---- THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS ----
(7/17/18) Herschend Family Entertainment - Interview with Presidentt and COO Jane Cooper (MORE...)
(7/17/18) New Attractions and the Art of the Tease (MORE...)
(7/12/18) Parque Reunidos Buying Wet 'n' Wild Sydney (MORE...)
(7/11/18) The Rise of the Experience Park (MORE...)
(7/11/18) Theme Park Studio Adds Free "Your World" Plugin You'll Want To See (MORE...)
(7/4/18) BlooLoop 50 - The Top Theme Park Influencer List Announced (MORE...)
2017 Park Attendance Report - (5/18/18) The 2017 TEA/AECOM Theme Park / Museum attendance index report has been released showing off the various attendance trends in 2017 at facilities around the world. Click here to see the report (PDF).
Most of the big players are just what you would expect, or similar to their rankings from last year, though it is always interesting to see how the addition of a new park effects similar parks in the same market. For example, the addition of Universal's Volcano Bay over the second half of 2017 drew in 1.5 million guests, but also resulted in all of the other major waterparks in Orlando taking an attendance hit: Typhoon Lagoon down 5%, Blizzard Beach down 7% and Aquatica down 10%.
(5/29/16) The big annual TEA / AECOM report on theme park attendance figures for 2015 has been released. You can find the links to download the 2015 report along with several reports from previous years by clicking here.
(6/4/15) The 2014 TEA / AECOM Theme Index attendance report has been released. The list shows double-digit attendance increases for Universal Studios Japan (16.8%) Universal Studios Florida (17%) and Universal Studios Hollywood (11%). Mild growth rates were reported for most Disney parks between 2-4%, however Disney's Paris parks both took a hit, each dropping 4.7%. Meanwhile in the US the SeaWorld branded parks took the biggest attendance hits of the year, reported to have dropped 8% at SeaWorld Orlando and 12% in San Diego. A couple of noteworthy growth spurts also took place in the European market with Parque Warner (Spain) jumping up 25.9%, Parc Asterix (France) gaining 11.1%, Futuroscope (France) gaining 13.7% more visitors over the previous year. Follow the link to download your own copy of the report for the full details.
You can also still download most of the previous years attendance reports too:
Download the 2013 Report
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 - (7/11/18) There is a new era of theme park design on the way... more immersive, more themed, and more about the journey than the destination. It's a little something I call "The Rise of the Experience Parks", and you can give it a read over at BlooLoop starting today.
(7/4/18) It has been a long time coming since the nominations were closed late last year, but Blooloop has finally announced the "Blooloop 50" list for 2018... a Top 50 list of Theme Park Influencers out there today. While the names are not ranked 1 to 50 there is a group they call the "The Power 10" which are your heavy hitters in the business today, followed by the rest which is quite literally a who's-who of the top movers, shakers, and creative legends out in the trenches today. With each of the 50 you can click on them to go to a profile page to learn a bit more about their career in details.
And then there was me... as I couldn't have been more surprised to see my own smiling face staring back at me from the middle of the list. I was flabbergasted to say the least, but also I'm so very honored to be included in such good company with so many industry giants I respect and have followed over the years. Some I've had the pleasure to meet, some I've been fortunate enough to have known for years, and others I still dream of meeting one day. Titans and Legends all, I salute you.
(6/21/18) In an unusual bit of news, would you believe that Cirque du Soleil is working to create their own brand of indoor family entertainment centers called Creactive? Inside guests can try out their own "circus" skills on a virtual Cirque du Soleil stage as they learn acrobatic and artistic skills along with other activities like bungee jumping, parkour, trampolines and more.
(5/24/18) Remember awhile back I told you all about the new AquatiCar attraction/ A proposed creation that will allow guests to ride in a small two-person vehicle along the bottom of an underwater world, without the need for scuba gear, as you will sit inside a cabin filled from about the stomach level up with air. The good news is that the people behind the project, Sub Sea Systems, has a prototype car they are testing at their facilities. You can read more about it, see some photos and videos of the prototype car over at BehindTheThrills, along with some speculation about where the first one of these is going to appear.
(4/21/18) Big news this week from the crew working on the NoLimits2 coaster simulation software. The latest update now available adds brand new scenery sets as well as adding “tilt coaster functionality”. Oh… and for all your Mac users out there, your joyous happy day is here because NoLimits 2 is now available on Mac, exclusively through Steam.
(4/13/18) In an announcement made earlier today, Setpoint Inc. and Setpoint Systems (HQ'd in Utah) have been acquired by JR Automation of Michigan. While JR Automation isn't a company known to the amusement industry (as far as I know, if I’m wrong please correct me) they specialize in automated manufacturing systems and other technology solutions, which was a focus for Setpoint as well in their business endeavors outside of the amusement sector.
(3/16/18) Ready for an all new attraction concept? Then keep an eye out for the Aquaticar from Sub Sea Systems who will premier 'the world's 1st underwater driving experience' at the DEAL 2018 tradeshow in Dubai. According to the description, riders age 5 and up can "drive" these futuristic vehicles through an underwater world that can be themed from a coral reef experience to the landscape of Mars, or even made into an underwater dark ride experience.
How it works is guests will sit in the two passenger vehicles, open to the water, but from the chest up they will be contained and kept dry inside a canopy with a viewing panel that is positioned overhead. The height of the seats are adjusted for each rider to allow everyone to keep their heads inside the air filled canopy.
A dedicated track / course is built into the landscape that the vehicles will follow, while allowing for a little steering control by the riders, but not so much that they can go off-course. The track also contains "air registers", which release air as the cars pass that not only provide fresh breathing air into the canopy, but also fuel the Aquaticar's "world's first" Bubble Engine. The Bubble Engine rotors are moved by the "uplift force" of the passing air bubbles, keeping the vehicle moving at a casual 2 mph.
(1/22/18) Back in October I wrote a short article about a documentary film made about the haunted house industry called HAUNTERS: The Art of the Scare. Now I'm happy to share that this film has now been added to NETFLIX and is currently available for streaming and even downloading on mobile. They explore not just the realm of the traditional haunt experience, but dive right into the new semi-uncharted waters of the new extreme haunt movement, including the infamous McKamey Manor. You can see the official trailer for it below.
(1/17/18) A great article about attraction design by Eddie Sotto, with the warning Beware of "The Blander" has been posted to BlooLoop this week and is a quick but important read in the lesson of good design work. Follow the link to see more.
(1/5/18) BlooLoop has posted a quick list of six new attraction technology trends they say to watch out for in 2018. Of course Virtual Reality is at the top of the list, and not to sound like clickbait, but some of the other items on the list may take you by surprise as other new emerging technologies from other aspects of life may soon invade your typical theme park experience. Check it out!
(11/15/17) Consider me curious, as industry publication BlooLoop is seeking to build The BlooLoop 50 Theme Park Influencer List… a list revealing the 50 most influential people in the biz. The list isn’t just for top senior execs and suits, but is actually seeking nominations from industry experts for influential people at all levels, who will be judged by “a panel of acknowledged experts” to find the top people in the industry who have “demonstrated the skill, talent, flair and determination to drive forward change and ignite industry-wide interest.”
So for all you industry pioneers out there, now is the time to name your top fellow expert, or to sing the praises on the unsung hero who you feel should be recognized for their contributions to this industry we all love. Follow the link to read all the details.
Internet Fun - (7/17/18) When it comes to making new attraction announcements... you can either just post a press release... or put a little more effort into it and take some notes from The Art of the Tease. Follow the link to my latest article over at BlooLoop to see what I mean.
(7/11/18) The developers behind Theme Park Studio are launching a new title called “Your World”, that will use Theme Park Studio as a plugin for the Your World editor. Your World acts as a theme park sandbox project that not only lets you build your park, but you can also share it online for other fans to visit and enjoy. The great thing is that the Your World “player” that will allow people to visit other worlds and theme parks in a multiplayer environment is free, while the Your World creator/editor will have a cost, but has not yet been determined. (NOTE: The Theme Park Studio plugin for Your World will also have a cost, but will also be offered free to all Theme Park Studio platinum backers. A growing community has already sprouted on Facebook, and a couple of great videos show off the realistic looking graphics you can achieve.
(6/22/18) BlooLoop talks with Taylor Jeffs, President and Chief Creative Officer at Legacy GGE, formerly Goddard Group, about his history within the industry as well as their current project, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park.
(4/13/18) I'm really not sure how serious this is, but according to this report Orion Span announced plans to launch Aurora Station into orbit as the first hotel in space by 2022. Well, actually the plan is to launch it in 2021... and have it ready for the first guests by 2022, with accommodations able to hold 6 people aboard at any given time... two of which will be crew members, as it orbits the Earth.
I'm sure the cost for a stay is going to be out of this world (pun intended), but they have designed the station to be expandable over time, with a plan in place to eventually offer space condo units for sale as well. Hmmm.... makes me wonder, if you live in a condo on Aurora Station, do you become tax exempt? (Scream...Scape...In.... SPAAAACE!)
(3/26/18) Here's an interesting story for you... it seems a giant animatronic T-Rex in Colorado's "Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience" attraction short-circuited, caught fire and went up in a blaze of glory. A great photo of the burning dinosaur can be found posted to the Time magazine website.
(3/16/18) In an interesting bit of news for the theme park bloggers out there, it seems Ricky Brigante has officially sold his Inside the Magic website/podcast creation to an all new owner and is moving on to other endeavors. You can read more about the details here.
(2/21/18) Would you believe that Intamin has inspired a fashion trend? Me neither, but apparently it is true, as a fashion designer has copied the seat belt style used by Intamin on their coasters and is now selling them as a belt to hold up your pants to those who wish to look fashionably hip for a whopping $350.00! Yes… $350 for a belt. But how else can the ultimate Intamin fanboy/fangirl profess his love with every step he takes? Follow the link and see it for yourself, though I’m sure there are cheaper alternatives out there. (like this one…)
But who knows… maybe Intamin will start selling belts themselves.
AlterFace - (6/26/18) Alterface, known for their interactive attractions that often use gun like devices has come up with something new. At the Asian Attractions Expo Alterface unveiled their new NOMAD shooter/pointing device that is so small, it remarkably looks a lot like a magic wand. Make the jump over to BlooLoop to read up on the technology that can be purchased and used hand-held by guests, as well as mounted for use inside ride vehicles
(5/30/17) According to an article posted by BlooLoop, Alterface will show off their next-gen Rotating Theater interactive attraction concept at their booth at the AAE Singapore tradeshow (Booth #B394) that features a new storyline where guests fight off pesky popcorn warriors bent on revenge by gumming them up with caramel dispenser guns. To create Afterface’s new “Popcorn Revenge” attraction they also worked with Jora Vision on the design and scenic fabrication.
The Roating Theater concept is interesting, as it seems to allow for a decent throughput and different themed environments all to be created within a very compact footprint as guests load into one of six different theaters sitting on top of a giant carousel like rotating platform that will rotates from scene to scene until coming back to the load/unload room at the end again. Follow the link to see the concept art and learn more.
