typically wait to see how the first few work for others, and then bring in one that is bigger and better. Over the past several years, many times that they have been willing to be a guinea pig for a new ride concept, it has often bit them in the ass rather hard in terms of breakdown problems and accidents (Perilous Plunge, Windseeker, Shoot the Rapids, etc…)
Darien Lake – PRO: It’s been awhile since this park has added a new coaster… the last one was the MotoCoaster back in 2008 so they are long overdue. The park was also looking into concepts like the Lake Monster (a RMC revamp of Predator) but seems to have backed off. CON: Darien Lake has been unwilling to spend big money on any major capital projects of this size for much of the last decade. Not sure if they are ready to step up…
Six Flags over Georgia – PRO: A park that is used to getting not only smaller coasters, but also being the first in the chain to sometimes try out new ride designs before they decide on buying any more for the other parks. The park’s last coaster was added way back in 2011, so they are due for a new one. CON: Budgets for big new capital rides at this park run hot and cold… no telling if they are willing to spend big on adding a new ride to the park again following the addition of Hurricane Harbor.
Indiana Beach – This is a long shot… and I really doubt myself here, but they did say they are working on a new 2015 thrill ride to replace the Galaxi coaster that was removed. Perhaps this is it, and it helps that their last new coaster also came from S&S.
(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.
(1/21/14) S&S has come up with a Next Generation version of their 4th Dimension coaster that will feature the ability for the seats to freely spin instead of being locked to a 3rd rail. They have built a prototype test track at their Utah HQ and ThemeParkReview dropped in for a visit and a test-ride on the test track. The video shows off the new concept with both on and off ride video footage, so check it out below! Looks like an incredible new experience I can’t wait to see in a theme park in the near future.
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 - (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.
(8/15/14) SeaWorld has sent out word to the media outlets that they will be having a huge “ground-breaking investment” announcement for the company early Friday morning. The Today Show on NBC will be hosting a preview of it as well. Stay tuned!
(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.
(8/5/14) I’m not sure I buy this, but according to CentralFloridaTop5, they believe that China’s Wanda Group may be seeking either some kind of partnership with SeaWorld Entertainment, or that they may be trying to buy their way in with the goal of eventually becoming the majority shareholder.
While Wanda could be trying to buy their way in, taking advantage of SEAS near all-time low share price, I just don’t see a public partnership, especially as the Blackfish propaganda is starting to fade. Wanda has done nothing that I know of to deserve any feelings of mistrust, but the stockmarket works more on perception than fact these days, and there are too many public issues of distrust China and Japan over the issues of Whaling, Shark Finning, over-fishing and Dolphin slaughter (The Cove) to see any kind of good PR come from such a partnership at this time. Again… I’m not saying Wanda Group has anything at all to do with any of these issues, I’m simply talking about how the American marketplace is so quick to generalize and cast blame for these issues of whatever Asian nation they see fit.
Should be interesting to see if something does happen, as the low stock price could provide an interesting opportunity for someone.
(7/18/14) SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that the latest updates to their mobile apps for SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place now also feature the ability to make purchases through the app on iPhone and Android devices. You can download the official Discovery Guide apps for the SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place parks for free in both: Apple (App Store) and Android (Google Play) flavors.
(7/11/14) SeaWorld and Coca-Cola débuted the first “refillable plastic cup made from plant-based materials” on Thursday. They are now available at all SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks across the nation and is it also 100% recyclable, made from Coca-Cola’s proprietary “PlantBottle” packing technology.
PlantBottle packaging swaps traditional plastic resins with natural sugars found in plants. Fewer fossil-based ingredients mean a smaller carbon footprint. SeaWorld’s switch to PlantBottle plastic in its refillable cups is expected to remove 35 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually -- the equivalent of saving more than 80 barrels of oil a year.
SeaWorld eventually plans to use Coca-Cola's PlantBottle technology in the manufacture of many of its souvenir cups and is actively exploring opportunities for its potential use in the development of other merchandise.
(5/22/14) The SeaWorld Parks have launched all new version’s of their official park smartphone Apps (Discovery Guides) earlier this year, and the improvements just keep on coming. I’m told that the ability to purchase QuickQueue to cut to the front of the line will soon be coming to the app itself, which means you can upgrade your experience from within the actual line you are trying to skip.
Other new additions include GPS enabled park maps, real-time updates of park show schedules and special events, current ride-wait times, the ability to receive broadcasted park notifications and special offers, and soon will also give you the ability to order your food online from select locations so you don’t have to wait in line to order.
You can download the official Discovery Guide apps for the SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place parks for free in both: Apple (App Store) and Android (Google Play) flavors.
(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.
Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town - (4/22/14) According to Reuters, Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Co Ltd, one of China’s biggest theme park / resort operators has reported that their 2014 Q1 net profits are up 37%, to hit 666 million Yuan ($107.09 million).
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.