Top Franchises Drive Top Parks in 2014 TEA/AECOM Theme Park Attendance Report
If you wanted to succeed in the theme park industry last year, you really needed a powerful new franchise in your parks, such as Harry Potter, Minions or Frozen
. That's the story told by the numbers in the TEA/AECOM annual attendance report
, released today.
The Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort continued as the world's most-attended theme park, closing in on the 20 million-visitor mark, with 19,332,000 visitors last year, according to the analysts at AECOM. That's up four percent from 2013, according to the report, which is produced in cooperation with the Themed Entertainment Association [TEA].
But the big winners in the industry last year were Universal Studios Florida — up 17% to 8,263,000 visitors — and Universal Studios Japan — up 16.8% to 11,800,000. What did both of those parks have in common? Harry Potter, with new Wizarding World lands opening last year at both parks. Universal's Islands of Adventure was unchanged, remaining at 8,141,000 visitors and losing one spot in the rankings to its sibling, USF.
Harry Potter hasn't arrived yet at Universal Studios Hollywood, but the arrival of the Minions in an impressive new Despicable Me-themed miniland last year help the park overcome the construction disruption that typically depresses attendance at parks. USH was up 11% last year, to 6,824,000 visitors, raising the question if USH can catch rival Disney California Adventure in 2016 when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in Hollywood. DCA gained three percent, rising to 8,769,000.
Other Disney parks posted modest attendance gains, from 0.1 to 3.5 percent, with the exception of the Disneyland Paris parks, which both saw declines. That's especially troublesome at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, which dropped 4.7% to 4,260,000, despite the arrival of a well-received Ratatouille-themed miniland. Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, that DLP this summer is heavily promoting Frozen-themed characters and events, which seemed to have helped Disney's parks in the United States to attendance gains last year.
Elsewhere in the United States, 2014 was brutal for theme parks. The report said, "Growth at U.S. theme parks was concentrated in the top nine parks, all of which are Disney and Universal parks, and that together saw visitor attendance go up by 4.2 percent on last year - an increase of 4.1 million visitors compared to last year. This was offset by a 2.8 percent fall in attendance at the remaining 11 parks which together, had 1.1 million fewer visitors compared to last year."
Here is your North American top 20, with attendance in millions and the change from last year:
- Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom 19.3 4.0%
- Disneyland 16.8 3.5%
- Epcot 11.4 2.0%
- Disney's Animal Kingdom 10.4 2.0%
- Disney's Hollywood Studios 10.3 2.0%
- Disney California Adventure 8.8 3.0%
- Universal Studios Florida 8.3 17.0%
- Islands of Adventure 8.1 Flat
- Universal Studios Hollywood 6.8 11.0%
- SeaWorld Orlando 4.7 -8.0%
- Busch Gardens Tampa 4.1 1.0%
- SeaWorld San Diego 3.8 -12.0%
- Knott's Berry Farm 3.7 Flat
- Canada's Wonderland 3.5 -1.0%
- Cedar Point 3.2 -4.0%
- Kings Island 3.2 1.0%
- Hersheypark 3.2 1.0%
- Six Flags Magic Mountain 2.8 -2.0%
- Six Flags Great Adventure 2.8 Flat
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2.7 -1.0%
And here is the global Top 10:
- Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
- Tokyo Disneyland 17.3 0.5%
- Tokyo DisneySea 14.1 0.1%
- Universal Studios Japan 11.8 16.8%
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Disneyland Paris 9.9 -4.7%
- Disney California Adventure
Further down the list, the biggest gain in the global Top 20 came from Songcheng Park in China, which crashed the Top 20 with a 38.3% increase to 5,810,000 visitors last year.
Previous theme park attendance reports:
Something interesting to look at. But are they close to accurate? That's the question that pops up.
Does anyone know if UO reports attendance similar to DLR -- that is, only the first park entered counts? I thought I read previously that 80% of UO tickets are now park hoppers so I was surprised that IOA is flat. I'm wondering if the 17% gain is really more resort wide but is being reported as USF since EPA starts there.
Happy that Seaworld went down but it should have been even lower... yep, not a fan for several reasons, mostly because I really feel for the poor animals...
Oh please, Cecilia. The animals at SeaWorld are treated better there than anywhere else they can be on Earth. That's why it's the leading source for rescue and rehabilitation of injured animals from the wild. SeaWorld's down because it's not spending enough time developing compelling IP to compete with Universal, which is just destroying it for the "after-Disney" market share in Florida and Southern California.