B&M - (6/2/18) Ok, this was shot about a month ago, but Midway Mayhem took a trip to Ohio and stopped by the B&M track plant location and discovered a ton of new track in various states on-site. Some of the track has as "SC" marking on it, which is typically a sign of a standard classic style sit-down coaster project like Hulk or Kumba, though these days most of B&M's standard coasters have been going to China, and we know Universal is planning a Hulk clone for their new park in Beiing too, but it may be too early for that.
There was also similar looking track with just a primer coast that was also marked, "MC" which is for a Hyper or Mega Coaster project, which could be for the "Music Roller Coaster" project slated for Happy Valley Chaoyang to open in 2019. So far no sign of anything labled to be a Dive Machine for the Canada's Wonderland project yet.
(5/4/17) According to a new rumor sent in, track spotters who like to frequent B&M track fabrication plant in Ohio may want to keep their eyes open for something interesting... the possible creation of track pieces for a new B&M Stand-Up coaster. Yep... even in this age where we are starting to see some older B&M Stand-Ups converted into Floorless coasters (Mantis to Rougarou and Vortex to Patriot) our source says that someone has opted to buy the first new B&M Stand-Up coaster since Georgia Scorcher opened back in 1999.
While I'm sure the track design will remain similar to standard B&M track, our source went on to say that we can expect a slight redesign to the trains, including modification to that annoying bicycle style seat thing that goes between your legs and the addition of new restraints that will incorporate a stand-up version of B&M's new vest style system (as seen on Banshee and all the Wing Coasters), which should cut down on any possible head-banging.
While we’re on the subject, Midway Mayhem posted a video look around the plant shot back in late April featuring some new red and blue track sections, along with unpainted sections. Both the Red and Blue track pieces seem to be for new Wing Coaster projects that I’m betting with be shipped overseas.
CAVU DesignWerks - (10/14/17) CAVU Designwerks has come up with a fascinating new ride design themed as a high-speed car adventure called Turbo Racer. From the look of the description and animation, it would mix the best elements of a dark ride experience on a motion-base motion vehicle (like Universal's Spider-man or Transformers) with the ability to transfer onto a high speed outdoor track system for outdoor real-speed thrills (like Disney's Test Track or Radiator Springs Racers). Visit the official preview page to see the animation video of the concept, which really could create a fun Fast & Furious style ride experience.
Cedar Fair - (10/6/17) Cedar Fair has announced some interesting leadership changes will begin in 2018. Matt Ouimet (CEO) will take on the newly created position of Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors starting Jan. 1, 2018. As such, Richard Zimmerman (current President and COO) will then take over the CEO position, as well as be added to the Board of Directors.
(9/13/17) Cedar Fair has announced that they have signed an extension to their exclusive North American licensing agreement to use the Peanuts characters that is good through to 2025.
Chance Rides - (6/14/17) A new video posted by Chance Rides shows off animation of a Unicoaster 2.0 concept ride. Check it out below.
Cirque du Soleil - (7/6/18) It was one year ago that Cirque du Soleil made headlines when the company announced that they had purchased Blue Man Productions, the company behind the popular Blue Man Group shows. Yesterday Cirque made waves again after announcing the purchase of VStar Entertainment Group. VStar is a producer of live traveling shows that mostly focus on entertainment IPs for small children with shows like Paw Patrol Live, Bubble Guppies Live, and formerly a series of Sesame Street Live shows.
VStar is also the owner of the "Cirque Dreams" branded shows who creating smaller budget Cirque du Soleil style shows for smaller venues like casino resorts, theme parks and cruise lines.
While last year's purchase of Blue Man Group was seen more of Cirque trying to simply expand their line up by purchasing one of their strongest competitors, the purchase of VStar paints an entirely new picture. Now it seems clear that Cirque du Soleil is focused on expanding their empire by creating an umbrella of different traveling and temporary production shows and casting a much wider net into the marketplace. I'm sure this purchase has made the likes of Feld Entertainment (Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe Live, Sesame Street Live (current), Monster Jam, and formerly Ringling Bros.) sit up and take notice that they have some new competition with a serious pedigree and solid reputation.
Compagnie des Alpes - (1/5/18) Our friends at BlooLoop take a good look at Compagnie des Alpes this week, who is done just dabbling in the theme park business and is ready to make some major and long term investments into their parks over the next five years. As the operator of the Walibi, Parc Asterix and Futuroscope parks, the article takes a nice long-term view of CDA's plans over the next five years, giving hints at new attractions to come to most of their properties. Check it out!
Disney - (6/29/18) I'm proud to announce that I've done a bit of guest writing over at BlooLoop this week who have published my first article, a look into the latest business moves of The Walt Disney Company, focusing on the latest announcement about Tokyo Disney and the ongoing battle to acquire Fox. Please do check it out!
(6/28/18) Good news for Disney's plan to buy 21st Century Fox this week. According to various news articles, Fox had been said to prefer Disney over Comcast simply because Fox felt that the federal government would step in and block a Comcast/Fox deal. The good news is that Disney has already gotten past a major obstacle by winning antitrust approval from the Justice Department this week with only one condition: that a Disney/Fox merger deal would have to divest itself of Fox's regional sports networks. This was something that Disney has already agreed to beforehand, as it was expected.
At this time, I believe Comcast only has a short window of time to come up with a way to make a higher bid, otherwise it looks very likely that Fox and Disney will move forward to put the offer up for the required votes.
(6/22/18) The Wall Street Journal has confirmed that Disney raised their offer for 21st Century Fox to more than $71.3 billion in cash and stock offers, up from the previous $52.4 billion previous offer. Disney has also made it known that they are willing to divest Fox of certain assets (like the regional sports networks) if needed to gain government approval of the deal.
(6/20/18) According to CNBC sources, Disney is expected to add more cash to their bid-offer for 21st Century Fox this week. Click here for more info.
(6/14/18) As expected, as soon as the government given the go-ahead to AT&T to buy Time Warner, Disney sent out paperwork to their stockholders to move forward with their $52.4 billion bid to buy 21st Century Fox. This was soon followed by an official all-cash $65 billion bid for Fox from Comcast.
So what's going to happen now? The bidding war isn't over... as Disney could easily up their own bid to overtake Comcast's bid, but in the end some kind of 3-way deal may make the most sense to all parties involved that could see Disney hand over the deal to purchase all of Sky to Comcast in exchange for Comcast dropping out of the bid for the rest of 21st Century Fox. Other issues involving Fox's sports networks and their ownship stake in Hulu may also come into play here as well.
Things are probably going to move very quickly from here as all parties involved want to make a deal as soon as possible.
(5/10/18) Perhaps more than any other theme park company out there, Disney comes up with and files paperwork for all kinds of crazy new technology patents. While they don't all result in new ride systems or entertainment concepts in the parks, it is interesting to look back and a number of interesting concepts Disney has filed for in the last few years.
(3/28/18) Disney fans take more that the dates for the 2019 D23 Expo in Anaheim have been announced, with the event to run between August 23 to 25, 2019. Tickets will go on sale online on August 23rd.
(3/13/18) I’m not quite sure how I feel about this, but according to BlooLoop, Disney has been approved for a US Patent for technology that will allow them to adjust an attraction experienced based on how afraid or bored the rider is by monitoring heart rate, skin temperature, facial expressions, voice stress levels and eye movements. While there may not be much you can do to your old style Disney dark ride experience, newer generation rides that use trackless vehicles able to roam at will if needed could skip past or rush through scary scenes if it detects fearful riders. Disney is also apparently looking for ways to apply the technology to experiences outside of the theme park realm as well.
I’m curious about this… but at the same time I’ve been through enough haunted houses to know that what makes one person’s fear go through the roof, could be pure boredom to someone else, and as most ride vehicles carry groups of riders and not just a singular one, I’d hate to see something like this put into effect if just one frightened rider could bring a trip through the Tower of Terror to a rushed end for everyone else on-board.
(3/8/18) Need a quick virtual fix of your favorite Disney park? Disney and Google have announced that they have added complete 360º Google Street View coverage to Google Maps of 11 Disney theme parks across the world.
The list includes the Disneyland and California Adventure in California (along with Downtown Disney), all four of the major Walt Disney World parks, plus Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Disney Springs, and both Disneyland Paris Resort parks with full park pathway coverage. The Hong Kong, Shanghai and two Tokyo parks however are only represented through the use of 360º PhotoSphere images.
As for the “11” parks… I’m really not sure where that number is coming from as there are currently 12 full-scale Disney parks in the world, only 8 with the full Street View treatment, and if you count the two WDW waterparks, that makes 10… so either I’m missing the 11th one, or Google just wasn’t working for me while I was trying to check them all out.
(3/2/18) Disney has announced that they will be celebrating 90 years of Mickey Mouse in a variety of ways through the company in 2018 and 2019. The event list includes everything from a Fashion Show, special Disney on Ice shows, new Mickey Mouse animated shorts on the Disney Channel and more. As for the theme parks, look for them to host a special celebration in honor of Mickey’s 90th on November 18 and kicking off the World’s Biggest Mouse Party from then through 2019. I’m sure the 2019 opening of the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando will also play into this celebration as well. Follow the link to learn more.
(2/1/18) According to Variety the new feature film production based on Disney’s Jungle Cruise attraction is set to go before cameras this May, and will feature Dwayne Johnson along with Emily Blunt, to a script from Michael Green who was just nominated for an Ocsar for his script for Logan. An interesting combo for sure, especially with Blunt fresh from shooting another big Disney flick, Mary Poppins Returns, where she will play the title character when it hits theaters in December.
It should be interesting to see if Disney can mine their attractions line-up to come up with another golden film franchise concept as the sun sets on the Pirates of the Caribbean’s luster. Speaking of which, whatever happened to that Haunted Mansion concept that Guillermo del Toro was wanting to make? Why not try to make a quirky Sci-Fi film about “Space Mountain”? Actually, what I think I’d like to see would be a film or TV series based on the legends of Big Thunder Mountain… which I envision as sort of a comedy/action/supernatural kind of story with an almost Brisco County Jr. feel to it. Could be fun...
(12/14/17) A couple of major news items dropped from Disney this morning, confirming the past few weeks of rumor and speculation.
For starters… it is official… Disney is buying 21st Century Fox, provided the deal doesn’t trigger any federal government antitrust concerns. The deal will cost $52.4 billion in stock, with Disney taking ownership of the 20th Century Fox film studios and content library, the various cable networks (FX, National Geographic) Star TV, as well as ownership stakes in Sky, HULU and some regional sports networks.
This does make my previous thoughts regarding just what Disney will do with a controlling 60% ownership stake in HULU, and how it will play into Disney plans to launch their own streaming service for Disney / Fox content in 2019 to compete with Netflix. Rather than startup their own new service, I would think it would be infinitely easier on Disney to simply evolve the existing HULU service with it’s own existing subscriber-base into their streaming service plans.
