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----    THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS    ---- |
    (5/12/2024) Six Flags Posts Q1 2024 Earnings Report
    (5/12/2024) Cedar Fair Posts Q1 2024 Earnings Report
    (5/11/2024) Disney Posts Q2 2024 / 6-Month Earnings Report
    (5/11/2024) Six Flags / Cedar Fair Merger Update
    (5/4/2024) Meow Wolf Is Ready To Come To Los Angeles
    (5/3/2024) Six Flags To Upgrade Their Digital App and Website With The Help of AI
    (4/27/2024) NBCUniversal - Theme Park Performance Figures for Q1 2024

 

 

icon_STOPCedar Fair - (5/12/2024) Cedar Fair posted their Q1 2024 earnings report this week, along with future merger partner, Six Flags. Overall, Cedar Fair’s performance numbers do paint a better picture, claiming a 20% revenue increase ($102 million) compared to the same time period in 2023, which actually exceeded analyst predictions. Attendance was up 27% in Q1 2024, along with reported higher sales of season passes. The net loss figure was just slightly improved from the previous year’s sum at $133 million from $135 million, however guest per-cap spending also saw a 6% decrease. This was attributed to a strategic plan to reduce the price of some of the park’s season passes in order to increase pass sales that is hoped to result in higher visitation leading to increased guest spending later on in the year. Cedar Fair also reported a 21% increase in “Out-of-Park Revenues” from their resort hotel properties, which benefited from an extra week in the Q1 2024 reporting period and the completion of renovations at the Knott’s Hotel in California.
    The market seems to take this report well ahead of the planned merger with Six Flags, as Cedar Fair’s stock price (FUN) has climbed from trading at just above $40 a unit at the start of that week to a current price of $45 per unit.
 
    (4/10/2024) Cedar Fair has announced that they will released their Q1 2024 earning report on the morning of May 9, 2024. This will be followed by the usual earnings conference call where management presents the data and answers select questions from media outlets starting at 10am. You can listen in through the investor website, under the Events & Presentations / Upcoming Events tab.
 
    (2/16/2024) Cedar Fair’s year-end earnings report confirmed that the theme park chain overall saw attendance and revenue decline in 2023, despite strong results reported throughout the second half of the year. Revenue dropped to $1.8 Billion from $1.82 billion from the year before, along with a small decline in attendance from 26.9 million in 2022 to 26.7 million in 2023.
    Some additional operating costs were reported as the chain prepares to merge with Six Flags, a deal that they believe will be completed by the end of June 2024 as they work to report everything they need to with the DOJ in order to move forward.
 
    (1/25/2024) While the “Knott’s Berry Farm” brand is a well known staple of California culture, for the rest of the nation it was likely a brand you may have seen more frequently in the grocery store aisles. Going way way back to 1995 the Knott’s family signed a deal with ConAgra foods to use the Knott’s Berry Farm brand name on various food items to be sold on store shelves. ConAgra later resold the rights to use the brand name to Smuckers in 2008.
    However, if you happen to catch sight of any Knott’s Berry Farm cookies, jams or jellies at your local store, know that these are probably the last. Smuckers has announced that they are no longer producing any Knott’s Berry Farm branded items.
    Digging a little deeper however, this does not mean full use of the brand reverts back to the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, Cedar Fair or even the Knott family. According to the trademark database, Smuckers did just successfully renew their rights to keep using the Knott’s brand in December 2023 for another 10 years.
 
    (1/19/2024) Cedar Fair will announced their Q4 2023 / Full Year 2023 results release and follow  up earnings call to take place on Feb. 15, 2024. You can listen in on the official Cedar Fair corporate site link as usual.
    This should be an interesting one as well, with the merger with Six Flags moving forward, this could be the last official Cedar Fair earnings call, but it is also sure to be full of questions and comments about the pending merger.
 
    (12/30/2023) According to Seeking Alpha, Six Flags and Cedar Fair briefly pulled their merger documents on Wednesday with the government to refile them on Thursday under the HSR Act, which has extended the “waiting period” to Jan. 22, 2024.
    According to the FTC, filing under the HSR Act (also known as the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976) has the companies file their premerger notifications with both the FTC and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and “establishes waiting periods that must elapse before such acquisitions may be consummated and authorizes the enforcement agencies to stay those periods until the companies provide certain additional information about the likelihood that the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.“
    For those wonder, both Cedar Fair (FUN) and Six Flags (SIX) have seen their individual stock prices rise since the rumor that the two were planning a merger emerged at the start of November, and then confirmed on November 2nd. FUN has since seen their stock price rise from trading at $35.50 on October 31st to $39.80 currently, and SIX has jumped from $19.90 to $25.08 currently over the same time period.
 
    (12/21/2023) While I doubt this will do anything to derail the merger between Six Flags and Cedar Fair, it seems one of Cedar Fair’s larger investors has now filed a complaint in protest. According to the post on Reuters, Neuberger Berman has filed a complaint that the merger deal was structured on purpose in such a way that Cedar Fair’s unitholders do not get to vote for or against the deal, while Six Flags’s stockholders do get to vote.
 
    (12/13/2023) Some staffing changes have taken place within the Cedar Fair corporate office this week to prepare the company for the future merger with Six Flags. According to the official report from Cedar Fair:
    Robert White was promoted from Senior VP of Business Intelligence to Chief Commercial Officer
    Christian Dieckmann was promoted to Chief Strategy Officer
    Meanwhile Kelley S. Ford will be transitioning out of her position as Exec. VP and Chief Marketing Officer. Ford will remain with the company in a non-executive role through to March 29, 2024.
 
    (11/9/2023) Amid the fuss over the announced merger of Cedar Fair and Six Flags, Cedar Fair did manage to release their Q3 2023 earnings report last week. The highlights mention attendance for the quarter was 12.4 million, which was a 1% increase compared to Q3 2022. In park PerCap spending was $61.65, down 2% from Q3 2022, but out-of-park revenue was up 2% to $99 million when compared to the same quarter the year prior. Net income was $215 million, down $118 million from Q3 2022, however it seems this is mostly to blame on a $155 million gain that happened in 2022 when Cedar Fair sold off the land for California’s Great America.
 

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     (11/7/2023) For all the details that we know about the Cedar Fair / Six Flags merger, please jump over to Blooloop to read my official report there. In addition to the facts, it includes some of my own analysis about the setup of the merger, and what it could mean for the parks in select markets. 
    (11/4/2023) The theme park industry was rocked to the core this past week when on November 1st it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that Six Flags and Cedar Fair were in talks to potentially merge into a behemoth theme park chain. By the following morning the two companies had confirmed that not only had they been in talks, but both of their groups had worked out all the terms of the deal and unanimously voted in favor of the merger. All that is left to make it official is to get regulatory approval as well as approval from the Six Flags stockholders. They did note that Six Flags biggest stockholder who holds over 13% of that chain had already submitted a letter confirming that they would vote in support of the merger.
    So except for the crossing of the “t”s and the dotting of the “i”s, this is essentially a done deal at this point. The new company will work under the “Six Flags” brand name, however the stock will trade under Cedar Fair’s “FUN” stock ticker code. Combining Cedar Fair’s 15 park gates with Six Flags’ 27 park gates will give the new combined “Six Flags” company a grand total of 42 park gates, along with 9 resort properties located across the US, Canada and Mexico. (See the Property Map)
    Sitting down and doing my own research on the reach of each company, I was surprised to see that there was actually very little conflict in the merger of the two’s various markets, with the worst being the super competitive Southern California market. In So Cal they will have the thrill ride capital Six Flags Magic Mountain and family favorite Knott’s Berry Farm located just 60 miles apart, but the two attractions also are popular with some very different demographics and feature very different attraction lineups.
    Like the old ads used to say, “Go Big! Go Six Flags”!
    So will they rename all the parks under the Six Flags banner or will we see many of Cedar Fair parks retain their individual brands, some of which are just as old and well known as the Six Flags brand. Then there is the Knott’s brand that could be considered an IP of its very own that could also be applied to perhaps rebrand a few select properties that may be getting lost in the shuffle. And what about those smaller underperforming parks? Could we see a few closures or sell-offs? In general… what could the future hold as these two giants merge and will there be bigger conflicts?
    Probably a few, and I’ve got some big ideas about where some of the first bumps in the road may occur, but I’ll discuss that along with a full breakdown of the deal in my next update, coming very very soon.
 
    (9/1/2023) Cedar Fair announced this morning that Matt Ouimet has departed the company’s Board of Directors to pursue other personal interests. Ouimet joined Cedar Fair as company President in 2011, and then took over the CEO spot in 2012 before stepping down and handing the reins to Richard Zimmerman in late 2017.
    Prior to Cedar Fair, Ouimet spent about 17 years with The Walt Disney Company, including acting as President of the Disneyland Resort as well as the Disney Cruise Line before leaving Disney entirely in 2006.
 
