Theme park industry story ideas for 2020?

December 30, 2019, 1:06 PM

Hey everyone,

As I am planning my schedule for the new year, I want to make sure that I am covering the stories and parks that most interest you. So, beside the obvious big parks, new attraction openings and day-to-day news that I always work to cover, are there any other specific stories or issues that you would like to see me write about here on Theme Park Insider?

These can be enterprise stories or interviews on specific projects or broad industry trends. Whatever interests you and would motivate you to want to share the post with friends and colleagues.

No promises that I can get to everything you suggest, but I always love to hear suggestions for unique stuff that I can be covering for you. Thanks, as always, and happy new year.

Replies (22)

December 30, 2019, 1:53 PM

I think a big story moving into the next decade will be "Corporate Synergy". Not just synergy between individual theme park properties and their corporate owners, but also within companies and their other businesses. Universal and Disney have been streamlining and consolidating their businesses, to the point where there is a storyline in Rise of Skywalker pulled directly from Rise of the Resistance.

I think in the search for greater efficiency and growing profit for these often publicly traded companies that there is an increasing need to cut costs and create interest across multiple platforms to justify attractions. Non-media parks like Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Sea World create synergy through bulk purchases and cloning. The business side (i.e. profit and loss) is something that doesn't get covered very much, and I'm sure is a topic that few managers and executives would discuss openly on the record. However, I think a lot of people lose sight of why certain decisions are made and while there are always cuts due to costs to gin up profits, while others are done just to get a project across the finish line and cut the losses.

December 30, 2019, 6:31 PM

I would love to see more posts that analyze theme park differences and/or why rides flop or feel special. An example of the first would be answering the following question: why are people willing to queue up so long for attractions like Soaring: Fantastic Flight and Toy Story Mania in Japan but not the states?

For my second suggestion, an article would focus on a particular attraction or land, such as: how did Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey turn into such a monument in theme parks?

Edited: December 31, 2019, 10:24 AM

The history stuff is always of interest to me. Anything that looks back on the evolution of a ride or a park or a company would be terrific.

Something that's been rolling around in the back of my mind for a while is an in depth analysis of how the addition of Universal's Epic Universe (They have got to come up with a better name.) to the theme park scene in Orlando is going to impact the Sea World Parks. Is Sea World going to be proactive about trying to not lose more market share like they did when Harry Potter was added to IOA and USF or are they going to sit pat on their focus as being the coaster park of Central Florida?

I think we need to readdress the issue of the transformation of both the Disney and Universal chains from middle class focused parks to upper middle class and upper class parks. We had an interesting discussion at my house the other day about the evolution of the marketing focus and whether or not Universal and especially Disney can maintain the public impression that they are affordable for the average consumer. (Me - premium brands; my wife and son - everyman's brands)

Edited: December 31, 2019, 10:52 AM

Some more thoughts

Six Flags - Buy, sell, or expand?

Cedar Fair - Same as above

Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Sea World - Keep it to the coasters or move more into the interactive dark rides with animatronics and start taking on the big boys.

Which small or independent amusement parks/chains are poised to expand or close in the next few years?

Anything Epic Universe related

How is the rapid expansion/modernization of the US Disney and Universal parks affecting the talent pool/workforce for the theme park industry?

Interviews with theme park employees - ride operators, ride maintainers, operations managers, food sector managers and employees, merchandising personnel, park decorators, etc.

More interviews and articles with the independent ride developers. We've had some good stuff already, but more of the same would be welcome.

Where will the smart money go to develop/expand theme parks in the world in the new decade? We've seen a lot of stupid money go into development in the Middle East and to a lesser extent in China (house of cards economy IMO), but where will the smart money go in the next several years?

Why will Universal expand or not expand in California in the next several years? (Second park?)

Why will Disney expand or not expand in California in the next several years? (Third park?)

Who's most likely to build a year-round indoor/outdoor park in the Northeast in the next several years?

What's the probability for the other major studios/entertainment corporations to move into the theme park market? If they do where would they go?

December 31, 2019, 10:51 AM

I'd like to see AJ Hummel do one of his epic coaster tours in Europe one day. Go Fund Me?

December 31, 2019, 10:59 AM

How can Disney make a visit to Disney World less stressful? How can we make it less stressful? I know we've touched on this issue in many different articles in the past, but with the embarrassment of riches going into Disney World and eventually Epic Universe, I for one, feel overwhelmed on how to maximize the fun and minimize the pain on a future visit.

January 1, 2020, 12:03 AM

I'd like to see TPI aggressive position on the tendency for the media to slam Disney just because it generates "clicks". Example; Today on the Yahoo home page is an article with the headline "Disney World's Magic Kingdom turns away guests on New Year's Eve." The headline is misleading. A proper headline would identify the situation in the context of capacity issues.

More and more the tendency is for media outlets to seek any opportunity to slant the Disney parks in a negative light. As a student of journalism you have the ability to shine a light on that trend.

Edited: January 1, 2020, 9:40 AM

I love to hear more stories about the "Industry" part.
For instance how the Disney company greased palms twice to change the copyright law (although they became big through using copyright-free stories) to protect Mickey Mouse from going into the public domain. This will be up again at the end of 2023 so what is the mouse doing to save their money maker this time?
Or how they buy wetland so they can ruin other wetland (set apart by Walt himself) and still keep a straight face when they say they conserve nature.
Or (non Disney related) how contractors and theme parks work together to create one off rides and how the transition to operations goes.