As for the IPs… I would think there may be some worry about Disney’s intentions for the future of the major FOX owned IPs like Alien, Predator, Avatar, X-Files, The Simpsons and Family Guy going forward, especially as some of them don’t always jive with the Disney environment, and in the case of the later two, have enjoyed a history of poking fun at Disney from time to time. Universal can’t be too happy about Disney taking ownership of The Simpsons after just pouring tons of cash into building up The Simpsons universe into the Orlando and Hollywood parks. (Another bullet point for discussion I suppose for when any kind of Disney/Universal IP talks take place)
Then there is the FOX’s piece of the Marvel Universe… namely the X-Men and Fantastic Four. The FF are pretty much dead and gone from the Fox universe, so they’ll be in good hands with Disney, but what of the X-Men universe? Fox has taken some big strides in the last few years to beef up and start launching a much more interesting world of the X-Men characters with more R-Rated content with Deadpool and Logan, and now the interesting New Mutants looking spinoff with a horror vibe. Plus Fox had just begun rolling out Mutants in a big way on the small screen with Legion on FX and The Gifted on Fox. While films in the works for 2018 (Deadpool 2, New Mutants, X-Men Dark Phoenix) are safe, one has to wonder what will happen to the X-Men universe still in the development pipeline like Gambit or X-Force and the future of any ongoing Deadpool or X-Men series films.
With the way now clear for Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to join their fellow Marvel characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, I’ve got a feeling that we will likely see some shake-up in the unrevealed plans Kevin Feige has planned for the MCU Phase 4 storyline in the fallout of the two-part Infinity War storyline that will come to a close in 2019. Avengers VS X-Men anyone? Or at least a little Wolverine cameo somewhere at the end of Infinity War please.
The other big piece of news was confirmation that Bob Iger’s contract has been extended, leaving him in place as Disney’s Chairman and CEO through to the end of 2021 to oversee the expansion. Previously he was set to retire at the end of June 2018, so he will be extending his reign for another 2.5 years.
(12/11/17) According to Variety, it looks like the final details are close to being worked out for Disney to purchase 21st Century Fox, as they claim both companies have now set teams of bankers in motion to work out all "the fine print" needed to hash out the deal.
(12/8/17) While nothing has been confirmed yet on the rumored Disney buyout of 21st Century Fox, a had a couple of other interesting thoughts to share regarding the deal. Add one more thing into the list of needed items Disney gets for buying Fox... they also gain control over Fox's vast library of content just in time to put it all to use on that new planned streaming service Disney is planning on rolling out in 2019. Having more than just Disney owned content available on the service would certainly help make the service a more valuable item, plus Fox does own a good number of popular animated feature film titles like the Ice Age series, Rio, Ferngully, Titan AE and Anastasia, plus they are behind the new Ferdinand film.
I had another thought as well... one that I haven't seen anyone else mention. 21st Century Fox is also a key owner of the #2 streaming service... HULU. HULU was actually created as part of a rare partnership between several studios with Fox, ABC (Disney) and NBC (Comcast) all owning 30% of the company, with Turner Broadcasting (Time Warner) owning the final 10%. Since Disney isn't allowed to buy the Fox Network side of the company, I'm not sure if the ownership stake in HULU is up for grabs by Disney (giving them 60% of HULU) or if those shares remain with the network due to the fact that it's the network content being provided to HULU for streaming. But with 60% control of HULU... it does make me wonder if Disney might just transform HULU itself into their new streaming service.
Lastly, the only new rumor I've seem so far claims that Fox and Disney may be in talks about also selling the Fox Sports Network side of the company to Disney to help boost up the sagging ratings from Disney's poorly performing ESPN division.
Oh... and while we're talking Disney and deals... the latest Hollywood buzz claims that Iger may possibly extend his contract with Disney for one more year. Currently his contract was to expire in June 2018, and leaves room for consulting over the following three years, but Iger has been known to extend his deal when major deals are on the table that he feels he needs to personally see through. He extended to see the Shanghai park and resort through to completion and then extended again last year when they determined that he had no clear successor any longer after the departure of Tom Staggs, and now the buzz is that Iger may hang around an extra year (through June 2019) in order to oversee the Fox merger, if it happens.
(12/7/17) Since mid September there have been reports, rumors, denials and now new reports claiming that Disney was in talks with Fox about buying up the later’s Studio and assets. Most rumors say the deal would break-apart the Fox company, who would keep their News and Sports networks, and I believe the TV network is also off the table as well, since Disney already owns ABC, I believe FCC rules block any one company from owning more than one of the big four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX).
So with that in mind, Disney would be focused on buying the Fox movie and TV studio production business as well as their vast collection of IP rights, which would effectively have the effect of bringing Marvel’s X-men and Fantastic Four characters back home as well. The deal also would give Disney the final distribution rights to the original Star Wars films that Fox still retained. While Fox has ownership of a great number of properties beyond that, it could be argued that many of the popular properties have already been signed away in separate deals.
So could something happen? The Hollywood rumor-mill certainly thinks a deal of some kind may be struck between Fox and a new buyer in the not too distant future. So will it be Disney? Could be, though it is also worth mentioning that Comcast (NBC/Universal’s owners) are also rumored to have been in talks as well.
Dynamic Attractions - (5/22/17) The news is very brief... but always an interesting item for consideration when it involves Empire Industries, the owners of Dynamic Attractions. According to the news brief, Empire has signed a "$120 million, multi-year, multi-theme park ride system series of contracts".
In other words, a major theme park company with multiple parks just hired them to build two or more ride system clones to be copied into two or more different theme parks. Unfortunately there is no telling exactly who the parks or rides involved, but if Dynamic Attractions is involved with one or both of the new Star Wars themed rides for Disney, then this could be the contract to cover the installation of the 2 or 4 ride systems involved at the two Star Wars Land projects that will be taking place between now and 2019.
(11/24/16) Dynamic Attractions shows off their new Dynamic Motion Theater concept at IAAPA 2016 in the latest video from our friends at In The Loop. The concept is actually quite unique, blending a theater style audience setting onto a dynamic motion base, surrounding by projection screens that can move and reveal actual three dimensional sets behind them where live action sequences can also take place. You've got to see it to really get an idea of the near infinite possibilities possible with this system.
(9/21/16) Dynamic Attractions has announced that the company has been awarded a contract worth over $21 million to build a ride system for a major theme park opening in Asia. The contract is said to run for the next 36 months (3 years), so with that in mind I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up being another Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction for the new Universal Studios park planned to open in China in 2020.
(9/6/16) Dynamic Attractions has signed a co-op agreement with Altair (Shanghai) Space Technology Ltd. Co to design, develop and co-own and operate a new theme park to be called Space Park in Hangzhou, China. The project has an estimated budget of CAD$ 600 million (3 billion yuan). While it is too early to go into details on the attractions yet, I'd expect Dynamic Attractions to pretty much roll out their entire impressive catalog of known attraction concepts, as well as some secret new ones the world may not have seen yet. They do say that the attraction lineup will feature both Virtual Reality as well as Augmented Reality attractions to thrill the park's guests as well as make the park stand apart from other attractions in China through a heavy use of high technology. If all goes as planned, Space Park could be ready to open as early as 2020.
Goddard Group - (11/29/17) According to a report posted to BlooLoop, Gary Goddard has taken "a leave of absense" from The Goddard Group, effective immediately. According to a statement from the company, Taylor Jeffs will be taking over as President and Chief Creative Officer in his place. For more details, follow the link.
(11/2/16) A new article posted to BlooLoop talks a bit with the Goddard Group about several of their new immersive projects around the world currently in the works. Projects like the Cirque du Soleil attraction in Mexico, new parks in China (Hengdian Shanghai Bund Movie World, Haichang Polar Ocean World and Kingdom of Poseidon) as well as work on "The Encounter" in New York city.
Herschend Entertainment - (7/17/18) This week BlooLoop has posted an in-depth interview with Jane Cooper who is currently the President and COO of Herschend Family Entertainment and formerly the President and CEO of the old Paramount Parks division. Give the article a read to get some insight into the old Paramount Parks chain and how those lessons have also moved forward into the current plans in place for Herschend's parks and attractions.
(7/4/18) Herschend Entertainment has announced that they have acquired Pink Adventure Tours, an off-road adventure sightseeing tour company that operates in the Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Sedona markets. It is interesting to see Hershend jump back into the Adventure Tours business once again after selling their ownership in Branson's Ride The Ducks to Ripley Entertainment in 2017. I believe they had other similar Ride the Ducks tour attractions in Memphis, Philadelphia and Baltimore, but each of these appear to have been shut down for one reason or another in the past few years.
IAAPA Conventions - (9/22/16) IAAPA has announced that they will relocate their global headquarters from Virginia to Orlando in 2017. Along with the move, they also confirmed that the annual IAAPA show contract has now been extended to keep the tradeshow in Orlando through to at least 2030.
Merlin Entertainment - (3/12/18) According to this article Merlin may be in talks with China about building a Legoland theme park in the north-eastern section of the greater Beijing area. Currently China is home to two "Legoland Discovery Center" small indoor attractions, but has not yet built a full scale Legoland theme park.
(8/28/17) A more detailed explanation of what Merlin's LITTLE BIG CITY attraction is all about has been posted to BlooLoop this month. This new attraction concept from Merlin just opened the first site in Berlin in July 2017 with a second site already announced as being on the way to Beijing in the near future.
(8/11/17) Merlin has announced that they will open two new attractions in Shanghai next year. The Shanghai Dungeon, the first of Merlin's Dungeon attractions to open in Asia, will be ready to open by Late Summer 2018 and a second attraction named Little BIG City will soon follow. The first Little BIG City actually opened in Berlin last month, which I had not even heard about until now that features unique displays and stories told through interactive 3D miniature sets enhanced with special effects and projection mapping. Merlin already has three attractions already open in Shanghai: Madame Tussauds, a Legoland Discovery Center and the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium.
(3/13/17) According to our friends at BlooLoop, Merlin Entertainment has signed a deal that will see the first Legoland theme park built in China in the Shanghai area. The timetable to start construction sounds like it is still a bit fluid, but they hope to have it ready to open by 2022. This was first mentioned back in 2015, and at the time they said the plan was to also open other Merlin attractions in Shanghai such as a Shanghai Dungeon and a new concept themed around the Kung-Fu Panda series. Merlin already has a Madame Tussauds in Shanghai and owns the Chang Feng Ocean World aquarium.
Parque Reunidos - (7/12/18) Parque Reunidos expands their park empire again with the confirmed purchase of Wet 'n' Wild Sydney in Australia. According to the reports the park was purchased for $40 million Aussie Dollars ($29.5 million US) from the previous owner, Village Roadshow Theme Parks. The deal is expected to be finalized in about three months, and is the first expansion of Parque Reunidos into the Southern hemisphere.