    (8/5/2023) Cedar Fair released their Q2 2023 earnings report the other day, which covers the three month period up to June 25, 2023, along with an investor conference call. The statements on the call start off by mentioning that the demand at parks impacted by “disruptive weather” early on in Q2 “strengthened as weather conditions improved” and essentially they were able to get back to normal summer operations once mother nature calmed down. This resulted in net revenues being down 2% from the same quarter the year before where the chain performed well, but in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, Q2 2023 was actually up 11% from Q2 2019. Performance trends for the rest of the quarter and leading into Q3 2023 “are improving as we head into the second half of the year when we historically generate two-thirds of our annual attendance and revenues and more than 80% of our adjusted EBITDA. ”
    The weather in Q2 2023 had an impact on the performance levels at the park’s California and North-Eastern parks, including a number of stand-alone waterparks where cooler temperatures had a strong impact. Meanwhile air-quality issues due to the Canadian Wildfires also had an effect on attendance at several parks, especially at Canada’s Wonderland. On the flip-side they reported that attendance at the chain’s six mid-west parks was actually up 7% for the first half of 2023, compared to the same time period the year before.
    Across the chain however guest per-cap spending was reported to be up 4% this year and a new more friendly mobile app is in development to launch in a few parks later this year, and chain wide in Spring 2024 that will improve upon mobile payment options. Cedar Fair also noted that Group Sales is recovering well after essentially being decimated by the pandemic for the past few years, with an 11% improvement seen during the first half of 2023 compared to 2022.
    Going forward for the rest of the season they are taking actions to drive revenues and attendance higher which depending on the market could take the form of increased marketing promotions for single-day and season pass offerings. It also sounds like they are looking at ways to make small cost reductions, including from the labor budget. (Note: while I can’t comment on how every park is handling their labor issues right now, I have read several reader comments sent my way who felt their visit to a Cedar Fair park was impacted by poor staffing issues this season.)
    As for the rest of the hard numbers for Q2 2023, Cedar Fair reported attendance of 7.4 million guests (down from 7.8 in 2022) and net revenues of $501 million (down from $509 million in 2022). Guest spending is up compared to 2022, and interestingly enough it was only 1% due to admission and 3% for merchandise, the big increase was from the chain’s food and beverage operations which brought in a 9% increase.
    Going forward Cedar Fair also mentioned the imminent launch of 2024 season pass sales. Since the 2023 season pass program has fallen short of their goals, they claim they will focus on “starting out with more attractive pricing in key markets to build demand earlier in the cycle.” After specific volume thresholds have been reached, it sounds like the prices will increase through various levels. We can expect to see the initial pricing launch very soon, along with the announcements of a number of new for 2024 attractions.
    Another interesting subject was brought up in the Q&A session where they mention that season pass sales for 2023 are down at the California parks: Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America. Cedar Fair will play it off as being likely weather related, and mention past trends they hope will kick-in where guests in those markets may skip on a 2023 but become quick buyers of 2024 passes instead.
    A quick note from Screamscape: Cedar Fair claimed that attendance at these two parks dropped 17% during Q2 due to “monsoon-like conditions” on those markets, but also a 9% drop in season pass sales. What Cedar Fair doesn’t mention is how the pending long-distance closure announced for California’s Great America as well as the extended downtime issues (since 2022) for two major roller coasters at Knott’s (Montezooma’s Revenge and Xcelerator) may be impacting the daily attendance numbers as well as the season pass sales issues in those markets. As the roller coaster issues at Knott’s may not resolve themselves until sometime in 2024, I do wonder if we may see the season pass issues there last longer than Cedar Fair anticipates, unless they’re planning on launching some deeply discounted promotions.

 

icon_STOPDisney - (5/11/2024) The Walt Disney Company posted their Q2 2024 / 6-Months earning report this week, for the time period ending March 30, 2024. Focusing on just the company's parks & experiences results, they reported a 10% increase in revenue for the latest quarter, compared to the same time period in 2023, with the biggest increase coming from the International parks division that saw a 29% increase in revenue compared to Domestic parks that only saw a 7% increase.
    Higher results for the quarter domestically were attributed to increase guest spending at Walt Disney World due to higher ticket prices, as well as growth from the Disney Cruise Line, also due to “an increase in average ticket prices”. However, the Disneyland Resort saw less growth due to higher operational costs driven by inflation, and increases in guest spending (due to higher ticket costs once again) were also offset by hotels with “lower occupied room nights.”
    On the international front, the company saw huge growth in guest spending from rising ticket, food, and merchandise pricing, as well as increased attendance at the parks, as well as high occupancy rates at the hotels, all of which was aided by the opening of the new World of Frozen land in November 2023.
    So with all this in mind, the sudden launch of a discounted ticket offer at the Disneyland Resort parks now makes a lot more sense, though it’s clear that they have opted to keep the reservation system in place to help keep things in check somewhat.
 
    (2/10/2024) With the deal now officially in the works between Disney and Epic Games that seems poised to create an online Disney Metaverse, the OC Register poses an interesting question of their own. With Disney moving into the world of Fortnite, how long until the characters, events and world of Fortnite begins to emerge into the Disney theme parks as well?
 
    (2/9/2024) Disney shocked the world this week when they announced that they were spending $1.5 Billion to purchase an ‘equity stake’ in Epic Games, the creators of the smash hit video game world, Fortnite. While the final intentions of this deal were left a little vague, I think Polygon has put together rather nicely an example of what we will likely see unfold from the collaboration.
   In short… a MetaVerse… which has become an awful buzz-word over the past year or two to the point where it has kind of lost any true meaning. In the hands of Epic Games and Disney together however, this could become something very real and very cool to witness, with unlimited possibilities of just what they could achieve. This could go beyond simple video game / multi-media cross promotion, and into the realm of creating a virtual multi-verse to play in, based on all of the Disney empire’s vast vault of IPs.
 
    (2/8/2024) According to comments made by Disney CEO, Bob Iger, the company is now planning to invest $60 Billion into their experiences, theme parks and cruise line businesses over the next decade, with about 70% of that sum slated towards projects that will go towards growth and increased capacity options across all of their locations, as well as the already planned addition of three new ships to the Disney Cruise Line: Disney Treasure, Disney Adventure and the final Triton class vessel that has yet to be named.
 
    (1/20/2024) While not quite theme park news, the Director of Disney’s new TRON 3 film confirmed on social media that filming has now started. For Disney theme park fans hoping for more Tron themed attractions to arrive, or at least bring a Tron Lightcycle/Run style coaster to California, this is a positive sign that Disney is still investing in the IP.

 
    (12/2/2023) After countless extensions, as well as leaving and coming back, it may be hard to believe this date will hold, but Disney CEO, Bob Iger, has confirmed that he will retire once again at the end of 2026. According to an interview with the New York Times, Iger says he will definitely be leaving at the end of his current contract.
    A major part of this, and one of the main reasons he returned in the first place in 2022, was to select a true successor to lead The Walt Disney Company in his wake. Of course, the last time this all went down was when Iger and the company selected Bob Chapek to lead the company, and that didn’t go well.
 
    (12/1/2023) In an interesting session, CNBC reports that Disney’s Bob Iger “acknowledged his company has focused too much on movie messaging and not enough on quality storytelling” in their latest projects. I really hate to say it, but obviously this seems to be their answer to those who have criticized the company in the past few years for being “too woke”.
    Now I’m not going to dig into that mosh-pit of a hole since these days, people on either side of the issue can’t seem to help but make snipe-comments at each other online, so we’re just not going to go there.
    Sticking to the facts, Bob Iger apparently said that that he will no longer tolerate Disney partners and creative teams in prioritizing messaging over storytelling. According to Iger, “Creators lost sight of what their No. 1 objective needed to be” and that “We have to entertain frist. It’s not about messages.”
    Iger has also put measures in place to cut back the number of productions in 2024 and beyond in order to focus more on the quality of the fewer projects that are moving forward. This does make sense as the performance of a number of Disney productions has been rather lackluster throughout 2023, other than the box office for Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
    Personally, I’m usually a Disney fan, but a bigger Star Wars and Marvel fan, and while those two lines have been ok in my opinion, I do think Disney’s animation production arm has been a bit bland as of late. The new animated film “Wish” is a perfect example, as a product that didn’t even inspire me to bother seeing it in the theaters. Instead I’ve been more likely to just wait it out and watch them on Disney+ instead, which is probably very telling of the issue.
 
    (11/12/2023) The Walt Disney Company has released their Q4 2023 and Full Year results report. While the stock has been somewhat hammered by investors over the year, the company has confirmed that the Parks and Experiences division has achieved double-digit growth not only for Q4, but for the entire year. Regardless of how the rest of the company’s divisions are going, the theme park division saw income rise 31% in Q4 compared to the same time-frame last year, and up 23% for the entire year over the previous year’s performance.
    While there are still ongoing issues with the performance of the company’s film, streaming and ESPN divisions, Iger announced that moving forward they are moving away from the cost savings focus they’ve had since the pandemic, and will be pushing more into a period of growth for the company. This will include a focus on “achieving significant and sustained profitability” to their streaming platforms, building up ESPN, improving both the quality and costs involved with their studio projects and “Turbocharging growth in our Experiences business”.
    In terms of the company’s theme parks, we know the best way to grow is typically through the addition of significant capital expansion projects. Since Iger has returned to the helm at Disney, he has been teasing a plan to spend upwards of $60 BILLION (yes, with a B) on their Parks and Experiences division over the next decade. We already know that new ships are already in the works for the Disney Cruise Line that will launch over the next three years. Disney has already begun to heavily in the parks over the past several years. This has resulted in large-scale expansions to most of their parks, with more expected to open within the next year or so. This has included two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, a Frozen themed land in Hong Kong with a second under construction in Paris, the Pandora themed world in Florida, Avengers Campus additions in California, Hong Kong and Paris, a Zootopia land opening soon in Shanghai along with major new stand-alone attractions such as Tron: Lightcycle/Run (WDW), two Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway attractions (WDW & DL), Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (WDW), and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (WDW).
    It should be interesting to see how an even bigger focus on growth at the theme parks would take form, and if this could possibly result in the long-anticipated addition of a 5th major theme park for Walt Disney World that could serve as the biggest way to grow attendance.
 
