A couple of seasonal parks release details about the 2005 season, and the Disney/Miramax split.
Written by Russell Meyer
PR Newswire 2/23/05
Six Flags New England has announced the addition of two new coasters for the 2005 season. One of the coasters is actually a water coaster, which will be added to its Hurricane Harbor water park, and will feature some of the fastest uphill sections of any water coaster in the country. Riders will board rafts with two other people for a wet and wild ride featuring high-banked turns and tunnels. Typhoon is scheduled to open when the Hurricane Harbor water park opens. Unlike the Tornado, down the drain-style, water slides that Six Flags is adding all over the country, Six Flags New England is building something that is rare outside of Texas. As many know, the Master Blaster water rides found at the Schlitterbahn parks in Texas are some of the most popular “water slides” in the world, and have brought about a renaissance of water parks around the country. This water ride looks rather exciting, but I would question its placement in New England. An attraction like this would be far more popular in a park that can operate it nearly year-round like Six Flags Magic Mountain or Six Flags Over Georgia.
The second coaster coming to Six Flags New England will be called Mr. Six’s Pandemonium. The first roller coaster themed around Six Flags’ crazy old mascot will be a new twist on the wild mouse coaster style. Instead of a standard wild mouse coaster where riders sit in 2 rows of 2 people, or the normal spinning wild mouse where riders all sit on one side of a circular car, this wild mouse coaster will seat passengers in 2 rows of 2 people facing each other. Not only are passengers tossed, turned, and spun in every direction, but they get to watch the expressions on their friend’s faces sitting just across from them. The ride looks pretty exciting for a small wild mouse coaster designed to be enjoyed by the entire family, but I have to question the name. I don’t know about anyone else, but Mr. Six has got to be one of the creepiest “non” spokesmen in the world, edging out the pets.com sock puppet, Quiznos’ Baby Bob, and the Verizon Guy (Can you hear me now?). It’s cool that Six Flags is trying to come up with its own characters, instead of buying someone else’s ideas, but I think they could probably come up with something a little bit better than an old bald guy dancing to 90’s techno music.
The once solid “independent” film division of the Walt Disney empire, Miramax, is about to go through a major overhaul. Both Harvey and Bob Weinstein, founders of Miramax, are in negotiations with Disney to get the freedom to seek a new distribution partner. Miramax is most known for bringing home Oscar gold with small, well marketed films like The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, and Chicago (all Best Picture Oscar winners with modest budgets). The Weinsteins are famous in Hollywood for putting massive amounts of marketing behind their top films every year to push for Oscars and other prestigious awards. Disney’s problem with Miramax started a couple of years ago as the company pushed towards larger and larger budget movies like Gangs of New York and Cold Mountain, which failed to recoup their bloated investments and did not receive any major accolades. The Weinsteins’ frustration with Disney came to a head early last year when Disney refused to allow Miramax to market and release the incredibly popular and controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9-11. Disney did not want to be associated with a film that contained tons of rhetoric against a sitting president in an election year. Miramax was forced to pass on what would be the most successful documentary of all time, grossing well over $100 million, more than just about every Disney mainstream release in 2004. This year, Miramax’s budget grew even larger. The massive Aviator production has garnered the most Oscar nominations this year, but is not what Disney wants in its independent film division. The new, slimmer Miramax will have its budget slashed in half, down to $300 million, and focus on smaller films like the critically acclaimed Sideways, Hotel Rwanda, and Million Dollar Baby. The negotiations for the split are ongoing, with the Weinsteins netting a reported $100 million lump sum to leave the company they built from scratch behind. Disney would retain rights to the entire Miramax library, including hundreds of films that can be released and re-released on DVD, and more importantly the name Miramax, which is a combination of the Weinsteins parents Miriam and Max. The Weinsteins will stay on as consultants for the films which are already slated for 2005 release like the very interesting looking Sin City from Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez, but their influence will be minimal as they're shown the door.
It wasn’t that the Miramax label was not profitable. Its huge hits like Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 and Chicago far overcame the failure of its losers like Gangs of New York and Cold Mountain. Disney just wanted the bloated label to return to its independent roots, instead of buying $50+ million films hoping for a Best Picture Oscar. It may seem like the Weinsteins are getting the worse of the deal, but the $100 million is more than enough seed money to get the brothers on good footing to try to make it on their own, or hook up with another major distributor. Unlike the potential Disney/Pixar split, this split will leave both sides in a better situation. The Weinsteins will be able to continue to wine and dine Oscar voters in the hopes for a big prize, with the films they want to produce. Disney in turn, will be able to return Miramax to its independent roots, and save $400 million per year in the process, and under the right leadership, still bring home Oscar gold with cutting edge and avant guard independent releases.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has released new information about its additions for the 2005 season. While the much-anticipated Curse of Darkastle is the gem of the additions for the 2005 season, there are many other enhancements that guests will notice in the park this year. Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve will get some much-needed upgrades to the bald eagle display that will make the viewing area much more guest-friendly, and the wolf attraction will also receive enhancements to improve guest viewing. A new full-service restaurant will be added in Aquitaine where the often closed Le Coq d’Or was located - next to the LeMans Receway. The LeMans Bistro will feature new dishes including “Chicken Cannelloni Crepes” and “Das Alpine Paninis.” There will also be a new open-air marketplace near the new Curse of Darkastle attraction, Oktoberfest Marketplatz, which will feature gifts and snacks. These smaller additions are surprising since so much money and effort is going into Darkastle, but goes to prove Busch Garden’s commitment to improving the guest experience. At first glance, I don’t think the new LeMans Bistro will survive in a location that is so close to the very popular Trappers Smokehouse. For season passholders and frequent visitors such as myself, the addition is great as it offers new foods for those of us who grow bored of the same three choices every time (Smokehouse, Festhaus, or Grogan’s Grill). However, for not-so-frequent visitors, they will inevitably choose the Smokehouse over this new restaurant.
Busch Gardens also released a new construction video on The Curse of Darkastle, showing the progress both inside and outside the massive attraction. They also made it clear that the new state-of-the-art attraction will not be ready for guests until May 2005. While it’s typical for big new attractions to open a month or two after the season’s opening day, this attraction has been under construction for well over a year, and in development for much longer. Hopefully this delayed opening will give Busch Gardens lots of time to test the ride so that when its opening day arrives sometime in May, the attraction will run flawlessly.
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