(12/8/17) Parque Reunidos reports that they are planning on opening three new indoor attractions in 2018: 2 new Nickelodeon Adventure centers (Murica and another in Madrid) as well as a new Atlantis Aquarium attraction in Madrid.
(12/7/17) Parque Reunidos has announced they will open Europe's first "Nickelodeon Adventure" attraction in Spain, inside Murcia's Thader Shopping Center. The attraction will take up 5,000 square-meters and feature attractions themed to popular Nickelodeon characters like SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, Paw Patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and others.
(10/6/17) According to a news article Parque Reunidos has partnered up with Discovery Communications to create themed entertainment centers in North American, Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions. The initial plan is to develop 10 such sites that will include entertainment options, "state-of-the-art rides", as well as dining and retail areas, all themed to the various Discovery brand channels available around the world.
(1/26/17) According to a report posted to BlooLoop, Spain's Parque Reunidos has been tapped to manage the new Dragon Park in Ha Long City, Vietnam along with the nearby Typhoon Cove waterpark opening later this year. This marks the first time the company will manage a park in the Asian market. Fun note: it appears as if this is the park where the former Led Zeppelin - The Ride coaster from Hard Rock Park ended up.
(11/16/16) Parque Reunidos has announced a new partnership with Lionsgate to build Lionsgate branded "leisure centers in high-traffic shopping areas". For those not in the know, Lionsgate is the studio behind The Hunger Games film series as well as Saw, The Expendables, the Divergent film series, The Twilight Saga and the upcoming Power Rangers film.
So what kind of Lionsgate themed attractions could they be dreaming up? It's hard to say, though the possibilities could be near infinite. We'll have to wait and see what they can bring to life.
Premier Rides - (3/8/17) Premier Rides posted an interesting tease of a picture to Twitter in late February, showing off the first shipment of hardware for a new coaster projects heading to China. Any ideas where this may be going?
(11/14/16) Our friends at BlooLoop report that The Producers Group and Premier Rides have worked together to create what they are calling the world's first "Immersive Dining Experience". They have named the turnkey attraction, "Extraordinary Voyages Adventure Dining" which takes guests aboard for a unique luxury passenger travel experience aboard the "Centurion" while being taken for a tour around the world, or even through space or time for a cinematic adventure dining experience.
The attraction design space would include two such Centurion vehicle sets, which can be set for various departure schedules (45, 60 or 90 minutes) with each able to accommodate 80 guests for the journey.
On a fun side note, I’d love to see a Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy version of this themed as time traveling Milliways, also known as “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, where diners enjoy the spectacular and explosive “end” to the Universe as we know it and then time travel back to safety afterwards while enjoying dessert.
Ride Entertainment - (11/15/17) Ride Entertainment promises a big reveal on Wednesday afternoon at the IAAPA Tradeshow as they show off the latest developments with the E-Motionboard simulator concept attraction, including an announcement about the first home to one of these rides. Check out the teaser video below for more details.
(11/12/17) You know what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks, but apparently the same doesn't hold true for Skycoasters. According to an announcement from Ride Entertainment, Skycoaster will introduce the world to the new SkySled harness that will allow thrill seekers to experience a Skycoaster in a brand new way.
Instead of riding the Skycoaster in the traditional lying down flight posture, the addition of a SkySled will allow riders to take on the thrill, now seated in an upright position, offering you a completely new visual take on the freefall experience. The SkySled will be available as an option to both new and existing Skycoaster sites starting in 2018.
Rocky Mountain Construction - (5/30/18) Check out this interesting ad in the latest issue of Asia Attractions Magazine, which seems to promote that an RMC Raptor style coaster is coming to China. Anyone know more?
(7/15/17) A post at NewsPlusNotes goes into detail a bit about what Rocky Mountain Construction has in the works for the 2018 season. Apparently they have 7 projects in the works right now, with 1 said to have already shipped to Japan, which I guess may leave the rest for North America. The really surprising news however is that they also confirmed they are also working on a new train design that will come to the next batch of coasters to open in the US. Hopefully they have resigned or removed that uncomfortable shin-bar.
You can also watch a brief video from a local news station who went on-site to RMC to do the interview and who rode the Raptor test track. At the end of the ride you get a good look at the reporter sitting in the Raptor test train which also features some interesting looking restraints as well, with what looks like an adjustable belt system over the shoulders and chest that run down to your lapbar.
So what are the 7 projects? I really don't know about the Japanese one, unless for some reason they were hired by Fuji-Q to build the new giant loop added to Do-Dodonpa. Otherwise we know about the conversions of Mean Steak at Cedar Point and Hurler at Kings Dominion, and sources indicate that Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags over Georgia will also undergo the same treatment. Add in TWO rumored Raptor style coasters in 2018 (rumors point to California's Great America and Six Flags Fiesta Texas for the moment) and that indicates up to 5 of the non Japanese projects. So where is that last one going... hmmmm....
S&S Worldwide - (2/14/18) S&S Worldwide has announced the launch of an all new website for the company, along with a new website address at: www.s-s.com
You can visit the new website to see all of S&S's current ride attractions, upcoming events, press releases, contact information and more.
(1/21/18) S&S Worldwide has announced that they will open a 12-Seat Double Towers (Space Shot & Turbo Drop) and an Air Launch Coaster at the Sun Tzu Cultural theme park in China (Shandong province). Sun Tzu Cultural Park is apparently 'the first and largest military cultural theme park in China." The Air Launch coaster is the 4th such ride they have built in China thus far, and this will be the longest one with a 930 meter (3051 ft) track length. The coaster will be named Lightning Speed and will also be the tallest launched coaster in "East China" when it opens in Summer 2018.
Some good pictures of the coaster under construction can also be found at RCDB.
(10/30/17) Good news, Screamscape was able to obtain permission to show off the pictures of the new test track set up at the S&S Utah HQ. At the time my gut reaction was that the track looked EXACTLY like the old track Arrow made for Knott's Berry Farm's long removed Wacky Soap Box Derby four-lane racing coaster. Turns out... I was right.
This week's new issue of Amsuement Today features a large new ad from S&S/Sansei promoting the return of this exact same ride system, promoted as the "Re-Introduction of an Arrow Legacy Ride! We are bringing back the classic Steeplechase Coaster with a NEW Vehicle and Restraints" plus various theme options. Details on this will be made public at IAAPA next month, Nov. 14 - 17th.
The really interesting thing was that over the summer, a bizarre rumor was sent my way that sounded too good to be true. According to the rumor, Knott's may have been investigating the feasibility of bringing back the Wacky Soap Box Derby coaster concept, with a modern design twist. At the time, it was thought that Knott's could have floated the idea to RMC as a possible use for their new Raptor track system, but it looks like S&S/Sansei may have also been contacted as well because the timing to revive the old Steeplechase concept is incredibly coincidental otherwise. Even more so when you remember that Arrow only ever sold TWO Steeplechase coasters... the one to Knott's and the other was the 3-track version sold to Blackpool Pleasure Beach that is still running to this day, as seen in the new ad graphic.
(10/27/17) I’m not sure what this is for, but it looks like S&S-Sansei may be working on their own new prototype single-rail prototype coaster system. Pictures have shown up on Twitter this week showing off a small section of test track they’ve set up on the company’s Utah property. If anything though, the track system looks almost identical to the old Arrow created single-rail system used on the defunct Wacky Soap Box Racers at Knott’s and is still in use on the Steeplechase at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Anyone else have an idea about what this is for? (UPDATE - Tweet embed removed by request from User. Hoping to get permission to post the photos directly to Screamscape soon...)
(9/7/17) An assortment of construction photos shot at Sun Tzu Cultural Park in China can be found here, posted by Roller Coaster Dream, showing off the construction of a new S&S launched coaster project which appears in the one photo to be ready to install the final piece of track. S&S has previously announced that they would also be building Space Shot and Turbo Drop tower rides at this same park this year as well.
(7/22/17) S&S Worldwide finds themselves on the end of an interesting new lawsuit this week brought to bear by a Valleyfair employee who says he suffered major injuries while performing maintenance on that park's Power Tower ride (manufactured by S&S). According to the news report he needed to perform maintenance work on the the ride (possibly to the seat carriage) and that he and another employee put the ride in "mainteance mode" and raised the carriage so they could access the hydraulic cylinders in the seats to be recharged. He stepped under the carriage and the other employee attempted to slowly lower it down again so he could reach it when suddenly the carriage dropped to the ground, trapping him under it. According to the lawsuit, they were unable to raise the carriage because it had automatically converted to a "gravity power mode" when the carriage tripped a sensor on the tower when it reaches a certain height.
The employee is claiming numerous physical injuries from the incident including damage to lungs, ripcage, shoulder, eyes, spine, traumatic brain injury, plus now suffering from mental and emotional distress issues.
(6/19/17) According to a tweet from VHCoasters, World Fairytale Land park in Hainan, China will be getting an S&S Free Spin coaster.
(2/24/17) S&S Worldwide released a list of 17 new rides they will be opening in 2017 this week, many known, but the list also includes some others we didn't know about. Check it out below.
Dutch Wonderland - Family Inverted Coaster
Fuji-Q Highland, Japan - Dodonpa Loop (ride enhancement)
Happy Valley Chongqing, China - Space Shot and Turbo Drop
Hersheypark - Triple Tower Complex
Huayi Brothers Movie World, Suzhou, China - Combo Tower
Nagashima Spa Land, Japan - 4D Free Spin Coaster
Playland's Castaway Cove - Triple-Launch Coaster (delayed opening)
PortAventura, Ferrari Land - Combo Tower
Six Flags Great America - 4D Free Spin Coaster
Six Flags New England - 4D Free Spin Coaster
Six Flags Over Texas - 4D Free Spin Coaster
Sun Tzu Cultural Park, Shandong, China - Air-Launch Coaster
Sun Tzu Cultural Park, Shandong, China - Space Shot and Turbo Drop
Wanda Harbin Amusement Park, Harbin, China - Space Shot and Turbo Drop
Weihai Rio Carnival, Weihai, China - Space Shot and Turbo Drop
TBA Park in Middle East - Combo Tower
TBA Park in Southeast Asia - Combo Tower
(1/7/17) You gotta love it when ride companies announce major new products and S&S-Sansei has announced a whopper of a new ride concept. They are calling it the Immersive Elevator MediaCoaster and our friends at BlooLoop have the scoop on the project. The Immersive Elevator MediaCoaster is actually part of a joint project between S&S-Sansei Technologies and Holovis, designed to extend the ride experience of a roller coaster from being "a short, dynamic ride through to a fully engaging story-driven experience."
The design concept sees guests pass through an extensively themed and interactive pre-show experience before climbing into the ride vehicle that could look more like a dark ride style vehicle than a traditional coaster. The vehicle is then able to travel into a 360º projection dome that will surround them in a themed environment to tell the story, combining the rich media-attraction of Holovis with S&S's coaster experience and Sansei's extensive experience with elevator systems to create "a unique and unforgettable experience" like no other that can merge the experience of a fully themed dark ride with the plunge of a drop-tower and roller coaster thrills.