    (10/29/2023) According to a Disney Executive in charge of Disney’s live entertainment, parades and nighttime spectaculars, “Drones are the next thing” we should expect to see coming to the Disney park’s after dark shows. During a panel discussion about the new season of “Behind the Attractions” coming to Disney+ next week, Steven Davidson mentioned Drones, saying “They’re kind of a new thing. We’re doing a lot of work in that. So all I’m going to say is, ‘There’s more to come.’”
    Thus far Disney has already produced a couple of night shows at the Disneyland Paris theme parks that features drones lighting up the night sky in 2022 and 2023. As far as the US parks show, I believe the only times drones have been used was during an early limited time holiday show put on in Florida at Disney Springs in 2016.
    If I had to guess, I’d say we could probably expect to see them arrive at Disneyland first, where the locals who live around the park have been known to complain about the noise and debris leftover from that park’s fireworks shows, and adding Drones to the sky there would appease some of those complaints, especially at a time when the company is looking to win local approval to expand those park and parking infrastructure for the forseeable future. Florida’s more tricky and eletrical-prone weather issues might make Drone performances more of a seasonal thing.
   
 
    (10/1/2023) It seems Disney filed for a few unique patents over the past week, some theme park related and some not, though in the midsts of this list, which included a a patent to program 2-legged walking animatronics to have stylized walking gaits, there was an interesting one for a new ride concept.
    Or rather, a new feature that could be used with various ride concepts. The idea was to create a method of transferring a ride passenger compartment or vehicle between different ride tracks or systems through the use “robotic tool changers”. In the concept art one of these appears to be a large KUKA style robotic arm able to lift a pair of seats from one rotating platform and place it onto a track system.
    The idea is interesting, though this is just for a patent and as such, we may never actually see it put to use anywhere. Still, the idea would be great for an attraction as a way to break riders away from the concept of thinking they know the path a ride will take, only to be grabbed and placed upon a new unknown path.
 
    (9/20/2023) Disney has announced that they plan on spending about $60 billion on their theme parks and experiences over the next decade. According to a statement from Bob Iger (CEO), “We’re incredibly mindful of the financial underpinning of the company, the need to continue to grow in terms of bottom line, the need to invest wisely so that we’re increasing the returns on invested capital, and the need to maintain a balance sheet, for a variety of reasons.” “The company is able to absorb those costs and continue to grow the bottom line and look expansively at how we return value and capital to our shareholders.”
    The impressive $60 billion figure is said to be about twice the amount that Disney spent over the previous decade. Keep in mind that this sum will be spread out amongst several different parks and resorts, across different continents. While we don’t know exactly how it will be allocated, a previous comment made by Iger back in May mentioned that they planned to spend about $17 billion alone on the Walt Disney World resort over the next decade.
    Josh D’Amaro (Chairman of Disney’s Parks) also commented on that Disney had “a bold vision for the future of our parks” and that there were plans to add more characters and franchises to them, many of which have only just begun to be tapped, and some have not yet been explored in the parks at all. For current examples of bringing new franchises into the parks they made note of the new Frozen and Zootopia themed lands preparing to open. As for things yet to be explored, he made specific mention of animated film Coco and the Marvel themed world of Wakanda as seen in the Black Panthers films.
 
    (8/10/2023) Disney released their latest quarterly report (Q3 2023) which is somewhat of a mixed bag. The bottom line is Disney is struggling a bit in various areas but despite it all, overall revenue saw 4% growth.
    On the down side of thing is the studio division that lacked the number of huge hits they normally are known for this quarter. Streaming may still be trying to find a foothold, as Disney confirmed they are planning on increasing prices for Disney+ and Hulu very soon. Revenue for the traditional TV network biz also saw a 7% decline, which caused Iger to suggest that perhaps they might shed them in the future.
    On the Theme Park Resorts and Cruises side of things, the company did show increased profits… a 13% increase all together, though they did confirm that attendance at Walt Disney World is down this year, but has been offset by attendance boosts in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
    The one really weird thing that was announced was that Disney has licensed out the ESPN brand to Penn Entertainment for $1.5 billion for Penn to rebrand an existing online sports betting service into “ESPN Bet”. To date, this would be Disney’s first venture into gambling of any kind, as even the Disney Cruise Line vessels do not feature a casino like other cruise ships do. Now, Disney isn’t going to own the online betting venture in any way, but they are willing to put one of their brands on the cover for the first time. This makes me wonder if ESPN itself may be something Disney could be willing to shed in the future, if the price offered was right, and perhaps why they are now willing to license out the brand right now.
 
    (7/15/2023) While Bob Iger is still in the middle of his return deal to serve as CEO of Disney, it seems the board has now decided to extend his contract an additional two years, which will now keep Bob Iger in the top slot until 2026. Back when Iger first returned, he said he wasn’t planning on staying any longer than the initial two-year run, in which time he was to help prepare a successor to take over as CEO.
    While Iger has been busy fixing up all the leaks in the house of the Mouse, and now dealing with the issue of DeSantis in Florida, one might assume that there just hasn't been any time to successfully find and begin grooming a successor to the empire.
 
    (2/12/2023) Bob Iger made some interesting comments the other day about the future of the Disney theme parks. For starters, it sounds like Iger is good with the current idea of keeping the Disney parks at reduced capacity in exchange for increasing the overall park experience by preventing the overcrowding issues that would come with removing the reservation system. At the same time, Iger also mentioned not wanting to continue the previous strategy of ever increasing ticket prices as a method of trimming attendance levels. 
    So how will Disney increase theme park profits if they don’t open the gates wide to increase attendance and aren’t planning on major price increases at this time? Really the only way would be to increase the capacity limits of the parks themselves by expanding them with not only new attractions, but new lands. By increasing the physical footprint of the park for guests, they will be able to then increase attendance levels without causing the guest experience to suffer. The addition of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at DIsneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios parks as well as the Pandora: The World of AVATAR land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park were sited as key examples. So it should be interesting to see just what grand plans Disney has in mind in order to expand their theme parks further. Of course, at some point, perhaps the idea of adding entirety new theme parks may also enter the conversation.    

 

Five Star Parks & Attractions - (5/26/2023) Five Star Parks & Attractions is growing again. According to this update the company who is one of the nation’s leading operators of family entertainment centers has now purchased two “Fun Land” locations in Virginia (Fredericksburg & Fairfax) following the purchase of Scene75 Entertainment earlier this month. With the addition of the two Fun Land properties, Five Star Parks & Attractions portfolio has grown to feature 27 different attractions across 13 different states. Other highlight attractions from Five Star includes Malibu Jack’s, Celebration Station, LaserPort, SpeedZone, The Track, Xtreme Racing centers and more.

 

icon_STOPHerschend Family Entertainment - (12/18/2023) In an interesting development, the local news reports that Dolly Parton and her partners at Herschend Family Entertainment has purchased a piece of property in downtown Nashville, TN. Unfortunately all the details about what is planned for the site are being kept under wraps, though one article has confirmed that the property in question is actually an 11-story office tower, located at 211 Commerce Street, purchased for $75 million.
    This isn’t an empty building either, as the office space is home to various tenants who have leased space in the building and is located half a block away from busy tourist destinations like Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, Jason Albean’s Kitchen and Kid Rock’s Rock & Roll Steakhouse. Given the eclectic nature of how this area of Nashville has been developed, there really is no telling if Dolly and company are planning to use the building as a future office for their own projects, or as some kind of attraction.
    This also wouldn’t be the first time that Dolly and Herschend have tried to get an attraction in the Nashville area. Long time readers may remember when Dolly announced a plan to build a combo water and snow park attraction attached to the Gaylord Opryland Resort about ten years ago. That project fell apart when Gaylord agreed to sell off their hotel properties and management to Marriott International just months after the project with Dolly was announced, resulting in Dolly and her team pulling out. Dolly has always seemed to want to expand her presence into an attraction of some kind in the Nashville area, so perhaps the purchase of the office building is simply a way to get a firm foothold in the area ahead of some other kind of project endeavor.
 
    (4/8/23) One of the big business stories to come from the pandemic was the purchase of the iconic Vancouver Aquarium in 2021 by Herschend Family Entertainment. While Herschend is normally more known for their major theme parks, such as Dollywood, Silver Dollar City or Kentucky Kingdom, they also own and operate a number of smaller regional attractions such as the Pink Adventure Tours, various dinner theaters (Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage, Showboat Branson Belle), as well as the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey and Newport Aquarium in KY. In what was described as a once in the lifetime opportunity, the opportunity to purchase and save the world renown Vancouver Aquarium took place in 2021.
    The pandemic just rocked the Vancouver Aquarium to the core after shutting down operations completely in early 2020 while still needing to take care of the over 65,000 animals contained within on a daily basis. A great new article at Blooloop goes over the history of the Vancouver Aquarium and how this not-for-profit facility suddenly found itself on the brink of extinction. 

 

icon_STOPMeow Wolf - (5/4/2024) According to the OC Register, Meow Wolf is now planning to open another permanent location, this time in Los Angeles. According to the article the new location is expected to open in 2026 and take over a space previously used as a movie theater.
 
    (7/4/2023) The latest Meow Wolf location is set to open in Grapevine, Texas on July 14th. Each location has a unique name and theme, with the Grapevine location being called, “The Real Unreal”. Follow the link for some sneak preview photos of this latest location.
 
    (3/29/23) Dealing with gateways and portals to other worlds is nothing new for the creatives at Meow Wolf, but now they’re working on enabling their fans to get a taste of one of Meow Wolf’s worlds through VR. According to this report, Meow Wolf is working with Mighty Coconut to create ‘Walkabout Mini Golf: Meow Wolf”, an VR mini-golf course world based on the same Numina world guests to their Denver “Convergence Station” location get to experience.  

