By Russell Meyer
Posted via 126.96.36.199 on November 8, 2004 at 11:35 AM (MST)
Statements below are the work of their authors and not necessarily the opinion of Theme Park Insider.
I will be your friendly neighborhood BLOGFlumer for the foreseeable future, until mutiny unseats me, or Kevin gets tired of my blather. I would first like to thank Kevin for the wonderful opportunity to write about something that I truly enjoy. I’d also like to acknowledge all of the other competitors, who were just as worthy as myself to land this column. I would hope that you could provide lots of feedback, so that I can make this as entertaining as possible.
I thought it would be good for everyone to know a little bit about me, since we really didn’t have an opportunity to introduce ourselves during the competition period. I live in Alexandria, VA, so I frequent Paramount’s King’s Dominion, Six Flags America, Hersheypark, Six Flags Great Adventure, Dorney Park, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I also like to try to make one or two trips to theme parks around the rest of the country every year, and while it may be sad, I even rode roller coasters on my honeymoon last March in Las Vegas. I’ve been to all of the major theme parks in the United States (Disneyland, DCA, KBF, USH, SFMM, SWC, CP, SFWoA/GL, Kennywood, Knoebells, MK, AK, EPCOT, MGM, USF, IOA, SWO, and BGT) all in past 5 years, so I have a pretty wide range of theme park experiences. I’m 29 and work as a geologist for an engineering firm as my day job. At night, I watch movies and contemplate the nature of the universe. But enough about me, let’s go to the news...
Associated Press 11/7/04
As expected, The Incredibles opened at #1 at this weekend’s box office. However, nobody expected it to be the most successful opening ever for a Disney movie, with an estimated haul of $70.7 million. Finding Nemo was the previous Disney record holder with $70.3 million in its opening weekend, and just for competition’s sake, Shark Tale opened a little over a month ago with $47.5 million. However, Pixar still is trying to catch the ogre-sized $108 million by Shrek 2 for the opening record by an animated movie. Maybe Eisner and Jobs will finally stop “monologue-ing” and start talking to each other to get a deal done. It’s very clear Disney/Pixar is a pairing that NEEDS to continue (for Disney’s sake at least.)
Yahoo Finance 11/4/04
The Cedar Fair, L.P. CEO released the park chain’s 3rd quarter earnings report. Revenue for the chain increased 8% from last year with a 5% increase in attendance and 3% increase in guest spending. Kinzel hinted that weather was the main reason for lower than expected revenue. However, some believe that the acquisition of Geauga Lake and then practically cutting the park in half by eliminating the animal portion of the park probably had a major influence in its less-than-stellar performance. Hello, let’s not also forget that Cedar Fair now has 2 parks less than 100 miles from each other. I applaud Cedar Fair for doing many of the things right that Six Flags does wrong with regards to park acquisition, but hopefully they will tread carefully as they proceed.
Orlando Sentinel 11/4/04
Disney and their labor union tentatively agreed to a 3-year contract that ended 8 months of talks between the two sides. The negotiation appeared to be going nowhere as the union leaders were asking their constituents for the authority to strike just last week. However, such a strike appears to have been alleviated, but still could happen if the union membership votes down the proposal next Thursday. While I’m totally against corporations taking advantage of workers, I’m also against unions taking advantage of corporations. There’s always a compromise, and hopefully the two sides in this case have found one.
A number of Korean news outlets are beginning to report word of Disney planning a theme park in the country. While everything seems to still be preliminary, Seoul’s mayor “promised” a major theme park like Disneyland would come to the city in the near future in 2002. I smell something like what happened with “Disney’s America” - supposed to be built in Northern Virginia, but what actually came to fruition was the announcement of Disney’s California Adventure. Just what the world needs, another $2 billion theme park with 4 boring attractions.
This is just a preliminary rumor, but Six Flags Magic Mountain may be hitting rock bottom. Oh, that’s right, everyone already knew that. SFMM is reportedly planning to add a new Batman Stunt Show over the winter. WOW!!! Nothing like a cheesy lip-synched stunt show to drive attendance. I guess since they slashed season pass prices in half and the park chain is investing somewhere around $30 million in a park on the opposite coast, there’s not much to work with. Here’s an idea, how about close the park for the winter and fix all of the problems that everyone keeps complaining about so people will actually want to pay $80-$100 for a season pass.
From Robert Niles
Welcome aboard Russell!
Posted via 188.8.131.52 on November 8, 2004 at 11:46 AM (MST)
*That* was a tough choice, with dozens of TPI members responding with comments and votes expressing their choice. In the end, it was a tough choice between a couple candidates, broken by a confab with a few journalist friends of mine. But all the candidates did a fine job, worthy of getting the gig.
Thanks again to everyone, and welcome, again, to Russell.
From Robert OGrosky
Posted via 184.108.40.206 on November 8, 2004 at 12:20 PM (MST)
I do hope disney solves the labor woes as i dont want it to impact mv vacation next month and i would be good for Pixar and Disney to come to there senses and settle the dispute in a way that can beneft both.
From Joe Lane
Welcome to the crew, Russ.
Posted via 220.127.116.11 on November 8, 2004 at 9:18 PM (MST)
Tip of the hat to all the Persister contestents, you all did a smashing job. It's not an easy gig, so kudos for giving it a go, folks.
From jazken .
Welcome Russell. Glad to have you aboard. And yes, your suggestion/recommendation for SFMM is just what the doctor ordered. I can only hope all my letters of complaint... I mean "enthusiasm" to Six Flags' top brass have finally caused a shake up in its management. It's time to clean up this once great park. If they actually did that, I'd forgive them for these modest upgrades like the new Batman Stunt Show.