I've got to admit I really like the sound of this concept, which really seems to offer the ability to combine the various elements in different ways to create a wide variety of ride experiences suitable to whatever storyline or IP a park wants to use.
(1/7/16) S&S Worldwide has sent out a correction regarding the announced rides going to the Wanda Groiup parks. The 16-Seat Dual Tower ride will go to the Guangzhou Wanda park (Opening Aug. 2018) and a 12-Seat Space Shot Tower will go to the Wuxi Wanda park (opening March 2018).
Sally Corporation - (12/8/17) According to our friends at BlooLoop, Herschend Studios (the media division of Herschend Family Entertainment) and Sally Corp are planning on creating a family dark ride based on Jim Henson's Splash & Bubbles animated show (as seen on PBS and Netflix). While they don't say where the rides may go, I wouldn't be surprised if one ended up at one of Herschend's aquarium attractions (Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey or Newport Aquarium in Kentucky).
(9/27/17) Congratulations to Sally Corporation on their 40th anniversary, as well as the launch of their all new website. If you're a fan of dark rides, you need to take a look through all the great photos and footage they have posted on there now. Long Live the Dark Ride!
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment - (6/13/18) SeaWorld Entertainment has rolled out a new change to all their parks nationwide... removing all plastic bags, straws and plastic drink lids in an effort to cutback on plastic position to the environment. Paper drinking straws are available as a replacement for plastic, and when shopping cloth bags are now available for purchase to carry your items in. Don't worry, they aren't going to sell these bags at typical "theme park prices", as the smallest bag can be purchased for just .99 cents. Paper bags are also available for .10 cents in select locations as well.
While we're talking about the company... would you believe things are finally starting to look up? The stock price has soared back up to levels we haven't seen since the Blackfish campaign began to squeeze the company hard. Armed with new officers calling the shots like Walter Bogumil as the new Chief Strategy Officer, the company is being pointed in a new direction. Along with the shedding of some old corporate weight, there is a chance that the company has finally seen the last of the bad times and will begin to recover, especially if can post some positive attendance and earnings results following the Summer 2018 season.
(5/9/18) It's been awhile, but SeaWorld's stock price surged following the announcement of some much needed good news from the struggling company... that so far attendance at the parks has risen nearly 15% during the first three months of the 2018 season, though some of the growth can be attributed to the placement of the Easter holiday during Q1.
Mixed with the announcement that Sesame Street Land is coming to the Orlando park in Spring 2019, this may finaly signal that a recovery of sorts is on the way for the SeaWorld parks, along with a push to put the Sesame Street characters more in the spotlight as a replacement for their old icon, Shamu.
In other news, Zhonghong Co Ltd. announced their plans to build the first SeaWorld branded park in Asia, to be located off the coaster of Haikou, on the man-made island of Hainan in China that is currently being formed. While the first international SeaWorld park is under construction in Abu Dhabi, and was announced that it would not have Orcas in it at all, no details about the presence of Killer Whales was mentioned at all regarding the new Chinese park.
(3/2/18) More interesting news from SeaWorld Parks this week, as it has been reported that Brian Morrow, their Creative Director behind the new attractions for the chain is parting ways with the company. He’ll be forming B Morrow Productions, a new design firm in Orlando, so he’ll still be involved in the industry. No word on if SeaWorld will be outsourcing work to his firm in the future instead of keeping it in-house.
Much like anything to do with the SeaWorld company, Morrow’s project have been under a bit of intense scrutiny over the years, as he has been behind some popular attractions (Verbolten and Manta for example) and some less than popular attractions concepts (Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin and Submarine Quest)... but sometimes you just have to work with the hand (or budget) you are dealt by the powers that be. That said, we’ll be following along to see what new projects come down the pipe from B Morrow Productions in the future.
(2/28/18) Interesting news came from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment on Tuesday as it was reported that CEO Joel Manby had decided to step down and leave the company. It was less than three years ago that Manby was hired on as an outsider to take control of the company to help guide it to recovery in the wake of the Blackfish inspired decline of the SeaWorld brand.
While unfamiliar with the inner workings of the SeaWorld Parks family, Manby did not come into the job without years of experience from leading Hershend Family Entertainment, the company known best for their Silver Dollar City an Dollywood theme parks where he had received much praise of the years. Unfortunately many of Manby's changes fell flat with both the public and employees alike, which led the company through huge annual layoff events chain wide under his leadship, and he simply was just unable to help turn SeaWorld's fortune around.
That said, the fault is not entirely Manby's, as he could not have picked a worse time to take over the SeaWorld brand, and knew full well that the road ahead was going to be a very rough one for anyone chosen as CEO. Some even claim that the brand itself may have become simply too toxic to survive, or at least in North America. There were some wise and needed decisions made under his leadership, but also some questionable ones, where we have seen even the normally popular Busch Gardens brand parks falter over the past three years.
Going forward, SeaWorld's "Chief Parks Operation Officer" John T. Reilly, will serve as the interim CEO until the board selects a replacement. (And I'm available by the way, I've got some ideas of my own that could help).
(10/20/17) As rumored, SeaWorld Entertainment cut 350 jobs across the chain's parks and headquarters this week as they continue to struggle and find their way in a post Blackfish world. At this point I do have to wonder just how the company can even think of becoming a competitive force once again, when they can't even keep whatever talented staff they have on hand in the fold. With pretty much year-after-year layoffs becoming the norm for the company over the last several years, I think most of the team members I knew in the company from my time there have either been laid off or left to find greener pastures where the threat of an annual culling event wasn't the norm.
I've got a tip for the company however... maybe they need to look at their business model and make some changes there in order to get more guests through the turnstyles each year. Instead of trying to maintain the pace with Disney and Universal when it comes to ticket pricing... perhaps the time has come to cut back and offer guests a more value priced experience. For example, I think attendance would surge in Orlando and San Diego if the cost of admission were to drop by 50-60%. After all chains like Six Flags and Cedar Fair have long been successful by keeping their ticket pricing in check to be more affordable, so perhaps its time for SeaWorld to do the same. After all, what they may lose at the gate they could more than make back by increased guest spending PerCap numbers from increased attendance figures.
(10/14/17) Once Zhonghong purchased Blackstone's 21% interest in SeaWorld we knew it would only be a matter of time before they began working on building a SeaWorld branded park in China. According to our friends at Behind the Thrills this is exactly what is happening, with plans now in place to build the first SeaWorld park in China that will actually be a new indoor park concept, part of the Beijing Zhonghong Square project, a huge retail mall that is said to contain not just one, but two indoor theme park experiences. The second park experience isn't known, but is said to be focused on young children.
While I suppose it could always be something like a small indoor waterpark (Aquatica?) perhaps, I do wonder if they could be looking into the idea of a Sesame Place style park in China. As far as my understanding goes, the deal between Sesame and Seaworld Entertainment is only for the rights to use the characters in North America, but they did just renew their deal with expansion in mind and the idea to build more Sesame Place parks. So I suppose the true question is just how popular are the Sesame Street characters in China at this time and are they on TV at all currently? Sesame Street did have a Chinese version of the show that was short lived from 1998 to 2001, and was said to be revived between 2010-2011, but i'm not sure if it continued on past that. There is also said to be a spin-off animated Elmo show that started in 2012, but again... I'm not sure if any of these are still currently being shown.
Back to the business side of things in the US, Merlin has confirmed that they have no interest in buying any of the SeaWorld branded park due to their policy on not owning parks that keep marine mammals, so their offer is only to purchase the Busch Gardens parks. Meanwhile BlooLoop reports that Parque Reunidos may be interesting in buying up the entire chain, though I do wonder if they could be thinking of working up a deal with Merlin to buy and split the parks up, making such a deal more digestible to all parties involved. Then again... there is also Zhonghong's ownership interest to consider as well and if they wish to take advantage of the timing to increase their own ownership of the company.
Sadly... and I hate to end this on a down note, things may take a turn for the worse once again in the short term future. Various Screamscape sources have indicated that budget cuts and a new round of employee layoffs are expected to take place company-wide starting this week once again in what has almost become an annual tradition for the company ahead of the year-end holiday season.
Stay safe my friends...
(10/6/17) According to an article at Bloomberg, Merlin Entertainment is said to have approached SeaWorld Entertainment about the possibility of buying the two Busch Gardens theme parks from them in an effort to expand the Merlin chain in the US. Generally it wouldn’t be ideal for the SeaWorld chain of parks to remove the two Busch Gardens parks from the mix, as having a little diversity in your lineup generally makes you stronger, especially as the SeaWorld parks themselves are still suffering from the negative effects unleashed following the launch of the Blackfish propaganda film. I’m my opinion, selling off the Busch Gardens parks alone, rather than trying to find a buying willing to take the entire chain, could possibly doom the remainder of the company if left to stand alone.
(8/9/17) An interesting assessment of what going on with SeaWorld Entertainment was posted to ThemeParkUniversity this week, based ont he park’s Q2 2017 earnings report. They mention that while attendance in Q2 2017 was up when compared to the previous quarter the year before, though some of this gain was due to the shifting of Easter in Q2 2017 this year. So when you compare the first half of 2017 to the first half of 2016, overall attendance was actually down for the chain, with big drops at SeaWorld Orlando and San Diego.
The drops make sense somewhat when you pick apart what has happened thus far this year. In In Orlando the only major new attraction was the slapping of a VR system onto the existing Kraken coaster, which while it may wow guests for the short term, the long-term impact will see some guest frustration with the longer loading procedures resulting in less people riding per day. Add in the dismantling of much of the story and themeing elements on the park’s Journey To Atlantis, and you are probably looking at some frustrated riders who may have taken their journeys elsewhere to find their thrills. Plus don’t forget that major new attractions opened at Universal, Disney and even Legoland this year, so the competition was stiff.
Meanwhile the San Diego park got to play guinea-pig for some of Joel Manby’s experimental concepts this summer, being the first park to launch the new Orca Encounter education experience replacing the old traditional Shamu Show. The park also cut their long-time popular all summer nightly fireworks program in favor of the new Electric Ocean night entertainment concept, and then suffered the loss of their last polar bear at the park’s Wild Arctic attraction in April leaving the habitat empty inside. Unlike Orlando, the park did launch a whole new kids land with several rides, but apparently it wasn’t enough to overcome attendance woes… but I’m betting they will turn things around in 2018 with Electric Eel.
On a related note, an article was posted by TheLedger claiming that Merlin may be snooping around SeaWorld Entertainment to possibly buy up a park or two, but probably not the whole chain. According to that article, Merlin may have been showing interest in buying off the the chain’s Busch Gardens parks. With a successful operation already underway in Florida with the Legoland park, I could see them being able to do something with Busch Gardens Tampa, and the Williamsburg park is just such a great park, I couldn’t blame anyone for wanting to buy it. The question is… would SeaWorld Entertainment be willing to sell them off if given the right offer?