 

Merlin Entertainment - (3/29/2024) I’m really not a fan of the concept myself, but LEGOLAND California has announced that they pant to bring “surge pricing” to the park’s ticket sales in the near future. Surge Pricing, also known as Dynamic Pricing, is something you are likely familiar with when it comes to buying tickets for Airlines, or booking a hotel room for the night. The more crowded or popular a date has become, or based on how popular a date is expected to become, the price will go up. For example, if you are visiting Legoland on a weekend your tickets will likely cost you more than if you had visited on a weekday. Planning a visit on a busy holiday, or on a day where extra crowds are expected due to a special seasonal event taking place, then you can expect to pay an even higher premium for those theme park tickets.
    Of course, in theory, the practice could benefit some guests, by lowering ticket prices on days when the park is expecting to have very low attendance. But as i said… that’s part of the theory, much like booking a hotel room, pricing rarely goes below a certain minimum level, regardless of how dead the park is expected to be on any given day. For example, we’ve seen how often parks will simply just opt to close down entirely on days when bad weather is expected.
    The switch over to surge pricing is something that is expected to come into play at various Merlin Entertainment attractions and theme parks around the world (SeaLife Aquariums,  Madame Tussauds wax museums, LEGO Discovery Centers, Peppa Pig Theme Park, etc…), and not just at Legoland California.
 
    (5/20/2023) Along with the opening of the new World of Jumanji themed land at Chessington in the UK and a pair of Jumanji attractions at Gardaland in Italy, Merlin Entertainment has reveals that they are working with Sony on plans to build more attractions, ride and lands based on Sony-owned IP. Apparently this is not just limited to Sony’s film vault, as they are also looking into ideas that could be based on Sony’s music, TV, anime and video-game franchises as well.
    The opening of Universal’s Nintendo video game themed land and attractions in Japan and Hollywood is something of a wake-up call, along with PortAventura in Spain preparing to open a new dark/coaster attraction themed around the Sony Playstation’s popular Uncharted game series which spawned a film adaptation last year.
    Of course this isn’t the first time Merlin and Sony have worked together, as you may recall that Heide Park in Germany opened an amazing looking Ghostbusters dark ride in 2017, and with the GhostBusters IP revived by the latest film, it would only be fitting if more attractions based on this IP were in development.
 
    (3/10/2023) Would you believe that Merlin is moving forward to build a second Peppa Pig Theme Park in the US? But it isn’t going where you think it might!
    Unlike how the first Peppa Pig Theme Park was built right next to the existing Legoland Florida theme park, Merlin’s plans for a sequel will now see them add a Peppa Pig Theme Park as a stand-alone project coming to the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area. More specifically, the plan is to build it in the “North Richland Hills” area, with work to start sometime next year. Much like the Florida park, this will be a small stand-alone park experience meant for smaller kids.
    Interestingly enough, this seems like a move from Merlin to try and capitalize on the marker and get their park open before Universal Studios can open their proposed new mini-park in Frisco. Unlike the Universal proposal, which will see a small part built in the northern side of the greater Dallas area, the Richland Hills area closer to the Fort Worth area, and a short 18 to 20 minute drive from Arlington, long-time home to Six Flags over Texas and maybe just 15 minutes away from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
    It should be interesting to see what kind of impact this news has on Six Flags. Especiallyin terms of what kind of steps or expanded development plans they may try to put into place in order to retain their long-time dominance as the premier theme park in the area once they are not the only game in town any longer.

 

Palace Entertainment - (7/9/2023) Shortly after Kennywood announced that the park would be closed on Tuesdays for the rest of the summer, we had heard this wasn’t just an issue with Kennywood, but an issue we would also soon see happen at other Palace Entertainment parks very soon. Looking at the posted operational schedules for other parks in the system, that time has now come.
    Adventureland will begin closing on Tuesdays for the rest of the summer starting on July 18, and closed on all weekdays starting Aug. 21st.
    Dutch Wonderland will be closed on Tuesdays for the rest of the summer starting July 11, with the exception of July 18, when the park will be closed on Wednesday, July 19th instead.
    Idlewild & Soakzone will be closed on Wednesdays for the rest of the summer starting on July 12.
    Lake Compounce will be closed one weekday a week for the rest of the summer starting this week, but the day will change from week to week. It will start with Wednesday July 12, then Tuesday July 18, then Monday July 24, go back to Tuesday Aug 1st, Wed. Aug 9th, then back to Tuesday Aug 15, before going to weekend only operations.
    Sandcastle is now closed on Mondays for the rest of the Summer season.
    Splish Splash is now closed on Tuesdays for the rest of July.
    Storyland is now closed on Tuesdays for the rest of the Summer season.
    Water Country is now closed on Mondays for the rest of the Summer season.

    Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe will be closed on Mondays for the rest of the season.
So far it looks like the California properties (Raging Waters & Castle Park) have been unaffected, but just to be sure, check your local attraction’s posted schedule before planning a trip to visit.

 

icon_STOPPuy du Fou - (1/16/2024) The trailer for Pud du Foy’s new “Saga City of Light” attraction experience can be found below, which will take guests back to 1930’s Shanghai. I’m not quite sure what to make of it based on the trailer, but it sure looks like something very unique.
Post by @passwonderland
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    (3/27/23) According to a Chinese news article, Hangzhouj (capital of China’s Zhejiang province) signed several contracts with various tourism projects. One of which was a 5 billion yuan investment contract with Puy du Fou that will include the construction of “a new riverside theme park in the city.” The government had been previously dropping hints about signing a deal to build a “world-class tourism park” and this was it.
    Puy du Fou has already launched a teaser website for this latest park project.
 
    (1/12/2023) Puy du Fou continues to expand their portfolio of unique attraction experiences.  the theme parks. In addition to two theme park experiences in Europe (France and Spain) the group is also working on stand-alone concepts in China and America, and now they’re looking to bring their unique entertainment style to the rails of Europe with the creation of “Le Grand Tour”.
    Puy du Fou’s “Le Grand Tour” experience will take travelers on a “6-day, 5-night Grand Tour journey across the railways of France starting in Summer 2023. From start to finish guests will travel about 4,000 km (2485.5 miles) in an authentic “Belle Epoque” train to experience a journey filled with history, wonder, legends and a few surprises along the way.
 
    (5/17/22) I hadn’t seen this before, but a tweet from Blooloop shares a look at concept art for the the “407: Gateway to Adventure” project, otherwise known as the gateway exit to Pigeon Forge where Puy du Fou is supposed to build a new stand-alone immersive attraction that will feature an authentic Cherokee story of the First World War. The artwork shows off a large building on the right with a rocky facade out front along with a large statue of what we assume to be a Cherokee soldier holding the American flag. According to the description, this and the surrounding complex of buildings will represent just phase 1 of the project.

 
    (5/7/22) According to a local news report the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has “inked a deal” with Puy du Fou to develop a “spectacular immersive show” to be installed as part of their 200-acre development project on I-40’s exit 407. This matches up with a previous report that Puy du Fou was looking at this location amongst others in Tennessee for a future project.
(This is also the same overall project area that will include the world’s largest Buc-ee’s location.)
    According to the report the tribal council that approved $75 million to move forward with Phase 1 of the site development as they seek out other world-class attractions that will appeal to the anticipated crowds (6.7 million visitors in the first year after phase 1 is complete). While the timeline is still fluid, they are hoping that this will all be ready before the end of 2024.
    The creative team at Puy du Fou has been able to create fascinating attractions and shows based on actual historic events and timelines and according to a statement from the Tribal Council, “We are excited to take the first steps towards developing this world-class attraction that will help support our nation economically while creating a new platform to share dimensions of Cherokee history many have never heard.”
    The early description of the Tennessee site is not going to be as massive as the full Puy du Fou theme park in France, Instead Puy du Fou will create an “immersive walk-through show inspired by the journeys of Cherokee Indians who served in World War I” that should be a “patriotic and moving journey for the entire family.”
    As North America is considered “the new world” in terms of the overall history of the planet, the location is also rich with a variety of historic events and cultures that would serve as an excellent landing point for the Puy du Fou team who is rumored to be looking to expand into new locations across the world.

 

icon_STOPSeaWorld Parks & Entertainment - (2/5/2024) Despite the fact that the chain is now set to change their name from SeaWorld Entertainment to the generic sounding, “United Parks & Resorts Inc.”, the three SeaWorld parks will launch into a planned 60th anniversary celebration event called “So Much More to Sea!” starting on March 21st… the same day that the very first SeaWorld park opened in San Diego back in 1964.
    “SeaWorld is inviting guests to dive deeper and explore more than ever before, including sharing history and milestones in park and through digital channels. The party officially gets started across the parks on Thursday, March 21 – 60 years to the day that SeaWorld opened its gates for the first time in 1964. The anniversary kick-off party will be in full swing into the weekend, continuing through Sunday, March 24, and anniversary celebrations  will continue with more special events and experiences coming this summer. Guests are invited to share their favorite SeaWorld memories over the past six decades and throughout the anniversary celebrations using #SeaWorld60.”
    Across the chain look for new rides to open like Catapult Falls in the Texas park and Peguin Trek in Orlando, all new shows at each park, new character parades, along with special 60th Anniversary special food & beverage offers, themed merchandise and exclusive collectibles.
 
    (2/1/2024) In a rather strange bit of news, SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that the theme park chain will be changing their corporate name to “United Parks & Resorts Inc.” effective Feb. 12, 2024. The stock ticker will also change from SEAS to PRKS as of Feb. 13, 2024.
    They were quick to note that none of the individual parks themselves will be changing their names, and keep all their traditional branding as SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, Sesame Place, etc. So the question is… why is this happening? Obviously the “SeaWorld” brand has become a very well known IP brand across the planet, so why change gears so drastically to a name that may be considered a bit generic sounding?
    According to the statement from the company, “Our new company name, United Parks & Resorts Inc., better reflects that we have been, and will continue to be, a diverse collection of park brands and experiences. Each of our iconic parks, including the four SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego and Abu Dhabi, will continue to operate under the same names our guests know and love. What also remains unchanged is our deep commitment to creating experiences that matter for our guests and inspiring them to help protect animals and the wild wonders of the world,” said Marc Swanson, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.
    So beyond this… what is really going on? For one, this seems a bit rushed, as they didn’t even have a new logo for the new company name to present in the press release, or online at the official corporate website. Meanwhile there has been speculation for quite some time now that the chain felt that their “SeaWorld” brand name had become irreversibly damaged by the Blackfish film and propaganda.
     While they stood by the brand for all these years, and seemingly have worked hard to get the company back on track once again, suddenly changing their tactics and brand identity to “United Parks & Resorts” indicates to me that there may be other reasons. These may not become clear right now, as this may be more of a “long game” endeavor. This could possibly be an effort to have a more clean-slate if they were to possibly try to sell or merge the company with someone else down the line. Either way, SEAS will soon be no more as United becomes the new face of the company.
 