Posted via 18.104.22.168 on November 9, 2004 at 1:28 PM (MST)
From J. Dana
A Batman stunt show tied to the inevitably popular movie next summer ain't such a bad idea. Here's why: lots of folks can see the stunt show at once, relieving some capacity on other attractions. Also, concentrating on just coasters (which are fun) can relegate a park to just a coaster park instead of a higher-tier theme park. I, for one, would go see the show. It's an immersive, theme-heavy attraction. Something in line with the big three. I like. Developing more broad attractions like this and still keeping the thrill rides can only be good. [see IOA] However, it does come with this caveat: keep the thrill rides well-maintained, otherwise no amount of staging can help.
Posted via 22.214.171.124 on November 9, 2004 at 1:38 PM (MST)
By the way, congrats, Russell. Looking forward to more great columns.
From Robert Niles
SFMM does not need an additional outdoor coaster. If the park's management feels that they need to upgrade their thrills, let 'em tear down an old coaster and replace it.
Posted via 126.96.36.199 on November 9, 2004 at 2:42 PM (MST)
What SFMM desperately needs is other rides and attractions -- ideally ones indoors or with water that will cool you down from the oppressive Valencia heat. After that, SFMM needs to find the cash to fully staff the park with dedicated, well-trained, motivated employees.
From Russell Meyer
I don't think a stuntshow is going to move the turnstyles. They really need to focus on efficiently running their current coasters, and perhaps re-themeing one of their coasters for a new experience. While drastically cutting their season pass prices will get people in the gate, it will end up hurting their bottom line in the end, and just create more animosity and anger guests will have towards an overcrowded poorly run park.
Posted via 188.8.131.52 on November 9, 2004 at 4:18 PM (MST)
From J. Dana
A stuntshow definitely won't cure all the park's woes, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. Remember, standing in line for hours on end for a short thrill is EXHAUSTING. Shows break the monotany, provide a needed rest, and quite frankly, are GREAT attractions in themselves (Indiana Jones stunt show, Waterworld, Sinbad, etc). True, MGM studios may be going overboard with shows--although, I think their new Car Stunt Show is going to be a real winner...it will draw huge crowds daily. I talked to one of the park's leading stunt men, and he says the show is gonna be pretty "sick" (for all our older readers, that's a good thing). With Disney and Universal expanding and popping up in every country around the globe, Six Flags needs this push towards a better, more inclusive park. Teens can only sustain a park for so long....and they grow up, have kids, and go to Disney. Six Flags is smart in trying to give them something to come back for. This show isn't the end-all, but like I said, it's definitely a step in the right direction.
Posted via 184.108.40.206 on November 10, 2004 at 11:53 AM (MST)
From John Dowling
Russell, welcome and good luck. Just one question - will you be able to fill Kevins shoes when it comes to winding up T Holland Creative?
Posted via 220.127.116.11 on November 10, 2004 at 1:10 PM (MST)
From Russell Meyer
While I'm no Eisner hugger, I'm not nearly as cynical when it comes to Disney's business practices. We'll see...
Posted via 18.104.22.168 on November 10, 2004 at 8:12 PM (MST)
From Robert Niles
Yes, but will T. Holland be as effective in winding up Russell as he was Kevin?
Posted via 22.214.171.124 on November 10, 2004 at 9:26 PM (MST)
From Joe Llorens
Congrats Russell. Great job with your first official flume. Keep up the good work.
Posted via 126.96.36.199 on November 11, 2004 at 8:34 AM (MST)
From Robert OGrosky
While i agree that a top-notch stunt show would help SFMM, i have yet to see any show at any SF park ive been to that will be up to the quality of a show at disney/universal that will entice families to want too visit the park to see it.
Posted via 188.8.131.52 on November 11, 2004 at 11:28 AM (MST)
I agree that all they are going to di is make big attendance gains by giving away there product but pissing off guests due too long lines/dirty conditions where they wont want to coma back. I company that is in good shape has no need to give away there product and this will hurt both SFMM and USH which has there own gimmick of boosting attendance. They arent willing to induce people to visit by giving a better product to the guests so they just give away admission which wont help once they experience a sub-standard product(mostly apply's to SFMM).
From J. Dana
It's all about getting people through the doors...once you do, they spend WELL over that admission price (on average) on food, drinks, gifts, photos, etc. The Busch company has done this successfully with it's SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks...more visitors, more spending. And it's worked. Disney reduces prices for residents to get them into the park, but nothing to the extent of SeaWorld, Busch, etc. Universal is somewhere in between, with the Orlando properties giving good deals ($99 on an annual pass to both parks is a STEAL!), and the Hollywood version does the buy one day play all year free promotion as well.
Posted via 184.108.40.206 on November 11, 2004 at 12:40 PM (MST)
True, we all want better attractions. But I don't think these promotions necessarily make the parks any less significant. On the contrary, in the ideal world, it raises revenue to build better stuff (ideal world, mind you). Let's not forget, capital improvements/additions at theme parks cost upwards of 30 to 100 million dollars each. It takes years and years to recoup those costs. Not building a new coaster and putting in a stunt show instead is more than just a marketing decision...it comes down to cold, hard cash being available.
From Robert OGrosky
Well i have a season pass to my local SF park and other than the pass we spend almost nothing in the park!!!!!
Posted via 220.127.116.11 on November 11, 2004 at 7:47 PM (MST)
We leave to eat and bring our own munchies/water and spend very little in the park. Now if we had a btter experience in the park we would spend more but packing people into a park when rides arent run to capacity and just making lines long3r will do little to make the guests want to rreturn and spend money. And while disney/Busch/Universal will leverage this well i dont think SF will and from being at USH they dont offer enough attractions to handle decent sized crowds without having long lines.