(8/2/17) In what may be a sign of an interesting business move to come, TheStreet reports that SeaWorld Entertainment has hired "Evercore" to work with them. Evercore is an "investment banking advisory firm" who is known to work with companies during times of mergers/acuisitions, corporate restructuring, and financial matters involving both IPOs and going private.
It is unknown which strategy SeaWorld Entertainment may be looking to favor, or simply at this point, they may be open to just about any solution that could reformat the company and solve of their current problems.
(5/19/17) SeaWorld Entertainment and the Sesame Workshop have announced an extended partnership agreement that will see a new Sesame Street themed kids land open at SeaWorld Orlando by Fall 2022 and perhaps most importantly, a brand new Sesame Place theme park will open somewhere within the United States by 2021 at a location still to be determined. The deal will also give SeaWorld Entertainment the rights to build and open MORE Sesame Place parks in the US after the opening of the second Sesame Place park. The deal has extended their existing business relationship through to December 2031.
While they says the site has yet to be determined, you really don't make this kind of announcement unless you already have two of three final sites in mind for the new park, but like any good business deal, I'm sure they are going to try and find the site that can give them the best financial deal and tax credit programs. This makes me very curious about where it will go, as it seems clear it wont go into Orlando, and with Sesame lands in place at both Busch Gardens parks, and the other two SeaWorld parks, it really kind of opens up things in a good way, as we will likely see the company expand into a new market they have yet to tap into before.
(3/27/17) SeaWorld Entertainment announced that China's Zhonghong Holding Co Ltd has signed an agreement to purchased Blackstone's remaining 21% stake in the company. The news apparently worked in SeaWorld's favor as it was reported that their struggling stock price rose about 5% following the announcement. The new deal also gives SeaWorld Entertainment an easy-in to the blooming Chinese theme park market, with the deal including licensing and consulting deals for future park development opportunities in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
Zhonghong's current theme park developments in China include the Monkey Kingdom park under construction in the Beijing area themed to the famous "Journey to the West" story.
Six Flags - (6/29/18) Six Flags has announced they will release their 2018 Q2 financial results on July 25 with a conference call set to go live at 8am Central time. You can access and listen in on the call through the Six Flags Investor website or by dialing 1-855-889-1976 and selecting the earnings call from the option menu.
(6/28/18) Six Flags and Coca-Cola say they are throwing the biggest July 4th celebration in the nation, taking place at all of the US Six Flags theme parks for five days, June 30 through to July 4. The celebration events will feature a new ‘All-American Food Festival”, nightly fireworks, Coca-Cola parties, 1-Hour ERT events on select rides (with paid admission and a can of Coke or Coke Zero) and more.
(6/1/18) Six Flags is tossing around a new survey online that seems to be promoting possible new attraction name ideas, in conjunction with what kind of attraction style seems to go with the name. As typical, I'm sure there are nonsense names they would never consider on the list, mixed in with some returning old favorites, some new concept names, some names in use by competitors, and even some retired names from the past.
Some standouts include Dynamo, XLR8, Voodoo, Sin City Racers, TurboCharger, Catapult, Street Machines, West Coast Racers, Cataclysm, MaxxForce, Twin Turbos, Air Hammer, Speed Demons and more. They even include Ricochet on the list... though that is taken by Cedar Fair for a wild mouse coaster.
While the survey will ask for your home park, the questions asked seem to be pretty much the same for everyone, though the one ongoing theme I see in the majority names seem to imply they are looking into ideas for either very fast rides, or the possibility of a speedy ride with some kind of racing or dueling theme. Now to determine just which park or parks could be home to such a creation.
I did have one possible idea... that could sound a little crazy. We know Six Flags did get the first RMC Raptor coaster, which seems to be a hit, but the one hitch is capacity is just not that great. The obvious way to fix that would be to move to the RMC T-Rex design that is supposed to be the same basic concept, but with a wider single rail system and coaster trains that use a more traditional two-across seating. That said... I do have to wonder what RMC could with two side-by-side Raptors... or even better... what is they merged the lessons learned from Twisted Colossus design with the Raptor system to give the same effect with a layout that was twice as long.
Another possible idea was the relaunch of the Steeplechase coaster concept from S&S Worldwide at IAAPA 2018, and the initial concept featured horse themed cars, we know the themed possibilities are endless, so it wouldn’t be hard to have race car themed vehicles as well. After all, the former Soap Box Racers ride at Knott’s Berry Farm used that theme very well for years before they closed their original Arrow made version.
We're just at the start of the Summer season, so hold onto your hats while we listen for more rumors to float in.
(5/30/18) According to BlooLoop, Six Flags has announced that a 4th park will be part of the Nanjing complex to be called Six Flags Kids World. The Kids World section will open in the first phase of the project, expected to open in 2021 and is expected to feature attractions developed for "younger thrill-seekers" along with scaled down versions of some of the chain's bigger rides. There will also be some education based entertainment involving math and science as well as physical fitness.
The other three Six Flags parks in Nanjing will be a regular Six Flags theme park, a Six Flags branded waterpark and something new called "Six Flags Adventure Park". As previously mentioned, this new concept will feature attractions like rock climbing and ziplines along with whitewater rafting and motocross bike races.
(5/25/18) For anyone curious, according to this news report Six Flags is paying Premier Parks LLC about $23 million to buy the lease rights to those five parks.
(5/23/18) In a bit of a shocker... Six Flags announced on Tuesday afternoon that they were adding five more parks to the chain... most of which were former members of the Six Flags family if you have believe it before they were sold off years ago. So joining Six Flags are: Wet n' Wild Splashtown (Houston, TX), Wet n' Wild Phoenix, Darien Lake (Buffalo, NY), along with Frontier City and nearby White Water Bay (Oklahoma). Of the group, only Wet n' Wild Phoenix is new to the Six Flags team.
Now the interesting thing is that Six Flags isn't actually buying these parks. Currently the parks are owned by EPR Properties, who leases them out under a management contract to Premier Parks, LLC who takes care of the day to day operations. Six Flags worked out some kind of deal with Premier Parks to "acquire the lease rights" to these five parks, and once the deal is completed (expected sometime in June) then Six Flags will take over the management and operations of these parks.
As I pointed out, most of these were once upon a time under the Six Flags umbrella of parks before, so they are pretty familiar with them. Since Six Flags is looking to expand, I have to think that taking over the management contracts of these parks is sort of like taking a test drive to see how well they fit in to the current Six Flags park mold. If the numbers look good in a year or two, I'd expect to see Six Flags try to make a purchase offer to EPR Properties for the properties they want to keep.
It is worth noting that while Six Flags opted to act on these five parks, Premier Parks LLC still has a number of active management contracts to run other parks for EPR Properties for Magic Springs, Myrtle Waves, Rapids Water Park, Wet 'n Wild parks in Hawaii and Palm Springs, and Wild Waves, though the group did lose the management deal for Waterworld California to Six Flags last year.
I suspect, with some new cash in hand from the Six Flags deal, that perhaps Premier Parks may soon try to acquire another park to add to their list of parks they actually own which currently includes Clementon Amusement Park, Nashville Shores, Ocean Breeze and Wet 'n Wild Toronto.
(4/26/18) In an unexpected announcement, Six Flags reported in their earnings call that they would be looking to obtain new theme and waterparks in the US, if the right kind of deals could be struck, in order to expand the chain. Part of the plan would be to look to obtain properties that are in close proximity or complimentary to properties they already own. They feel this will give one-time guests a reason to upgrade to season pass memberships and keep them coming back.
Honestly, I'm not even sure which parks are left to buy anymore. Many of the smaller parks out there are either fiercely independent family owned properties or owned by smaller chains likely unwilling to give them up. The more obvious parks that seem more ripe for purchase are actually parks that were once part of the old pre-bankrupcty Six Flags empire formed by the 90's era buyout of Six Flags by Premier Parks. These parks were either sold off as under performing properties that didn't work out under the Six Flags brand (Geauga Lake, Darien Lake, Elitch Gardens, Frontier City and Wild Waves) or in the case of Kentucky Kingdom, closed entirely and left to rot before being rescued and reopened under new management.
After a bit of thought one property out there could look very appetizing to Six Flags however, if the price was right. I to have to dream about what would happen if Busch Gardens Tampa was sold to Six Flags, as the property would fit well into their portfolio and give the SeaWorld Entertainment chain a nice cash infusion to help balance out the rest of the chain's needs. For Six Flags this would get them a valuable park able to be open year-round that would come with an already impressive collection of coasters, plus Six Flags is no stranger to animal parks, having their own next to the Six Flags Great Adventure park in New Jersey as well as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California.
(4/25/18) Six Flags and their partner in China, Riverside Investment Group, announced plans to build an additional three Six Flags branded parks in China to be located in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. The project will include a Six Flags theme park, a Six Flags branded waterpark as well as an "adventure park". Look for the first phase to open in 2021.
This will be the second "Six Flags Adventure Park", as the first will be built in Chongqing and feature a whole new concept for Six Flags, with attractions that include motocross bike racers, whitewater rafting, zip lines and rock climbing.
In other news, Six Flags announced that their Q1 2018 earnings were up by $29 million (30%) over the earnings recorded for Q1 2017. They attribute the gain primarily to a 27% increase in attendance this year over the same time period last year, including the new 365-day operating schedule of Six Flags Magic Mountain as well as having Hurricane Harbor Mexico open in Q1 2018 and an earlier arrival of the Easter holiday.
(4/14/18) Tuzki is an animated rabbit character that is very popular in China, especially online in social media circles. According to local news posts Six Flags has signed a deal with their their partners in China and Turner International to bring the character to their new Six Flags parks coming to China who will be brought to life in the form of a new dark ride experience. Turner International apparently owns the rights to the character now, and you can get a brief 411 on the character's origin and antics here.
(4/6/18) Six Flags has signed a new agreement this week to develop a new theme park in Saudi Arabia, just outside of Riyadh. The theme park will be one piece of the Qiddiya development that will also include a safari park, sports, cultural and other recreational facilities. As part of the agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (who is the primary investor) Six Flags will develop and design the park, which is planned to open in 2022.
(2/21/18) Congratulations to Six Flags this week, as the theme park chain reported their eighth consecutive year of “record financial performance” with revenue growing $40 million / 3% to $1.4 billion over the 2017 financial year. Growth was established through both attendance gains (1%), a 1% increase in guest PerCap spending, “pricing strategy” as well as the “international licensing program”. You can read more details here.
(1/18/18) Finally the last piece of the Six Flags management shuffle has dropped with the announcement that Janine Durette has been named as the new Park President of La Ronde. Janine is the first woman to hold the position at the park since it opened in 1967 and is replacing Phil Liggett who we previously reported was taking over the Park President spot at Six Flags St. Louis. Prior to this Janine has served as the Director of Finance for the past 5 years.
