Playstations and Paramounts
Written by Russell Meyer
Motley Fool 3/18/05
Following Disney’s cooperation with Sony and its Blu-Ray format, Disney has decided to also allow Sony to release some of its library on Universal Media Disc (UMD) which is the format used by the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) due to be released on Tuesday. At an MSRP of $250, the PSP is poised to explode on the market, as it may be one of the most eagerly anticipated gaming system releases since the X-Box. While I’m not going to be running out to my local Best Buy at midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, a lot of people are, and are going to be looking for media for this new system that is about the size of a box of Rice-A-Roni. The unit will be able to produce graphics comparable to a Playstation 2 or X-Box using the new UMD’s, and will be able to play movies that area released on the new discs. While the proprietary format will likely be incredibly popular for gaming, I cannot see the sense in spending the money on a DVD as well as a UMD just so my kid can watch it on a tiny screen. By releasing films on the UMD format, Disney increases their exposure, and allows additional access to their films. Still, the fact that the format is proprietary and the explosion in portable DVD player sales suggests that this foray by Disney may not be profitable. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is really cool, and watching movies on your portable game system is a great idea. I just don’t think the movies will be as popular as Sony thinks they will be.
In a move that is sure to please hundreds of thousands, and annoy just as many, Paramount Parks has announced that it will limit smoking in their parks to designated areas. For those who don’t smoke, smokers can be some of the most annoying people at theme parks, especially when you’re stuck in line around them. The addictive habit has been chastised around the country from statehouses to office buildings. Smokers are becoming excluded in ways that are similar to the racial segregation of the first half of the last century. Smokers are being excluded from restaurants, bars, airports, and now theme parks. I don’t smoke, and actually, I’m pretty repulsed by the habit, so I’m really pleased to see another theme park company step up and reduce rampant smoking around the park. However, from the other point of view, this is just another inconvenience for smokers, who are already ridiculed and taxed beyond belief. I’m not sure how to solve the problem with smoking- should we completely ban smoking, like alcohol during prohibition? That’s the way policies are heading, and for those of us who are disgusted and tired of inhaling the nasty fumes from tobacco products, that’s great, but that would be smoker’s worst nightmare. Hopefully these designated areas are a satisfying compromise that will not affect attendance and still please the non-smoking crowd.
Baseball’s is still a couple of weeks away, but regional theme parks around the country are opening their gates hopeful for increased attendance and improved customer service. I really wanted to get to Busch Gardens last weekend for their passholder preview day, but alas, I had a previous engagement that forced me to miss the annual event for the first time in 5 years. However, I was able to attend opening day at Paramount’s Kings Dominion yesterday. The park combined its opening day with a blood drive for Virginia Blood Services, and it appeared that the event was a success, with lines for donations about as long as the lines for the rides. The crowds were sparse, and the weather was perfect for March (upper 50’s and thin cloud-filtered sunshine). Even Hypersonic XLC was running with a wait under 20 minutes, which is almost unheard of even on slow days. The new attraction, Tomb Raider Firefall, was clearly not ready yet, but was still pushed into operation for the amassed crowd who was having almost as much fun watching the interesting ride than the people riding it. Many of the effects were not yet operating, and the music and sound effects for the ride were being piped through speakers just put on stands flanking the waterfall. A lot of the plaster and cosmetic touches to the attraction are unfinished, but the ride itself was operating, after a couple of technical problems in the morning. There was a very strong managerial presence, which is something that has become increasingly common at this park, and something some other regional theme parks (Six Flags) should consider. Tomb Raider will be a good addition to the area around Volcano and Avalanche, and the newly added brick pavers around the rides are a vast improvement. The ride was pretty exciting, and will probably be even better when all of the effects are running. Despite the number of flips that the ride performs, the ride was not terribly intense, and would be fine for just about anyone. I knew that the attraction was not quite complete, as the press event scheduled for last Wednesday was postponed due to “weather delays,” but I was surprised to see how much work was still needed to complete the attraction. It would have been disappointing for a lot of guests if the attraction was closed this weekend, but I think they should have kept it closed and worked on it through the weekend to finish the attraction before debuting it for guests. Even though we were only in the park for a few hours, we were still able to get around to just about every major attraction. Despite the unfinished nature of Tomb Raider, Paramount’s Kings Dominion looks like it will have another successful season during their 30th anniversary.
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