    (11/9/2023) SeaWorld Entertainment reported their Q3 2023 quarter earnings this week, with the chain bringing in 7.1 million guests during the quarter, down 2.8% from Q3 2022. Total Revenue dropped 3% to $548.2 million, Net income was down 8.2% to $123.6 million. Total guest PerCap spending was down 0.2% to $76.90, from a 1.6% decrease in admissions PerCap, while in-park spending was up 1.6%.
    Overall attendance for the first 9 months of 2023 was 16.6 million guests across the chain, which was down 2.1% from the first 9 months of 2022. The rest of the 9-month numbers also follow the trend of the Q3 downs with small declines, with the exception of PerCap spending was up 1.9% over the first 9 months. SeaWorld also reported buying back 78,750 shares in the company for $3.9 million.
 
    (8/3/2023) While SeaWorld Entertainment has not released their Q2 2023 report yet, they have a conference call to take place on August 8th at 9am, which will likely be just after the report has been released. That said, the company did make an announcement on August 1st with some “preliminary” results, to help set expectations.
    While they are still crunching the numbers, the preliminary attendance for the quarter ending June 30th, 2023 was 6.1 million, down from 6.3 million from the same quarter in 2022. According to the statement, they are placing the blame for the small attendance drop on “adverse weather” conditions that affected several of their major markets.
    Total revenue is expected to be between $494 to $497 million, down from a reported $504.8 million in Q2 2022, which of course they are blaming on the attendance drop, which was blamed on weather. Net Income is expected to be between $85 to $88 million, down from $116.6 million in Q2 2022, and so on with other similar statistics. The end result is they seem to be trying to release the bad news now, ahead of the final report coming next week.

 

icon_STOPSix Flags - (5/12/2024) Six Flags posted their Q1 2024 earning report this past week, which did not meet the goals analysts were hoping for. Revenue for the theme park chain was down 6% to $133 million when compared to the same time period from the previous year. Net Loss increased by 18% compared to the previous year, along with reported drops in EBITDA (down $26 million, compared to $17 million in Q1 2023), and data showing PerCap spending was down 8%. The main positive note was that attendance at the parks is up 6% in comparison to the same time period in 2023, which does bode well for the future if they can convert it into better financial performance once the merger with Cedar Fair is complete.
    It also appears that investors are also taking this point of view, as the company’s stock price actually increased by about 2.7% (trading at $27.24 as of this writing) from where it was prior to the earnings report release.
 
    (5/11/2024) According to an update posted by Blooloop, both Six Flags and Cedar Fair has confirmed that they expect to close the merger deal in the very near future. The current timeline shows that the deal is expected to be finalized before the end of the second quarter and recent refinancing arrangements made by both companies are successfully propelling them towards that goal. 
 
    (5/3/2024) Six Flags has confirmed that they are upgrading the chain’s mobile app to be smarter and more helpful through the use of AI. The hopes is that the upgrades will help improve the in-park guest experience on the surface, while aiding the park itself on the backside of things. Expect to see improvements made to how you can order food through the park, park entry, and even navigation through the park to the attractions you want to experience.
    Oh, and that Missi Six character we discovered in the trademark database filing will be a digital AI assistant built into the app as well as a new version of the Six Flags website that will launch this year. According to what Six Flags is saying, new smart technology will be embedded throughout their theme parks allowing guests to get real-time updates about attraction line lengths, making it easy for you to find and purchase on-ride photos and more.
 
    (4/21/2024) Six Flags has announced that they will announce their Q1 2024 earning report on May 9th, 2024. As usual, an investor call will follow afterwards at 8am Eastern that you can listen in to on the investor site or over the phone by calling 833-629-0614 in the US, or 1-412-317-9257 if you are outside the US.
    This is very likely the last investor call to take place with the current management of Six Flags, as the merger with Cedar Fair is expected to take place sometime over the next few months where management of both companies will merge to form an all new version of Six Flags going forward, with key members of Cedar Fair expected to take over many of the power positions going forward.
 
    (4/14/2024) In a fun little twist… a reader sent in this image today taken in the queue for Mr. Freeze at Six Flags over Texas this weekend. Any SFOT regulars out there able to confirm if this is new, old, or photoshop? Regardless, there seems to be a huge desire out there for the return of Mr. Six.


2024_0410_Trademark_Missi Six

    (4/10/2024) While I’m not entirely sure what this is for yet, Six Flags has filed for an interesting sounding new trademark to use the name “Quantum Accelerator” for future use. At this point, this could be for just about anything, at any given park. Pending the merger with Cedar Fair is finalized this summer, you can include the various Cedar Fair parks into that big list of potential locations as well.
    Is it a potential new ride name? Sure sounds possible… the name Quantum Accelerator sounds like some kind of launched coaster or speedy spinning ride, doesn’t it? Of course, I could also see them using it as a name for one of those cut to the front of the line passes, like Disney’s Lightning Lane.
    Six Flags also filed for another interesting trademark this week… “Missi Six”. This really sounds like a potential follow up companion to Mr. Six, doesn’t it? And we know Six Flags has been sort of teasing the possible return of Mr Six or perhaps just the return to some kind of similar marking campaign over the past few weeks. If  you need more proof, there is a second filing for the name, “SIX FLAGS AND MISSI SIX”. In fact, Six Flags was nice enough to even include a picture of a blond female in a blue polo shirt wearing a Six Flags nametag with the name, “MISSI SIX” on it. So I think we’re on to something here…
 
    (3/29/2024) A week later and Six Flags offers another small teaser featuring the Vengaboys “We like to Party”. This one is a bit more straight forward, with the text claiming that “The secret is out: we like to party” along with a video that seems more like a straight forward Six Flags style ad that end with that may be their summer of 2024 tagline, “Go All Out”.
    So is this the end-game for the previous weeks teaser and they just successfully trolled the nation into thinking the “Mr Six” character was returning, or will there be more to come? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

 
    (3/21/2024) Six Flags might just be about to make a lot of fans very happy based on their latest social media teaser.
    The quiet silence of a Six Flags park, early in the morning is broken when a post-it note saying “Play Me” is discovered sitting upon a small boombox. The song that starts to play is no other than ‘We Like To Party” by the Vengaboys.
    This along with the text that comes next confirming that “The Party Is Coming” should give you a pretty good idea as to what may be coming next.
   It sure sounds like Six Flags has dropped a major teaser about the return of their famous icon, the dancing old guy… Mr. Six. Of course, keep in mind that April 1st is just around the corner, and this could all just be a huge April Fools Prank and well. Either way, the fan reaction is going to be interesting to see.
    So are you ready for the return of Mr. Six, or were you not a fan? Of course for our younger readers... this may be their first introduction to this once popular and viral character.

 
    (3/15/2024) While nothing has been finalized yet, the Six Flags stockholders did vote in an overwhelming majority to approve the corporate merger with Cedar Fair this week. According to the reports the vote was over 67.36 million in favor of the merger vs 195,471 votes opposed to it.
    As a reminder, keep in mind that Cedar Fair unit holders to not get to hold a vote, so the next step in the process is to wait and see if the US Department of Justice will sign their own approval of the merger, based on if they have any major anti-trust concerns that need to be addressed. There could be a few kinks in the road here that were not previously expected, as the DOJ has already blocked several major deals over the past year, such as the high profile block stopping the merger of Jet Blue and Spirit airlines. Other blocks in discussion right now also include the merger of Kroger & Albertsons grocery stores, Capital One & Discover, and a merger of Hawaiian and Alaskan Airlines, so with this in mind it is still possible that Six Flags and Cedar Fair could find themselves in the DOJ’s cross-hairs.
    More than likely however, most believe that the DOJ will either allow the theme park merger to either proceed without interference, or allow it to proceed as long as a few terms are agreed upon, which could possibly involve the sale of park or two, or the dropping of a few management contracts for properties that they do not own such as Darien Lake or Frontier City.
 
    (3/10/2024) If you are a Six Flags season passholder, it sounds like the chain may be making the new Speedy Parking feature as an included benefit if your pass level also includes free parking. Previously I believe this was rolled out as a small upcharge for passholders, but now I’m being told that you should be able to register your vehicle online to receive the free Speedy Parking access at your designated Home Park. It should be worth looking into, as Speedy Parking seems to be in the process of being installed throughout the chain, and while the implementation is different in each location, based on what I’ve been hearing, in most cases there are more Speedy Parking lanes than staffed regular paid parking lanes, so this should in theory speed up your entry into the lot.
    Unfortunately, in some locations, I’m hearing that the signage showing off which lane is for who isn’t clear, casing a lot of cars being forced to shift at the last second into different lanes, causing traffic backups, so your mileage may vary.
 
    (2/8/2024) Six Flags has confirmed that they will release the chain’s Q4 and Full Year 2023 earnings report on Thursday, February 29, 2024. This will be followed by the traditional investor call, which you can listed in to via the corporate investor website or over the phone by calling 833-629-0614.
    This should be an interesting one, as it will likely be the last investor call before the merger of Six Flags and Cedar Fair pushes through.
 