Early Entry was at IOA-only for the majority of 2014. IOA being flat on first-click admissions makes no sense to me...
That's the single-most-curious thing to me in the US side of the report, too, Seth. I think that the overall UOR attendance relative to Disney feels about right, but the distribution of its growth over 2013 between the two parks seems way too lopsided to me.
10.SeaWorld Orlando 4.7 -8.0%
If Kong brings in another 11% percent like Minions, could both IOA and USH pass DCA in 2016? Ouch.
19.3 million visitors to the Magic Kingdom. Wow. Astonishing. That's an average of over 53k a day in the park. Contrast that number with a world renown coaster park like Cedar Point that pulls about 16.6M/day (adjusted for half year operations) and you see why themed entertainment is king.
The best representation of Orlando in 2014 would be a scenario depicting Queen Elsa having an epic battle with Harry Potter. The fight takes place in SeaWorld, the two combatants completely tear up the place like the final scene in a Micheal Bay film. In the end, SeaWorld is completely devastated. Elsa wins, but barely; completely battered, bloodied and barely even standing.
Robert - Nice come back the Sea World comments or as I call it (I believe everything I see on TV crowd). Hey look, a dead flying monkey on TV - it must be real...
I noticed in the report that not a single water park in California made the top 20 worldwide list in terms of attendance. Raging Waters San Dimas is clinging to 13th in North America. It's just not really a thing here, despite the favorable weather. And with our state's historic drought, it's a wonder that water parks are still allowed to operate in CA at all.
Very interesting report as always. The Sea World drop is of concern. The documentary really did its thing. I still feel they will recover in time as they are excellent parks. Plus they HELP lots of animals!
I hate all the negative comments about the Sea World parks. What do these people think should be done with the animals? They would never survive in the wild.
I absolutely respect other's opinions... I didn't mean to be harsh, it is just my opinion and I said the animals were one of the reasons... I also find SeaWorld "boring" but, again, it may be me. Many people I know finds Epcot boring and it is one of my favorite parks... The documentary was pretty "eye-opening" but I also felt bad while visiting and seeing the animals, I personally believe animals are not necessary for good entertainment (I worry about the animals in the Animal Kingdom too but I still love the park...). I do not believe everything I see on TV but I am also not blinded by my love of the parks...
Yes, Potter is a mighty franchise, and a sure draw. But I think it's exaggerated to say that you "need" a franchise in order to be successful in the theme park business. Magic Kingdom had an attendance gain of 4%, and their only new ride was 7DMT. A 1930s animation classic doesn't qualify as a current franchise.
Hi Cecilia - you are correct about your own opinion.. It is just that folks are tired of hearing that Blackfish story.
Missing from the FAQ section of the report:
While I am not sure how accurate these estimations are, there are several interesting things about the results:
Actually, IOA usually has the early entry hours, not Universal Studios. Another reason that some of these stats appear a bit off. They only do early entry for both parks on peak attendance days. Note: The OU & Parkscope Insiders that have seen the actual attendance numbers say the TEA figures for IOA and Universal Studios are too low. These gentlemen have excellent track records for accuracy & I would believe them over TEA anyday.
AJ Hummel- the biggest theme park franchise is Mickey Mouse, not Harry Potter. Hence the attendance #s at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.
Interesting to note that the 2 Disneyland Paris parks are down 4.7% but the three other French parks are up an average 11.5%. This is despite a major new attraction, so that suggests to me it's the Disney parks themselves that are proving a turnoff and they really need to pull their finger out.
Well if you're a Disney fanboy (and you believe the numbers in this report) you should be VERY HAPPY.
Also (repeating myself from another thread) if you believe the numbers that are published you can add the two Universal Parks in Orlando together and they'd be almost 3 million guests below the Magic Kingdom's.
Sea World isn't that great of a park, which is why the attendance numbers are down. You take away the beer googles and you can see it's not really note worthy for an Orlando park.
Just as I expected. Universals great success has been beneficial for disney as all of their parks have increased, except paris. The biggest parks to watch imo are Tokyo Disneyland and sea. Both have major expansions beginning with a new fantasyland, which given Oriental Land cos history you can expect to be significantly better than disney worlds. Probably an even a bigger draw is the Frozen land coming to Disneysea. I can easily see Tokyo's parks claiming the 2nd and 3rd spots after the expansions.