January 1, 2020, 5:31 PM

Tim, you might be happy to hear that I've got rough itineraries for four European coaster tours to happen at some point in the 2020s. I'm hoping to do the first one in 2021 or 2022 (more likely the latter), and I'll definitely write some sort of report on those.

As for the front page, I find articles focusing on history, analysis, or behind the scenes elements far more interesting than just straight news reporting. I'd definitely like to see more of this sort of thing on the front page, with possibly a little less fluff pieces (low impact news articles). The other thing I'd love to see is more about regional theme parks rather than 90% of the posts being on Disney or Universal. It would be really neat to perhaps have a "local park of the month" article, particularly if you could get input from those living in or familiar with the area of those parks.

Edited: January 2, 2020, 8:55 AM

So true TH. Even here in DC one of our local news stations showed those aerial shots of the lines going into TTC on NYE. The story was all about the traffic jam and how long people were waiting to just get into the parking lot, not about how immensely popular it is to spend NYE in WDW.

All of the negative publicity surrounding Galaxy's Edge was pretty disappointing too. It's like Disney can't win for losing. Either they get slammed for creating traffic jams and 4-hour waits or they get criticized for having an empty park because they took aggressive steps to keep crowds manageable for the guests that needed to see the new attractions when they first debuted. Criticism is fine, but there needs to be some objective balance to highlight why those complaint-worthy conditions exist.

January 2, 2020, 9:31 AM

While I am highly critical of the reliance of the app and preplanning at WDW, I fully recognize the negative bias in these articles. You hear of the four hour wait at Disney but very little about the issues with the Hagrid coaster. On that note, I would like a highly technical article about wait times from an industrial engineer with multiple options. Would no system be better? A comparison of all methods based on crowd levels. You know the parks have studied it extensively.

January 2, 2020, 12:50 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions.

One of the stark realities of the news publishing business right now is that you get the most incoming traffic from search engines and social media for stories that everyone else is publishing, too. All those algorithms are set to reward what they perceive as viral content. So if you do something truly original - no matter how good - no one drives traffic to it and it gets ignored.

That's why I've tried, from time to time, to encourage people to sign up for our email newsletter and to use RSS readers and subscribe to our feed. That way, you get informed of everything I post to the front page, not just the stuff FB/Google/etc. choose to let you know about.

But it also explains why I have to keep posting those run-of-the-mill news stories on the front page. If the number or percentage of those stories drops too low, traffic nosedives and I can't keep the site going. So I have to find a mix that allows me to keep the traffic and revenue up while also pursuing the original stories that are so much more fun to report and, for many of you, to read, too.

Since I have only a limited amount of original stuff I can put up, though, due to the time it takes to report these pieces as well as the need to maintain the proper front page voodoo, I want to make super-sure I am doing the stuff that my most loyal readers really want to see. That's the reason for this thread. You've offered some great ideas here, so please keep 'em coming!

Edited: January 2, 2020, 5:44 PM

Some of my favourite pieces on the site are when you offer an alternative - researched - perspective on the popular stories of the day. So I'm very happy to read more of that when it offers that deeper level.

As a reader from outside the US, I've always found the pieces exploring the effect of domestic social and economic factors on the US parks really interesting. And going forward, I'd love to read more of substance about the emerging international markets that don't get too much coverage elsewhere beyond construction photos and regurgitated press releases.

January 3, 2020, 12:52 AM

I would like to see more international coverage... sometimes I wonder if maybe there's too much disney/universal focus in the day to day stories. Its good that there has been more of this lately but these seem to be bigger stories rather than the run of the mill stuff.

January 3, 2020, 12:40 PM

Since many movies and shows are tied together in Theme parks...

John Williams - as I have asked or mentioned in the past.... We need a well written story covering this man and his music..

Maybe you can get to interview him..

Edited: January 5, 2020, 9:03 AM

I'm personally connected to the following matter, so I present it as a subject :
The strenght of really independent parks.
(No chain, nor outsider capital holders around)

They still DO exist, perhaps especially in Europe, and are effectively climbing to success (or keeping their position).
In the whole corporate (multinational) world, it became common fare to see parks as both dividend return investment opportunities (investors on stock market) or completely loose from their public goal (pleasing customers) handeled as retail-ware themselves. Parks being bought and sold to make a good profit at the right time... has nothing to do with the ticket paying customers. The investment game seems to be ice-cold.
How much different that is, when considering the truely independent parks. Their focus MUST be directly customer based. There is no other relation possible then between the end-user and the park operator directly. No third parties...
It would be great to analyse this "other way" in the theme park business.
(I've got full listings of the type of park, in Europe)

January 14, 2020, 6:51 PM

Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom, and Knoebels are successful independent parks in the USA.

January 15, 2020, 11:30 AM

This one would be more of an archive piece, but I personally would love to read your thoughts on the fascinating rise & fall of Geauga Lake.

January 15, 2020, 5:04 PM

Ooo, that sounds like a James Koehl special there!

January 16, 2020, 3:56 PM

No promises, but I'll see what I can do. I'll be busy for a few months directing a musical for our local theater, but I'm about due for another article

January 16, 2020, 6:18 PM

James, if it's not "Cedar Point: The Musical!" I'll be sorely disappointed.

January 18, 2020, 6:04 AM

Lol! Actually it's called "The Robber Bridegroom" and don't worry- nobody else has heard of it either. It's all bluegrass music and square dancing, but lots of fun.

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