    (1/24/2024) According to an update at Reuters, the Department of Justice has quested additional information to be sent in regarding the proposed merger of Six Flags and Cedar Fair. From what I’ve heard, this is not an unusual request for a deal of this size, with the goal to be able to respond to all the DOJ injuries on or before a May 2nd due date, which would still allow for the merger deal to close in the first half of 2024.
    For those who have read about how the proposed deal to merge Jet Blue and Spirit airlines together has just been blocked, this is not a step in that direction. The DOJ is simply seeking more information about the proposed merger from the two groups at this time and essentially doing their job to determine that nothing looks fishy at this time.
 
    (1/21/2024) Six Flags has announced that they are at the center of “the largest digital alliance in theme park history”, by inking partnership deals with Google, Dell, Snowflake, HCL Tech, Fueled, and Pure Imagination Studios. The tech alliance will be focused on using technology to improve and enhance the guest experience throughout their visit, as well as provide new benefits to Six Flags team members.
    Google Cloud will be used as the new primary Cloud as well as AI innovation partner, with Dell to also help with “generative AI” as well as providing the hardware needed to improve the guest experience. HCL will be behind “digital transformation initiatives”, Snowflake to bring in their Data Cloud, Fueled will design and develop mobile application software and Pure Imagination Studios “will offer an enhanced level of innovation in AR, VR and animation that will bring Six Flags into the metaverse and the future of experiential entertainment”.
 
    (1/15/2024) I didn’t catch this before, but according to an SEC filing from Six Flags, it seems that the current Six Flags CEO, Selim Bassoul, will be getting a substantial bonus for seeing the merger between Cedar Fair and Six Flags go through. If you download the PDF of the Dec. 20, 2023 filing of Form 8-K, and scroll down to page 6 you’ll come across a section directed at Selim with the subject of “Closing Bonus”.
    In exchange for Selim’s ‘continued contributions’ to the company as they begin the Merger Agreement of the two companies, Selim will earn a “Closing Bonus” that is worth $3 million. The bonus was to be paid out as $1.5 million in the form of restricted stock as of Dec. 31st, 2023 and then another another $1.5 million as cash lump-sum upon the successful closing of the merger deal.
 
    (12/30/2023) According to Seeking Alpha, Six Flags and Cedar Fair briefly pulled their merger documents on Wednesday with the government to refile them on Thursday under the HSR Act, which has extended the “waiting period” to Jan. 22, 2024.
    According to the FTC, filing under the HSR Act (also known as the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976) has the companies file their premerger notifications with both the FTC and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and “establishes waiting periods that must elapse before such acquisitions may be consummated and authorizes the enforcement agencies to stay those periods until the companies provide certain additional information about the likelihood that the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.“
    For those wonder, both Cedar Fair (FUN) and Six Flags (SIX) have seen their individual stock prices rise since the rumor that the two were planning a merger emerged at the start of November, and then confirmed on November 2nd. FUN has since seen their stock price rise from trading at $35.50 on October 31st to $39.80 currently, and SIX has jumped from $19.90 to $25.08 currently over the same time period.
 
    (12/11/2023) You may recall in early 2023, a large investor in Six Flags named Land & Buildings Investment Management was urging the company to enter into lease-back agreements for much of their property under their theme parks. This is never a good idea for any theme park and is often seen as a sign of a park on its last legs, grasping at any bit of financial aid to keep from going under.
    Well, Land & Buildings was obviously not a fan of the merger between Six Flags and Cedar Fair that was announced back in November and they issued their own statement at the time just to let everyone know how they felt about it. The good news is that since then Land & Buildings must have realized they would have no such luck convincing the soon to be combined mega-theme park giant after the merger and have started to quickly sell off a large number of their shares in Six Flags. According to MarketBeat, they have already sold off 38.7% of their shares this quarter, dropping from 859,916 shares down to just 541,825 shares.
 
    (12/1/2023) As far as waves go, this may be a small one, but a press release has gone out saying that a law firm is now investigating the proposed merger of Six Flags and Cedar Fair. Their main goal isn’t to stop it, but rather to confirm if current Six Flags stockholders are being compensated enough, as they will only receive .58 shares of common stock in the new company for each one they currently own, compared to Cedar Fair unitholders who will get a 1-to-1 exchange.
    I believe this was explained in the merger announcement as Cedar Fair’s price had been trading much higher than Six Flags stock at the time, but I don’t know all the details.
 
    (11/13/2023) Six Flags released their Q3 2023 earning report last week, which I think many overlooked at the time, as we were still reeling from the news that Six Flags and Cedar Fair were going to merge into one giant company. So how did Six Flags do this past quarter?
    Compared to the same quarter in the previous year, Total Revenue was up 8% to $547 million, however Net Income was down 3% to just $111 million. Attendance however was up a whopping 16% for Q3, serving 9.3 million guests compared to just 8 million in 2022. However, while attendance may have risen, guest spending PerCaps were down 8% to $56.37 per guests, compared to $60.96 last year, where the biggest loss seemed to come from admissions PerCaps which was down 12%. Of course, if you followed the constantly changing annual pass price offers that the company experimented with starting last year, this drop makes a little more sense.
    In terms of the overall numbers for the first 9-months of 2023, Total Revnue was  up 5%, Net income was down 33%, and attendance across the chain was up 9% to 17.9 million guests. While I didn’t see an exact figure, they did mention that year-to-date Season Pass Sales for 2023 was much higher than what they say during the same time period in 2022.
    Unlike during previous quarter releases, Six Flag actually canceled their previously planned conference call, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that the merger of Six Flags and Cedar Fair was announced later that same day.
 
    (11/7/2023) For all the details that we know about the Cedar Fair / Six Flags merger, please jump over to Blooloop to read my official report there. In addition to the facts, it includes some of my own analysis about the setup of the merger, and what it could mean for the parks in select markets.
 
    (11/4/2023) The theme park industry was rocked to the core this past week when on November 1st it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that Six Flags and Cedar Fair were in talks to potentially merge into a behemoth theme park chain. By the following morning the two companies had confirmed that not only had they been in talks, but both of their groups had worked out all the terms of the deal and unanimously voted in favor of the merger. All that is left to make it official is to get regulatory approval as well as approval from the Six Flags stockholders. They did note that Six Flags biggest stockholder who holds over 13% of that chain had already submitted a letter confirming that they would vote in support of the merger.
    So except for the crossing of the “t”s and the dotting of the “i”s, this is essentially a done deal at this point. The new company will work under the “Six Flags” brand name, however the stock will trade under Cedar Fair’s “FUN” stock ticker code. Combining Cedar Fair’s 15 park gates with Six Flags’ 27 park gates will give the new combined “Six Flags” company a grand total of 42 park gates, along with 9 resort properties located across the US, Canada and Mexico. (See the Property Map)
    Sitting down and doing my own research on the reach of each company, I was surprised to see that there was actually very little conflict in the merger of the two’s various markets, with the worst being the super competitive Southern California market. In So Cal they will have the thrill ride capital Six Flags Magic Mountain and family favorite Knott’s Berry Farm located just 60 miles apart, but the two attractions also are popular with some very different demographics and feature very different attraction lineups.
 

2023_1103_CF-SF_MAP

    Like the old ads used to say, “Go Big! Go Six Flags”!
    So will they rename all the parks under the Six Flags banner or will we see many of Cedar Fair parks retain their individual brands, some of which are just as old and well known as the Six Flags brand. Then there is the Knott’s brand that could be considered an IP of its very own that could also be applied to perhaps rebrand a few select properties that may be getting lost in the shuffle. And what about those smaller underperforming parks? Could we see a few closures or sell-offs? In general… what could the future hold as these two giants merge and will there be bigger conflicts?
    Probably a few, and I’ve got some big ideas about where some of the first bumps in the road may occur, but I’ll discuss that along with a full breakdown of the deal in my next update, coming very very soon.
 
    (10/20/2023) Six Flags has announced that the company will release their Q3 2023 earnings report on the morning of Thursday, November 9th, followed by an investor conference at 7am Central Time. You can listen in through the investor website (https://investors.sixflags.com/) or by calling 833-629-0614.
    Based on the performance of Six Flags’ stock price (SIX) I’m predicting that this will be a very interesting call, as the current management strategy is likely to be put under the microscope by the investors unless there are some very solid numbers to be reported. How so? 
    While stock prices are always in flux, as of this writing, over the past 24 hours SIX has fallen 7.255% to $18.92 a share, which is the lowest the stock has been in the past year. In the past five years, the only time SIX stock was valued lower than it is right now was a small brief plunge in September 2022, and before that was during the start of the pandemic when it dropped to $10.68 in March 2020. Keep in mind that 2023 was a year where we saw Six Flags essentially take a year-off from purchasing high-budget new capital expansion attractions while attempting to finish year-two of CEO Selim Basoul’s new business plan for the theme park chain. While park fans were not impressed with how the first year went down, many investors chose to show their support of the plan. It should be interesting to see how things play out this quarter as the end of summer and start of the fall season financial numbers surface and reveal what is working and what is not.
 
