Written by Russell Meyer
Published: April 27, 2005 at 8:09 PM
Contrary to what has been reported over the past few months, Daniel Snyder is not selling off his stake in Six Flags. The incredibly unpopular owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins has instead been reconsidering his initial decision, and is considering making a move on the poorly performing theme park company. Snyder currently owns an 8.8% stake in the company, and looks to be positioning himself to take a more aggressive stance. He reportedly is assembling a group of shareholders that may also include Microsoft founder Bill Gates to create a new board of directors that would lead the company in a new direction. This new direction would probably include selling off assets and consolidating resources. You had to figure that Snyder would not go off quietly into the night. He has demonstrated in his other business moves that he does not accept failure- just look how much money he has pumped into the Redskins, a team that has not finished a season with a winning record under Snyder’s ownership. Many people were surprised when Snyder announced his selling of the shares, but most accepted it as a way for Snyder to cut his losses when the current board of directors refused to listen to his suggestions to improve the company. If Snyder and Gates actually become involved in the day-to-day operation of Six Flags, can they really make a difference? The one major move that they would make, selling assets, could be the easiest way to get the company out of its tailspin. It’s nice that just about everyone in the country is within a 3 hour drive of a Six Flags park, but what good does it do if the Six Flags park is poorly run and maintained? Six Flags could potentially be a much better park operator if it trimmed some of its fat, and eliminated its lower performing parks (Kentucky Kingdom, Darian Lake, New Orleans, America, and St. Louis). If they could keep their focus on five or six of their best parks, they could more easily bring them in line with Paramount and Cedar Fair, and perhaps become more competitive. Whether Snyder can actually succeed in this “coup” is the big question, but if he can, expect some swift and major changes, because Snyder cannot stand losing (just ask Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, and Steve Spurrier). Hopefully Vinnie Cerrato is not in charge of scouting and signing ride manufacturers.
Universal’s New Partner
LA Times 4/27/05
If Universal Studios Hollywood does not give you enough of an inside look into the glitz and glam of the movies right now, a new partnership has been forged that will hopefully give guests the ultimate look into the life of a movie star. Universal Studios Hollywood and the incredibly popular Star Tours have joined forces to provide visitors with a combination ticket that will include admission to the theme park and a two-hour tour of the stars’ homes for $85. While there’s really not much of a discount by purchasing the two popular Hollywood experiences together, the partnership gives guests the convenience of purchasing the tickets at the much friendlier Universal Studios ticket booths. Previously, Star Tours tickets were only available at the ticket booth near Mann’s Chinese Theater, a gathering place for weirdoes, panhandlers, and aggressive salespeople who cannot understand why you don’t want to purchase their paraphernalia. Both experiences should benefit from this partnership, particularly USH, who will be able to draw more guests without having to pay for advertising.
Hitchin’ a Ride
Financial Times 4/27/05
One of the most popular books of the past 20 years has been made into a movie by Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be released nation-wide on Friday, April 29, 2005, and it should give Disney another box office winner. While the movie does not have a lot of Hollywood star power, its strong ensemble cast and original concept should get this movie over the $100 million mark before Star Wars hits in mid May. Hardcore readers will ultimately be disappointed by all of the stuff left out of this movie, but never fear, Disney is planning sequels. It had been a long time since I had read the book, but when I watched the movie last night it really did not bother me that things had been left out. The movie has been in the works for a number of years, and Douglas Adams has been given an executive producer credit for assisting in writing an incredibly strange additional scene starring the incredibly strange John Malkovich. The casting could not have been more perfect with Mos Def as Ford Prefect, Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the oh so perfect Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, the depressed robot. Not only is the film great, but Disney has placed an incredibly clever trailer for Chicken Little right before the movie starts that nearly had the audience rolling in the aisles.
After I watched the film, my mind was aflutter with theme park ride ideas, especially since Disney now owns the rights. From the travels through hyperspace to the experience on Vogosphere to “Earth Mark 2,” the possibilities are nearly as endless as the universe itself. There are animations during the film that show a number of the important facts laid out in the Hitchhiker’s Guide that would be perfect for showing on monitors in the queue. If this film turns out to be a success, Disney would be sitting on a goldmine of material that could keep Imagineers busy for years. This movie should have no problem pulling in at least $42 million this weekend if it is able to find its audience, something another recent “cult” movie, Sin City, has not been able to do. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could keep Disney busy for quite a while, and Don’t Panic all you hardcore fans, the movie is mostly faithful to the original work.