(1/9/18) More management shuffle news is coming from the Six Flags theme parks this week, answering some of the questions we had following last week’s promotions and shuffles. For example John Winkler will take over as Park President of Six Flags Great Adventure, moving over from his current position as President of Six Flags New England where he served for the past 6 years. Winkler is no stranger to the New Jersey property though, as he served there as a Director and Co-GM for 7 years, starting in 2001. (note: he also served as Park President of Six Flags America from 2009 to 2011 before going to the New England park)
I’m also told through the grapevine that Pete Carmichael (Park President of SF St. Louis) is also “heading home” to take over the top spot at Six Flags New England. Before being promoted to President of the St. Louis park, he served as Dir. of Operations at SFNE).
Meanwhile I’m told that La Ronde’s new park president is someone being promoted up.
(1/5/18) Six Flags seems to be in the process of changing some of the upper management at some of their parks this week. I'm told that Phil Liggett who was Park President of La Ronde has now been shifted to take over the Park President spot at Six Flags St. Louis as of this week. On a side note, I'm not sure who Phil Liggett replaced at SFSL, or where they went, nor did I see an announcement about who will take over as Park President of La Ronde.
Meanwhile on the west coast, Six Flags Magic Mountain President, Bonnie Sherman Weber has been promoted to the Six Flags corporate office in Texas and will serve as the Senior VP of In-Park Services. Replacing Bonnie at SFMM will be Neal Thurman, who previously served as Park President of the Six Flags Great Adventure parks and before that spent some time as President of Six Flags Fiesta Texas, but this is a homecoming for Neal who served as the Director of Operations at Six Flags Magic Mountain for seven years, starting back in 2007, so he is very familiar and has had a long history with The Mountain. He has also worked at Six Flags parks in Georgia, Kentucky, and St. Louis during his long career with the company. No word on who is replacing Thurman as Park President at SFGAdv as of yet.
Congrats to everyone!
(12/11/17) Remember I mentioned that Six Flags was planning to attempt to record for the world's largest snowball fight over the weekend? I don't know about every location, but according to several news headlines, the snowball fight event planned for Six Flags over Georgia, SF Great Adventure, SF America and other east coast locations were canceled at the last second due to the arrival of real snow which covered much of the east coast. No word on if they will reschedule and try again or not this season.
(12/8/17) Six Flags will attempt to break the record for the world's largest snowball fight during the national Six Flags Snow Day presented by Hallmark Channel. The event will take place at all Six Flags theme parks across North America on Saturday, Dec. 9th.
To participate, arrive at your local Six Flags park about an hour before the park's normal opening time (see official page for details) to check in to the event and get your wristband. Some early guests may receive a special "Snow Day" surprise as well. NOTE: All guests must have valid theme park admission to participate.
The current world record is 7,681 people, and Six Flags hopes to have at least 9,000.
(11/11/17) Some interesting new images have come out of China lately in regards to their Six Flags parks. Make the jump over to ThemeparX and you'll see pictures of a building that almost looks like a Chinese corporate office for Six Flags with an interesting decorative Six Flags themed tower structure next to it. The building is surrounded by a lot of empty property and labeled as the site for Six Flags Zhejiang. I believe the building is serving as some kind of exhbit and preview center for the Six Flags resort project.
Below that is some concept artwork of the Six Flags Nanjing park and property, which is part of a third proposed Six Flags park site in China beyond t he already announced Zhejiang and Chongqing sites.
(10/27/17) Six Flags announced plans to build three new parks in China. "Six Flags Kids World", a new park design concept aimed at families with young children will be built next to both the Six Flags Zhejiang and the Six Flags Chongqing park projects. Look for the park to be very character oriented as well as offering junior sized versions of the big thrill rides offered inside the main park.
Meanwhile a new "Six Flags Adventure Park" offering high-energy outdoor thrills, will also be built next to the Six Flags Chongqing park that will offer motocross style bike races along rugged terrain, whitewater rafting, zip lines, rock climbing and more.
All three parks are expected to be open by 2020.
(10/6/17) Six Flags will announce their Q3 2017 earnings results on Oct. 25, 2017, followed by an investor conference call that starts at 8am. You can listed in through the official website here.
(9/4/17) Six Flags theme park fans take note, today is the last today to take advantage of the chain's annual Labor Day Flash sale where they offer 2018 season passes for sale at 70% off the regular price. Many parks offer special perks as well along with it such as parking upgrades, ride skipping passes, photos and more, but you'll have to check that out for yourself.
To find out the details on this sale that ends today, go to SixFlags.com and click on the map to find your local park page. From there click on the "Passes & Memberships" tab to see the details of your park's deal for the Flash Sale on 2018 Season Passes. You wont find a cheaper deal on these anytime else so jump on it today if you can.
(7/20/17) John Duffey who took over at CEO of Six Flags from Jim Reid-Anderson back in early 2016 (allowing Jim to serve as the Executive Chairman) has suddenly left Six Flags. According to an announcement from the Six Flags corporate office, Duffey has "retired from the company". The board will put Jim Reid-Anderson back in charge as CEO for the time being.
(6/29/17) Six Flags will make their 2017 Q2 Earnings call on the morning of July 26 at 8am. You can listen in that morning by clicking here.
(5/22/17) I received an interesting note regarding the use of Garfield as the primary cartoon character IP at Six Flags' new Chinese theme parks. According to the note, apparently Garfield has become something of a big hit in China... and is actually more well known to the Chinese people than WB's Looney Tunes characters, so Six Flags may actually be on to something here.
How so? Did you know that the second Garfield film that essentially bombed in the US blew away box office records in China when it came out for an animated film release? Yes, Garfield 2 made more money in China than Disney’s The Lion King. I’ve also heard that the Chinese government uses Garfield to help teach English to children in school. Who knew?
(5/19/17) In an interesting development Six Flags has just announced that instead of Bugs Bunny or any of the Looney Tunes characters, Garfield and friends will be the signature characters to be used in the children's areas of the Six Flags branded parks in China. The first Chinese park, Six Flags Zhejiang, is slated to open in 2019 followed by Six Flags Chongqing in 2020.
With this in mind, now I'm curious what characters they will use in the Dubai park opened in 2019 as well, as WB is unlikely to let them use any of them at Six Flags when they will all be put to use in the Warner Bros World park in nearby Abu Dhabi.
(2/22/17) Six Flags reports that they have signed “definitive agreements” with Riverside Investment Group Co. Ltd. to build more Six Flags branded theme parks in China. The latest developments will be two additional Six Flags branded parks (theme park and water park) built in Bishan, a district of Chongqing, with a goal of opening the first phase in 2020.
Meanwhile the first Six Flags park in China is set to open in 2019 in Haiyan, Zhejiang province, outside Shanghai and is now under construction.
(12/22/16) Six Flags has confirmed that they will open a Six Flags Hurricane Harbor waterpark in China next to the new Six Flags Zhejiang park that is currently under construction.
(7/22/16) According to various news reports Six Flags has signed another deal to look into developing a second theme park in China, this one would be in Dishan, a district of Chongquin. The only thing known about this particular site is that they want to build both a theme park and water park.
(3/23/16) Six Flags has announced a new deal to design and license the Six Flags brand into two new parks in Vietnam over the next four years. The project calls for a Six Flags theme park and for a Six Flags branded Hurricane Harbor waterpark to be built in the vicinity of Ho Chi Minh City by 2020.
Skyline Attractions - (11/15/17) For anyone wondering, a very revealing tweet came out the other day confirming that the the steel for Skyline Attractions’ new Skywarp ride is actually made by RMC, based on RMC’s Raptor/T-Rex track system. According to what I’m told, size-wise, the size of the Skywarp track somewhere in-between the Raptor and T-Rex track size, with the single rail being close to 2 feet across.
Going into the mechanical side of things, I guess this creates more of a grey area about if the Skywarp is a flat ride, or if it is a coaster. From what I’m told the ride actually uses a single train design and is pushed to speed by a tire drive system under the station, and actually does “coast” on it’s own for a portion of the track when the train is not in contact with the drive tires.
Triotech - (3/16/18) Triotech has partnered with Ubisoft to create a unique new "VR Maze" attraction concept. The first one will be themed about Ubisoft's Rabbids chartacters and called Virtual Rabbids: The Big Maze. The concept allows guests wearing VR gear to actually walk around a real physical maze, but visualized to be themed to the crazy world of the Rabbids through the VR gear. Based on the video below showing off Rabbids along with a Minotaur themed other concept, the idea looks pretty neat actually, so I can't wait to see this in person somewhere. Meanwhile Triotech and Ubisoft will follow this effort up with a second version themed around the Assassin's Creed video game IP, letting you explore an ancient Egyptian temple.
(11/24/16) Triotech had a demo of The Flyer, their new flying theater concept on display at IAAPA as well as making announcements about several new attractions. The first version of The Flyer will open on Pier 39 in San Francisco in Summer 2017, a Fear The Walking Dead attraction is coming to Freemont Street in Las Vegas in Spring 2017, and they also talk about the previously mentioned Ghostbusters dark ride opening at Heide Park next summer as well. Check out the video from In The Loop below.
Universal Studios - (5/28/18) In an interesting bit of news, it was announced that Universal has signed a deal with MGM and partners to serve as the international distributor of the next James Bond film (aka: James Bond 25), as well as 'physical home entertainment distribution'. The film is set to go before cameras this December, and hit theaters in Oct/Nov 2019 starring Daniel Craig. The exact terms of the deal are unknown and is expected to be for more than just the one film, likely for several new Bond pictures made into the future, as Universal takes over the rights from Sony, and beat out Sony and virtually every other studio in a bidding war for this deal.
If this is truly a long term deal, it does make one wonder if the issue of theme park rights to use the Bond character were also brought into the discussions. The James Bond theme certainly could play well as either a new theme park ride, or even a live action show for the Universal parks, and Bond films do typically draw in more box office dollars from the international market than the domestic take, which would also make the property valuable to Universal’s international theme park resorts in Japan, Singapore and China.
(5/24/18) While the Disney money-making machine is rolling right along and preparing to gobble up 21st Century Fox, it looks like Comcast is preparing to try to pull a fast one and make their own deals to acquire both Fox and Sky. According to several reports Comcast has been meeting with their financial people for weeks now to determine what kind of "all cash offer" they could make at the 11th hour to outbid Disney's $52.4 billion offer for Fox.
While no one will know for sure until Comcast officially makes the offer, various news agencies believe Comcast could make a counter-offer as much as $60 billion to buy 21st Century Fox. Meanwhile Disney and Fox are preparing to present their final offers to their stockholders at some point this summer and Comcast is likely to wait until just before this.
There is also another factor involved that is causing all parties to "wait" for the moment, as they wait for the expected June 12th ruling from the government over the antitrust-case against the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. While the Disney / Fox deal may not trigger such a reaction, the possible merge of Comcast (who already owns NBCUniversal) with Fox could be more problematic.