    (10/1/2023) Some new information has come to light regarding the introduction of Six Flags’ new Speedy Parking feature. I don’t know what I was thinking of previously, but at the time I just assumed this was an attempt by Six Flags to become more efficient by eliminating the idea of long lines at the parking toll plaza.
    Silly me for thinking that Six Flags would invest in this concept for just efficiency, because it seems that Six Flags is going to be charging you a little more to use this service. (Nevermind that the concept allows for human-free operation, thus saving them money by eliminating the need extra staff at the toll plaza…) Also in true Six Flags fashion, the price of Speedy Parking will vary depending on which Six Flags park you visit, just like general parking.
    For example, according to the Six Flags over Georgia website, General Parking is $30, while Speedy Parking will cost you $35 and of course there is also Speedy Preferred Parking for $40.
    Meanwhile Six Flags Magic Mountain and Discovery Kingdom is $40 for general parking, $45 for Speedy Parking, $50 for Speedy Preferred Parking. Oh, and SFMM also offers Speedy Front Gate Parking for $55 and Valet Parking for $65.
    Right now it looks like many of the Six Flags parks have now launched Speedy Parking as an option: with the service now being offered at:
    Six Flags America
    Six Flags Magic Mountain
    Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
    Six Flags New England
    Six Flags over Georgia
    Six Flags St. Louis
    Six Flags over Texas
    Six Flags Fiesta Texas
    The Great Escape
    Frontier City
Coming Soon to:
    Six Flags Great America, Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Darien Lake.
 
    (9/28/2023) Select Six Flags theme parks are rolling out something they are calling “Speedy Parking”. The new service is expected to let guests fly into the parking lot faster through the use of a special automated service lane. The service may be similar to something you might have used at a major airport in recent years, where you pre-pay for the parking and provide the system with your license plate. Assuming this works like the system I used at the Atlanta airport parking garage, you simply pull up to the gate where camera read and recognize your car’s plate, and match it to your pre-paid online pass. This all happens in just a couple of seconds, with the gate quickly opening up to allow you to pass.
    Speedy Pass can be pre-paid via the Six Flags Mobile App, the Six Flags website, and can be paid for as an add-on to your Six Flags Season Pass for the entire season. Passholders much purchase Speedy Parking from their home park, but the parking service can be used at any Six Flags theme park, provided they offer the service.
    I don’t know all the parks that are currently rolling it out, but it looks like it will first be added to the chain’s two California theme parks first: Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
 
    (8/13/2023) Following the latest earnings call from Six Flags, more internal shake ups with company management have been discovered. Right at the bottom of this document the company announced on August 11, 2023 that their Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Aimee Williams-Ramey, has departed the company and will take on simply a consulting duty with Six Flags over the next 10 months. This news comes as Williams-Ramey only just started this new position a little over a year ago.
    In other news that is unconfirmed, I’ve heard a possible rumor that yet another Park President has departed the company from one of the West coast parks. Thus far I’ve been unable to verify this, but if you know more please do let me know.
 
    (8/12/2023) Six Flags has released their Q2 2023 earning report, which lists Revenue of $444 million (up 2%), Net Income of $21 million (down 55%), and adjusted EBITDA of $161 million (up 5%). Attendance for the quarter was listed as 7.1 million, up 6% from Q2 2022. Guest spending numbers however show that total guest spending PerCaps numbers have dropped 5%, with a 7% drop in admissions PerCaps. The drop in admissions spending however reflects the chain’s drop in pricing on season passes in the quarter, which was likely a reaction to guests pushback to the chain’s previous attempts at more expensive season pass pricing.
    Comments from Six Flags CEO, Selim Bassoul, state that after a year of transition under the new business plan, “our strategy is taking hold” and “we are seeing a return to a solid growth trajectory in attendance, revenue and earnings.” Like Cedar Fair, the company did struggle with weather issues in many markets at the start of the quarter, but claim that the launch of several special events at the parks has been successful with guests, and they are looking forward to great results are we move into the later half of the year that will feature many more events such as Oktoberfest Food Festivals, Kids Boo Fest, Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park.
    For 2024, Six Flags states that they “will be investing heavily in new marketable attractions, to further elevate our position as a leader in thrills.” While these announcements have yet to be made, Screamscape has heard some early rumblings that this may indeed be true. According to Screamscape sources, it does sound like Six Flags has been opening their checkbook once again to make several new capital additions in various markets.  Of course, this is just rumor so far, so we will have to wait and see what gets announced in the coming weeks.
 
    (6/3/2023) Six Flags park fans… check out the website for your local park as it seems that some kind of new replacement for the fortner “Membership” program is now launching under the name “Six Flags Plus”. In common Six Flags practice, the price will vary depending on which park you sign up at, however the Six Flags Plus plans will get you “Access to all 27 Six Flags Theme Parks and Water Parks” and includes parking and discounts on food and merchandise.
    Price wise, this isn’t a bad deal at all, though it does lock you into an initial 12-month term, after which it appears to switch over to a month-to-month payment plan that you can then cancel at any time. Six Flags appears to be pricing this as an option between their Platinum Passes and the more expensive Diamond Pass. For an example, Six Flags over Georgia has Gold Passes for $60, Platinum for $75, and Diamond for $140, but at a price of just $8.99 a month for 12 months, the Six Flags Plus plan would cost you $107.88 over the first 12 months. On the higher end of the spectrum, the Six Flags Plus plan at Six Flags Magic Mountain is $12.99 a month, which comes out to $155.88 after the first 12 months.

 
    (5/10/2023) Six Flags has posted their Q1 2023 earning report and in a bit of a surprise, the company has posted record revenue for a first quarter report, despite also showing another decline in attendance at the chain. According to the summary, Six Flags’s revenue for the quarter was $142 million, up $4 million or 3% compared to the same quarter in 2022.
    The increase was said to be driven mostly by higher guest spending, but would have been even better if not for a drop in attendance as bad weather hampered the parks that were open in California and Texas at that time of year.
    Six Flags CEO, Selim Bassoul, is still sticking to his guns regarding the future direction for the company, claiming that “our new strategy and o ur new culture are beginning to take hold.” They are also looking forward to more improvements in Q2, claiming that season pass sales have been accelerating, though that probably has more to do with the chain lowering the prices on them once again.
    The end result was that Six Flags did beat the performance levels estimated by market trackers, so the stock price rose as investors bought in. In other new, comments made by Six Flags during a conference call also indicated that Six Flags would be testing out a ‘dynamic pricing program’ in the parks starting in July, that would allow them to raise the ticket price on busy days, and lower it on slow days. This is similar to how Disney has been pricing their tickets for the past few years.
 
    (3/12/2023) Simply Wall St has posted an interesting take on an issue they see taking place within Six Flags at the moment. In short, they say that Six Flags Entertainment “could be struggling to allocate capital”. Reviewing financial metrics for various companies, they say that there are two trends they often see as tell-tale signs of a business that is “potentially in decline”. This would be a “return of capital employed (ROCE) that’s declining, and a base of capital employed that also declining.”
    Breaking that down into more plain english, they say we’re seeing Six Flags spending similar levels of capital on the business over the past several years, and yet the return the company is seeing on that capital, pre-tax, has been in decline. Currently they say Six Flags ROCE is 17%, which is well above the average 10% generated by much of the Hospitality industry, however in comparison to prior performance figures, Six Flags previously was earning 22% just five years ago. “Since returns are falling and the business has the same amount of assets employed, this can suggest it's a mature business that hasn't had much growth in the last five years.”
    Investors have noticed this trend, and they note that the average stock price has also declined by 51% from where it was 5-years ago as well. As such, they are recommending to investors to look elsewhere “Unless there is a shift to a more positive trajectory in these metrics”.
 
    (7/24/22) Unlike how most chains essentially own all their respective theme parks, Six Flags has evolved into a different kind of beast. For example, Six Flags began leasing a number of parks from their respective owners under various Management Deals, especially in the past 5 years or so with the additions of properties like Six Flags Darien Lake, Frontier City and various water parks. The status of each property is shown in the chain’s annual report, but it is the ownership situation around of the chain’s first two theme parks that will be coming into focus very quickly.
 
    Six Flags over Texas is actually owned by a Texas Limited Partnership group, and Six Flags Entertainment itself currently owns 54% of that group, with the remainder said to be owned by Six Flags Over Texas Fund, Ltd (a private-equity and asset management firm). On the horizon Six Flags Entertainment Corporation will have a rare option to purchase the remaining 46% ownership stake for the Six Flags over Texas property when the current lease expires in 2028.
 

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    Six Flags over Georgia also currently exists in a similar relationship with a set of partners in Georgia for that particular property, and a window to purchase 100% ownership in that park will also open when that lease expires in 2027.
    It is hard to think that corporate Six Flags would pass up this opportunity to finally take complete ownership of these two important properties, but they will also have to budget ahead a decent amount of cash to fund these particular transactions as well, which could very well affect the budgets of all things to come over the next several years.
 
    On a related note, it is also mentioned that Six Flags Mexico has a “permit agreement” with the Federal District of Mexico City to operate that particular park which will expire in 2024. Given the success that Six Flags Mexico has seen compared to other parks in the nation, I would be surprised if this deal wasn’t extended when the time comes.

 

icon_STOPUnited Parks & Resorts (formerly SeaWorld Entertainment)
- (3/2/2024) United Parks & Resorts, formerly known at SeaWorld Entertainment, has posted their Q4 2023 and 2023 Year End performance results. Over the entire year the chain reported a small decrease in attendance of 1.5%, hosting 21.6 million guests at all of the parks combined. Total revenue generated dropped by $4.7 million to $1.726.6 billion. Similar decreases in attendance and revenue were also reflected in the chain’s Q4 2023 performance numbers when compared to the same time period in 2022. CEO, Marc Swanson, attributed the Q4 and year-end declines as being due to a number of poor weather issues throughout their markets. He also confirmed that attendance levels in 2023 are still below the chain’s pre-pandemic levels from 2019, which they say is also impacted by the overall decline in international tourism that they are still seeing, though the situation is improving.
    With several major new attractions set to open in 2024, all anticipated to open before the peak-summer season, they are anticipating improved performance for the 2024 calendar.
 