@ajhummel, it's true that Disney hasn't made many large investments in the parks recently, but there have been many many small incremental improvements and they add up to a lot. I want Disney to build more E-tickets, but in the meanwhile I appreciate the feeling that they keep doing little things to maintain or upgrade the parks, something that smaller regional parks just don't or can't do. Also, we might, as theme park geeks, have to admit that even though we thought magic bands were evil and a bad investment, that they have clearly been a success, helping drive growth that should lead to more expansion.
Notice Universal Studios Japan's attendance exceeds that of the three Disney Orlando theme parks with the exception of MK. In Japan, the attendance differences between Disney and Universal isn't as spread out. This is what happens when Disney doesn't have the advantage of being in the Orlando bubble. There might be some hope that USH might rise significantly higher in attendance after Harry Potter opens.
"Once again all of the Disney Orlando parks crushed IOA and USF (smallest margin 2 million guests). And they are maintaining their lead without adding what some would call an E-ticket attraction."
Jonah, I agree that Disney has been making minor improvements, but I am still surprised that attendance continues to rise despite the lack of marketable investments and continued price increases. Florida opened the remainder of New Fantasyland last year, and since nobody from out of town is going to just visit the Magic Kingdom the increases at the other parks can be tied somewhat to that. What surprises me is that the Disneyland Resort in California, which hasn't really done anything since the grand reopening of DCA in 2012, is still seeing increases two years later even with the more expensive tickets and decrease of annual passholders. I guess there must just be some who wanted to wait until the crowd died down before their visit. It is going to be really interesting what happens to Disney in the upcoming years because for the first time ever the chain is starting to have some serious competition and I doubt they're current strategy of only adding a few new attractions per resort per decade will be able to work indefinitely. Minor improvements are great, but E-tickets are what lead to significant attendance increases.
AJ's percentages are about as scientific as TEA's report... :P
James writes: "A 2 million attendance margin really isn't that big."
A 2 million increase is too big in one year, but not too big in 2 years. In 2013, USF was 7.1 million in attendance. It is now 8.3 million. Another 2 years is required for any Universal Orlando park to hit 10 million while Disney theme parks continue to increase 2 or 3% per year. Avatar might be the game changer for Animal Kingdom. Could Animal Kingdom exceed Epcot's attendance?
I knew TH would be in here with his Disney cheerleader skirt on.... "I don't believe these numbers for a second" in one sentence.... uses them for the basis of his arguments elsewhere... (facepalm).
Not quite sure what NB means when he says I use TEA/AECOM for the "basis of my argument." Without seeing their math the numbers presented have little or no credibility.
In each year since Potter opened, DHS and DAK have only had gains of no more than 2%. When Potter opened up last year, attendance went up by 1 million. Considering that it was only open for half a year, 2015 will have the first full year of operations for Diagon Alley. Thus, it seems likely that it will get at least another million this year since there are many who haven't seen the new area yet and will do so. In that event, the Universal Orlando parks have a good chance of catching up to the lower Disney parks.
TH: From what I've read elsewhere, I believe your rankings are probably right on. Many prominent insiders are basically saying the same thing. Generally, it seems that the feeling is that MK, Epcot, Universal Studios & IOA have higher attendances than the TEA report and that DHS is considerably lower than the report. I guess we do agree on some things..... Much too far in the future, though, for me to comment on the post Avatar/Star Wars/Nintendo/Fast & Furious/Kong/Water Park rankings.
I too am pulling for the Sea World parks. I just got a 2-YEAR Premium Pass for only $155!!! It includes parking and discounts. Can't beat that anywhere else in the theme park community. I live about 175 miles from the San Diego park BUT will be making at least 3 or 4 visits a year. Thoroughly enjoyed my last visit and am thoroughly convinced that Sea World is a great place when it comes to the care and respect for animals. We as a society need places like Sea World to actually form a bond with animals that we would never have the privilege of safely encountering in their native habitats. Coming into contact with these magnificent creatures helps solidify a bond and appreciation that motivates us to do our part in preserving the environments that they live in. If we can't see (and sometimes touch) them, then we tend to not care if they live or not. If we can't interact, then we tend to not care enough to help. Sea World provides a go-between between the animals it houses and the public. We need Sea World and the various species in our oceans have benefited from it's existence.
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