Another odd issue with Comcast trying to buy Fox with an all-cash offer, is that they are also attempting to buy Sky as well. Industry experts say that if Comcast were to pull off both deals, it could put the entire Comcast empire in danger with a massive $164 billion debt. That alone makes me thing that perhaps Comcast may be best pursuing the Sky deal rather than Fox, which would play to their current corporate strengths more.
(4/14/18) Universal has apparently been keeping close tabs on how location based VR experiences are shaping up, especially The Void, who offers a Ghostbusters themed experience in New York and through a deal with Disney, a Star Wars - Secrets of the Empire experience in Florida, California, and soon to open in Las Vegas. According to an interview with Chris Heatherly, Exec VP of "worldwide games at NBCUniversal”, they too are focused on creating new content for similar location-based VR experiences that could bring Universal owned IPs to life in new ways.
(2/28/18) In an interesting move, while Disney is in the middle of attempting to gobble up 21st Century Fox, and while 21st Century Fox was in the middle of trying to buy up the remaining 61% ownership of SKY that they don't already control, it seem Comcast is ready to throw a monkey wrench into it all. According to BlooLoop, Comcast has made an all-cash offer to buy up the rest of SKY instead, said to be worth about 16% more than the Fox offer.
Apparently Comcast would like to actually own all of SKY if possible, but is also willing to co-own it with either Fox or Disney... as long as Comcast has the majority ownership. Of course, this also makes me think of what is happening with HULU if the Disney purchase of Fox goes through that would give Disney 60% ownership and leave Comcast with their remaining 30% ownership. I'm waiting to see if the other shoe drops here and if those ownership stakes become part of the overall bargaining war, or if Disney is willing to increase Fox's bid for SKY in order to fight off the Comcast bid.
(11/10/17) While this has technically nothing to do with Universal, Harry Potter fans can rejoice this week as Niantic, the creators of the Ingress and Pokemon Go mobile AR games have announced that they are working on a new title themed around the world of Harry Potter, to be called Harry Potter: Wizards Unite!
They describe it as the "next step" in the evolution of an AR gaming experience that will allow fans to " finally get the chance to experience J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Players will learn spells, explore their real world neighborhoods and cities to discover & fight legendary beasts and team up with others to take down powerful enemies."
Again... while this has nothing to do with Universal... I just can't see the creation of a Harry Potter themed AR mobile game experience that wouldn't include some special content for players who happen to be visiting one of Universal's Wizarding World attraction areas in Florida, Japan or California... or visiting the studio tour in the UK. After seeing how quickly Pokemon Go became such a big thing shortly after launch (though I quickly lost interest myself...) I am beyond curious to see how well received a Harry Potter themed experience will be.
(10/20/17) Theme Park University has posted a new article detailing everything they claim to know about a new Facial Recognition program that Universal has been working on and testing at the Orlando parks. To date, Universal really hasn't confirmed anything to do with this program, so as of right now it is simply something being tested and worked on, but the implications of what it could bring to the future of the parks is pretty awesome and could really change the entire park experience. Check it out!
(8/14/17) Work on The Fast & The Furious Live Show with Universal Studios has begun as Vin Diesel posted a video on Facebook earlier this week while he was in New York, taking a break from shooting new content that will be used for the live action show. Previous announcements mentioned that the live tour would begin in January 2018 and according to comments from Diesel, he mentions being told that the first shows would take place at the O2 Arena in London, kicking off a European tour leg before the show would come to the US.
Vekoma - (4/12/18) Vekoma has posted some unique new graphics and a video on FB this week for a new coaster concept called "Topgun". The launched coaster features short 8-passenger trains lightly themes as a military jet fighter, complete with a narrow nose-cone out front. Riders will leave the station and turn onto what looks like an aircraft carrier for a launch into the skyies, where the twisted layout will perform tight turns and several inversions while navigating around a watery landscape markedby a couple of giant rocky islands.
Scroll down past the still images to see an animated preview video (off ride and POV) of the action which looks to be rapid-fire and very intense. Once again, I've got to say that Vekoma has been impressing me very much as of late with their innovative new coaster layouts. According to a tweet from VHCoasters, they say that the two Topgun coaster will premier at Fantawild parks in Ningbo and Ganzhou, China sometime in 2019.
(3/30/18) I didn’t expect to wake up this morning to this bit of news, but the official statement is already posted to the Vekoma website confirming that Japan’s Sansei Technology has acquired Vekoma Rides in full as of today. As part of the agreement, Vekoma will continue to run as Vekoma, operating as an independent company, maintaining the same management team and locations that they currently have now, just adding Mr. Nakagawa (CEO of Sansei) to the Vekoma’s Supervisory Board.
I believe this is similar to the terms of how Sansei purchased S&S Power a few years ago. It is also interesting to note that since S&S purchased Arrow Dynamics back in 2002, and way before that Vekoma had signed some kind of technology license deal with Arrow Dynamics to use their same track design… then I guess this puts all those old Arrow patents back together under one owner.
With S&S and Vekoma to continue to operate as independent companies, I also have to wonder if there will be any kind of friendly technology or design cooperation between the two units going forward. Who knows what kind of strange new creation could come from that.
(3/23/18) It seems that the test track we posted about in January now has what looks to be a new spinning coaster train prototype on the rails in the latest photos posted just outside a Vekoma test site in Europe. We believe this could be the new system being designed for Disney to used on their Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster coming to Epcot.
(1/22/18) Pictures taken just outside a Vekoma test site in Europe show that the company is putting together what looks like some kind of new family boomerang shuttle coaster layout, featuring some more aggressive twists and turns on the lower end between the two spikes. Follow the link to see some pictures taken this week showing the spike tracks being put into place and some earlier photos showing off more of the twisted portion of the layout.
(1/18/19) Artwork showing off an interesting new Vekoma launched coaster project for Dragon Valley (China) to open in 2020 was posted on Twitter this week (see below). Much like the Lech Coaster that opened in Legendia in 2017, I'm kind of fascinated with the unique custom layout creations coming out of Vekoma right now. This looks like it will be one heck of a good ride when it opens. Hoping to see more projects like this from Vekoma in the future.
According to another tweet, Vekoma has sold three clones of this layout. In addition to Dragon Valley, look for others to open in Amikoo (Mexico) and Tema World (Istanbul, Turkey).
(9/5/17) Some fun footage shot at a Vekoma testing facility has been making the rounds over the past few days (see below), as a train like creation makes a rotation around a test-track, though the last car has a pair of inverted/flying style coaster seats attached. Previously we had some still photos of this track under construction posted to Screamscape from several months back where I guessed that this looked like they were actually building a unique Flying coaster loading system I first saw in a patent application from B&M many many years ago (but never built) that would put the ability for the base of the flying seats to rotate on a giant disk like structure. The coaster track would then roll into a sideway position as it entered the station and the rider's seats would roll with it so that the train would appear as a giant row of seats when parked in the station, to allow for easy loading and unloading.
As we know, B&M went a system that simply raises and lowers their Flying coaster seats in the station instead, and to my knowledge, has never built this sideways style loading system, even though they applied for a patent to build their own version back in 2001 according to the filing as seen on Google.
The next question however may be to wonder who Vekoma is building this for, as so far their previously attempt at building Flying style coasters hasn't been very successful, with only a handful of creations ever to come off the drawing board. Logic would seem to indicate that this could be a new loading system for the F.L.Y. coaster project going to Phantasialand in Germany, which is rumored to be the first Launched Vekoma flying coaster. So making a more simple loading system (with less hardware and lighter trains) would be desirable for a launched flying coaster. You'll also notice that the test-car in the video appears to have two-across seating instead of the more standard 4-across seating used previously on Vekoma flying coasters.
Wanda Group - (8/24/17) According to a post from BlooLoop, the Dalian Wanda Group is still alive and well, and just announced that they have plans to build another cultural tourism project in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province in NorthWest China.
(7/30/17) According to BlooLoop, it looks like the sale of some of Wanda's parks and hotels to Sunac isn't the end of the story. They now report that another property developer, R&F Properties, will now be buying 77 of Wanda's hotels in a deal worth $5 billion, meanwhile Sunac will now be paying about $6.5 billion to buy a 91% ownership stake in Wanda's theme park business. Meanwhile, according to a statement from Wanda's Chairman, Wang Jianlin, the theme park division of Wanda is apparently $6.73 billion in debt... all of which will be transferred to Sunac once the deal is completed.
(7/12/17) Wow... consider me shocked. Just last week there was speculation about how Wanda was falling out of favor with the Chinese government over their large spending and debts. Now this week it has been confirmed that Wanda has signed a deal to sell their theme park and hotel bushinesses to a "Sunac China Holdings" company for an estimated $9 BILLION!!
I don't know a thing about Sunac China Holdings, so if anyone out there knows more, I'd love to hear more about the new park owners, but according to the news article all the parks will continue to keep the 'Wanda' name going forward. The deal comes in two separate parts... one that includes 76 of Wanda's 102 hotels for $4.9 billion, while a second separate deal was made for the theme parks and attractions properties. It is also interesting to note that while the park's have a new owner... Wanda will remain onboard as the "operations management" for the attractions, as well as remaining involved in the design and construction of the attractions, including those still in the works.
No word yet on what is taking place with the Wanda Movie Park Wuhan attraction which closed shortly after opening for 'upgrades', but it still has yet to reopen.
Wiegand Maelzer GmbH / SlideWheel - (6/16/18) Remember all those fun videos showing off the prototype SlideWheel from Wiegand? The real deal has opened in Chimelong Waterpark in China with a second to open in Poland at Reda Waterpark this winter followed by a third and fourth in China in 2019 in Nantong and Jinzhong. Check out the video below to see the first SlideWheel in action, now open at Chimelong, showing it off int he daytime as well as how they are lighting it up at night.
(10/18/17) I've mentioned this on my social media channels a couple times over the past week or two, but now its time to show it off to everyone. Introducing the SlideWheel... a crazy new waterpark creation from Wiegand Maelzer GmbH. The prototype is currently sitting into Europe at a Gerstlauer test site, but the basic idea is that the tangled mass of slide tubes will slowly rotate non-stop and sliders on a large raft will enter at one hub via conveyor-belt timed to launch the raft into the SlideWheel at just the right moment in the rotation. According to the plan, they expect to have up to three rafts full of riders in the SlideWheel at any given time, taking a twisting, twirling journey with both forwards and backwards motion before sliding back out again.
Now if you thought the first video was insane, check out the second one below that, showing off some test riders taking a trip through the SlideWheel. I've also added another video with a bit more in-slide footage below that.
I gotta say that I love the idea! While I'm not sure how well this would work at a major outdoor waterpark, I think these may be the perfect new addition for all those indoor waterparks out there like Great Wolf Lodge, Wilderness Resorts and Kalahari. Soon the SlideWheel prototype will be taken down and shipped off to China to be installed at Chimelong Park in Guangzhou as their new 2018 attraction.
Zamperla - (4/21/18) The Theme Park Guy has posted a new video interview (part of a new series) he conducted with the Antonio Zamperla, Jr., the General Manager of Zamperla Group that is worth checking out.