(2/5/2024) Despite the fact that the chain is now set to change their name from SeaWorld Entertainment to the generic sounding, “United Parks & Resorts Inc.”, the three SeaWorld parks will launch into a planned 60th anniversary celebration event called “So Much More to Sea!” starting on March 21st… the same day that the very first SeaWorld park opened in San Diego back in 1964.
    “SeaWorld is inviting guests to dive deeper and explore more than ever before, including sharing history and milestones in park and through digital channels. The party officially gets started across the parks on Thursday, March 21 – 60 years to the day that SeaWorld opened its gates for the first time in 1964. The anniversary kick-off party will be in full swing into the weekend, continuing through Sunday, March 24, and anniversary celebrations  will continue with more special events and experiences coming this summer. Guests are invited to share their favorite SeaWorld memories over the past six decades and throughout the anniversary celebrations using #SeaWorld60.”
    Across the chain look for new rides to open like Catapult Falls in the Texas park and Peguin Trek in Orlando, all new shows at each park, new character parades, along with special 60th Anniversary special food & beverage offers, themed merchandise and exclusive collectibles.
 
    (2/1/2024) In a rather strange bit of news, SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that the theme park chain will be changing their corporate name to “United Parks & Resorts Inc.” effective Feb. 12, 2024. The stock ticker will also change from SEAS to PRKS as of Feb. 13, 2024.
    They were quick to note that none of the individual parks themselves will be changing their names, and keep all their traditional branding as SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, Sesame Place, etc. So the question is… why is this happening? Obviously the “SeaWorld” brand has become a very well known IP brand across the planet, so why change gears so drastically to a name that may be considered a bit generic sounding?
    According to the statement from the company, “Our new company name, United Parks & Resorts Inc., better reflects that we have been, and will continue to be, a diverse collection of park brands and experiences. Each of our iconic parks, including the four SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego and Abu Dhabi, will continue to operate under the same names our guests know and love. What also remains unchanged is our deep commitment to creating experiences that matter for our guests and inspiring them to help protect animals and the wild wonders of the world,” said Marc Swanson, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.
    So beyond this… what is really going on? For one, this seems a bit rushed, as they didn’t even have a new logo for the new company name to present in the press release, or online at the official corporate website. Meanwhile there has been speculation for quite some time now that the chain felt that their “SeaWorld” brand name had become irreversibly damaged by the Blackfish film and propaganda.
     While they stood by the brand for all these years, and seemingly have worked hard to get the company back on track once again, suddenly changing their tactics and brand identity to “United Parks & Resorts” indicates to me that there may be other reasons. These may not become clear right now, as this may be more of a “long game” endeavor. This could possibly be an effort to have a more clean-slate if they were to possibly try to sell or merge the company with someone else down the line. Either way, SEAS will soon be no more as United becomes the new face of the company.

 

icon_STOPUniversal Studios - (4/26/2024) NBCUniverse has posted their Q1 2024 earnings report this week, which showcases the company’s performance for the first three months of the year. According to the data posted, the theme park division reported a 1.5% increase in revenue for the quarter, which climbed to $1.979 billion. However, the adjusted EBITDA figures show a small drop by comparison due to higher operating costs as well as “negative impact of foreign currency”.
    Again, this was just the Q1 2024 results, and with new summer offerings and the DreamWorks Land set to open this summer in Florida, and a new Donkey Kong expansion coming to Super Nintendo World in Japan later this year, I can only imagine that we’ll see those earnings numbers rise more significantly. Universal does expect to be working uphill against the flow of things in 2024 however, as there is no new attraction to open in Hollywood this year and many may hold off on visiting Orlando in 2024 to wait for their brand new Epic Universe theme park to open in 2025 instead.
 
    (1/27/2024) In the latest financial performance report, Comcast has reported that their Universal Studios theme park division has generated a whotting $2.3 billion in revenue for the company during the 4th Quarter of 2023. This represents an increase of 12.2% compared to the previous quarter, with a spotlight on the new Super Nintendo World at the Hollywood park being a key revenue driver.
    It was interesting to note that there was a small drop in revenue at the Universal Orlando resort. On a personal note, I’d expect to see the trend of reduced numbers from the Orlando resort continue over the next 12-15 months due to the combination of:
   1) No new attractions planned to open during 2024 and
   2) Potential guests planning a trip to Universal Orlando may wait until 2025 for the opening of the new Epic Universe theme park.
 
    (1/14/2024) A few articles are floating around out there questioning the fate of The Simpsons attractions and characters in Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando. The gist is that they’re claiming that Universal may be preparing to wind-down their support and ongoing operations of these attractions, meanwhile claiming that Disney may be planning to introduce the IP in costume character form somewhere in the near future.
    Screamscape discussed this in mid-2022 when the rumor first surfaced that Universal was said to be willing to let the IP go at the end of the current contract extension. The first Simpsons ride opened in 2008, and assuming they used typical 10-year terms, the current extension would likely be coming to an end sometime between late 2027 and 2028.
    In the time since the ride first opened, both theme parks have built out highly profitable food and beverage options based on the IP to fill-out the area around each attraction, so as mentioned before, if the profits are high enough, Universal could opt to renew for another term if they so wish. With Universal focused on opening their new Epic Universe park in 2025, 2024 would seem to be a good time to make a solid decision as to what direction they are going to take when the time comes, which would also involve working on ideas on what IP they could replace the attraction with if they do opt to drop out.
    This doesn’t mean the Simpsons rides will close anytime soon… especially in Orlando where the area also has gift shops, several restaurants and even the secondary Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl ride nearby. It should go without saying that a lot of planning is going to have to take place to replace or re-theme all this into something new. However they may be some tell-tale signs that a change is coming, such as decline in overall care and maintenance to the area. Please note that I’m not talking at all about the safety of the rides themselves, but about the theming and look of things in the area, such as fading paint, burnt out effects, or a decline in IP specific merchandise stock in favor of more generic items.
    Perhaps the biggest clue may actually come from Disney if they do introduce Simpsons characters somewhere before Universal drops them. It won’t happen in either of the US theme park resorts, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t introduce them into an international park or on the Disney Cruise Line.
 
    (10/28/2023) As I previously wondered… is Wall Street growing weary of theme park stocks? As all the major chains in North America prepared to present their latest quarterly earnings report, I noted that the stock prices seem to have been falling for everyone, with the exception of Comcast, parent company of Universal Studios. Strangely enough, following the release a mostly exceptional quarterly report on Thursday, CNBC reports that Comcast stock has now fallen about 8% in value.
    All this with the news that the studio’s Oppenheimer had become the highest-grossing biopic of all time, earning $900 million in box-office and that the Peacock streaming service adding 4 million subscribers and earned $830 million in revenue (up 64%) on top of the stellar performance figures from the Universal branded theme parks that saw “the highest quarterly profit on record for the division”. Looking things over, the only down-side to Comcast’s report I noticed were losses in subscribers to Comcast’s high-speed broadband and cable-TV services.
 
    (10/27/2023) Comcast, parent company to Universal Studios, released their Q3 2023 earnings report this week and reported an ‘adjusted earnings of $98.3 billion’ for their theme parks division, which is a 20% increase over their previous record. According to the report, this is due to higher revenue generated at Universal’s theme parks around the world, aided by the removal of various COVID-19 restrictions at many of their international locations. As for the domestic theme parks, while revenue dropped slightly at Universal Orlando compared to last year, the numbers are still well above pre-pandemic levels. The Hollywood park on the other hand however saw great returns aided by the successful launch of the park’s new Super Nintendo World land.
 
    (10/21/2023) Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights continues to expand into new worlds… and I’m not just talking about the upcoming year-round location coming to Las Vegas. It has now been confirmed that an official “Halloween Horror Nights VR Haunted Experience” themed to Scarecrow: The Reaping has come to the Meta Horizon Worlds platform. The new VR experience just dropped into existence on Friday the 13th. Last night a second Universal themed title has also been added to Meta Horizon Worlds called Universal Monsters Arena.
    Oh, and if you happen to find yourself in the Orlando International Airport, seek out an official Halloween Horror Nights “scare zone” currently set up inside Terminal B, disguised as a HHN gift shop. Or is it the other way around? You tell me…

 
    (7/28/2023) Comcast released their Q2 2023 earnings report yesterday which included the company’s theme park performance results for the quarter ending on June 30th, 2023. In short, the Universal theme parks had great numbers to report, aided by the studio’s launch of the animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”, which generated plenty of excitement and visits to the Super Nintendo World lands at Universal Studios Hollywood (new for 2023) and the original land that opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2021.
    According to Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts, “Second quarter operational and financial performance was excellent and included a double-digit increase in Adjusted EPS and significant free cash flow generation”. “We generated the best quarterly Adjusted EBITDA ever at the Theme Parks, and had the second-highest grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office revenue with Super Mario Bros.” 
    Q2 2023 results show an increase of 7.5% to $2.2 billion adjusted EBITDA at the company, with the theme park division showing an increase of 32%, showing growth across the board at the company’s Orlando, Hollywood, Japan and Beijing theme parks. In particular, the launch of the Super Nintendo World area at the Hollywood park resulted in that park’s best quarterly adjusted EBITDA numbers on record for all time.
    With a whole new theme park under construction in Orlando that will include the biggest Super Nintendo World land of them all, they clearly are anticipating that to be a big hit when it opens in 2025. While they company has yet to reveal the final design of their new mini park coming to Texas in 2026, the success of the Nintendo product at the existing parks does make me wonder if they may include that IP in Texas as well.

 
    (7/11/2023) According to the Hollywood Reporter, Universal has hired Molly Murphy to take over the role of President of Universal Creative. Murphy is coming to Universal after serving at Gensler for the past 17 years, the last five years were spent as the Managing Director of the firms New York office.
    Gensler is a an architecture / design firm with projects around the globe, and if Gensler sounds familiar, the news report from Texas announced that Gensler was selected by Universal to work on the design of Universal’s new Texas theme park resort.

 

 

 
 
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