Written by Russell Meyer
Published: March 9, 2005 at 9:34 PM
In a trend that is looking more like the first drop on a roller coaster, Six Flags posted another loss of about $109.5 million over the course of 2004. While revenue and attendance for the fourth quarter were up 11% and 6.9% respectively, those increases were not enough to negate the overall downward trend that the company experienced throughout 2004. Six Flags insists that the fourth quarter results indicate an upward trend with profit and attendance greater than estimated for the months closing out 2004. Reading the balance sheet can be nauseating, but looking at the bottom line, Six Flags lost even more money in 2004 than in 2003, which was also a losing year. Considering that Six Flags is spending a record amount of money trying to improve their parks, the possibility of making money in 2005 does not seem likely.
What can Six Flags do to dig itself out of this hole? They tried improving customer service in 2004, with limited success, but it produced another losing year. They tried massive capital expansion with profits that could not outpace expenditures in 2003. In 2005 they’re going back to the massive capital expenditure, and I just cannot see profit in Six Flags’ future this year. Six Flags needs to find a balance of capital expenditures and general park improvements and maintenance. Going from one extreme to the other will never work, because even if Six Flags can increase attendance in 2005, they will probably not be able to compensate for all of the money they had to shell out for all of the new rides and attractions that have been added this off season. If Six Flags would just look at other successful parks, they would see that general customer service improvements are needed in addition to gradual capital expenditures. I’d like to see Six Flags succeed, because they have had some glimmers of hope over the past couple of years, but for one reason or another, they continue to wade in debt with no signs of breaking out.
The 50th Anniversary of Disneyland is starting to take shape. As reported already on TPI, Buzz Lightyear has opened for limited previews, and looks to be a much-needed addition to the now-barren Tomorrowland. It also appears to be an improvement over the WDW’s original attraction. With removable guns, more interactive features, and better looking targets, Disneyland’s attraction will likely be one of the more popular attractions over the next couple of months in Disneyland, especially considering a number of attractions are going into rehabilitation cycles in late March and April. In other 50th Anniversary news, Space Mountain may actually be ready for the parks official 50th Anniversary on July 17, 2005. However, it is rumored that the new Space Mountain may feature the same type of trains that will be used in Hong Kong’s Space Mountain, which are generally considered “ugly.” I don’t think the HKDL trains are ugly, per se, but to turn away from the “classic-style” cars for the original Space Mountain attraction may not be the best move. Most long-time fans of the park want the attraction to return to its original glory in its original form, and anything more than music, special effects, and safety changes would really upset some of them. I have not had an opportunity to ride Disneyland’s Space Mountain, so I cannot really form an opinion as to whether or not new trains will ruin the classic roller coaster, but regardless of how the attraction differs from its original form, most people will just be excited that the coaster is running again.
One of the most lucrative Disney movie projects of the past ten years is gearing up for release later this year. C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe will be the first of a series of movies based on the Chronicles of Narnia series. The series, which is aimed at children and younger teenagers, has widely been recognized for its Christian imagery, and Disney looks to be trying to capitalize with religious groups around the country. In the wake of the successes of religiously marketed movies Passion of the Christ and Polar Express, Disney is selling The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as a “Passion of the Christ for kids.” I’ve always believed that you can interpret a book in any number of ways, and while The Chronicles of Narnia contains a number of Christian allegories that were indeed acknowledged by author C.S. Lewis, it’s still a collection of fantasy stories. In trying to secure a Christian audience, which probably means a huge box office payout, Disney may very well alienate others who may be turned off by a film that is sold as evangelic. In a country where there are hard lines between “red” and “blue” states, someone needs to stop the nonsense that entertainment is tailored for any specific group. It’s pretty sad when Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park and Team America: World Police) can produce and market more even-keeled material than Disney.