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Attendance Still Lags Pre-Pandemic Levels at Six Flags

July 28, 2021, 12:42 PM · Six Flags this morning reported a 19% decline in attendance for the second quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

Attendance for the three month period ending July 4, 2021 was 8.5 million guests, a decrease of 2.0 million compared to second quarter of 2019, which ended on June 30 that year, so it did not include the July 4 holiday.

On the revenue side, Six Flags reported $460 million in total revenue for the quarter, down 4% from the comparable period in 2019. The decline was softened by a 23% increase in guest spending per capita, with Six Flags reporting $51.94 guest spend in 2021 compared with $42.27 in 2019.

In its press release, the company explained the per capita growth: "Most 2021 season passes have been sold later in the season than in 2019, resulting in season pass revenue being recognized over a shorter time frame and higher Admissions spending per capita. The increase in In-park spending per capita was due to early progress on several of the company’s transformation initiatives and strong consumer spending trends."

"Our results this quarter are due to the dedication of our team members, who really pulled together to safely reopen our parks," Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos said. "While the operating environment continues to be challenging, we are encouraged by the initial progress on our transformation plan, which contributed to our improving revenue and guest spending per capita trends. Our goal is to delight both our guests and our shareholders by providing classic Six Flags thrills, enhanced with modern technology, while keeping a careful eye on costs."

The result was a net income of $71 million for the quarter, down over 10% from the second quarter of 2019, but a substantial improvement over the $137 million loss the company posted during the same period in 2020.

Six Flags reported an "Active Pass Base" of 6.3 million at the end of second quarter 2021, including included 2.1 million members and 4.2 million traditional season pass holders. As of June 30, 2021, Six Flags' Active Pass Base was essentially flat compared to June 30, 2019, the company said. When the pandemic hit and parks closed, Six Flags extended the use of all 2020 season passes through the end of 2021.

About 64% of visits in the second quarter came from the active pass base, compared with 61% of visits in the same quarter in 2019, which reflected a sharp decline in prebooked single-day ticket sales that typically include many school groups, who have not been visiting in 2021, company officials said.

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Replies (11)

July 28, 2021 at 1:22 PM

I think Six Flags has a major problem with the in park experience being so sh*tty that people just don't want to go anymore. When I was a kid going to my home SF park 30 years ago the season pass was like $60 and then another $25 or so for a season parking pass. Out of curiosity I just checked that parks website and they are selling season pass for literally $60 and it includes parking. Maybe the price is slightly higher at the beginning of the year but still...if the only way you can get people to go to your theme park (that is in one of the biggest markets in the country with virtually zero competition) is to let them in basically for free an unlimited amount of times...that is indicitive of a major problem.

In 2018 I did SFGADV, SFNE, SFA, and SFOG and have had zero desire to go back to any SF parks since. Like I said i've been chronically going to parks over 30 years and while SF has been consistently bad over the last 20 years or so I am just done with it. And what the hell is up with SFGADV's locker policy? If you buy a ticket to get into the park IMO you should be able to go on the major rides without being forced to pay an additional upcharge. While other companies have this scam going as well (such as Sea World and CF) at least they will let you take your small items and stuff on with zipper pockets, and Universal offers the ride lockers included with admission. SFGADV literally shakes you down and no keys/phones whatsoever even if they are secured. That is fine if you offer a place for them to be secured like Universal does, but there is literally no way for anyone to get on the parks major coasters without paying an additional fee. That's total BS.

July 28, 2021 at 1:24 PM

Been reading horror stories on Six Flags parks worse on maintaining mask/distance rules than other places. No real shock, these places were rough even in great times, let alone now.

Just read someone on a visit to Great America in Gurnee, noting issues with staffing, handling lines, some rides, closed etc. All that adds up to a bad rep that may keep people from going and that's without current conditions.

July 28, 2021 at 1:25 PM

Will we be getting the 2020 attendance numbers?

I know last year was crazy - but still interested to know if we can expect a report for the parks that were open?

July 28, 2021 at 2:47 PM

As for Six Flags, there were 400,000 visitors to Six Flags parks in the second quarter of 2020. Check the archives for previous Six Flags quarterly reports, which will include attendance data.

As for the rest of the industry, the TEA/AECOM report is coming next month.

July 28, 2021 at 3:46 PM

So, I am a season pass holder for SF mainly because it is cheaper to buy a season pass that includes parking than it is to pay admission and parking twice. We just returned on Sunday from a trip to Six Flags St. Louis. This park greatly differs from Six Flags Great America that I traditionally go to (and did over the Memorial Day holiday). While the park is smaller and does not have the signature roller coasters found at SFGA; we enjoyed this park exponentially more. First, the park does not have the issues with out of control teens that have plagued SFGA. The employees were much more friendly, personable and helpful. SFGA has historically had some of the worst customer service in the hospitality industry. SFSL was the first time visiting a SF park that I did not leave in a horrible mood due to crappy customer service, horrible lines/waits, and an overall bad experience. Now, they still have all of the things that make Six Flags, Six Flags...namely bad food that is incredibly overpriced (even more than Disney and Universal), and rides that do not feel like they are maintained at a level necessary to ensure they will be around for long.

July 28, 2021 at 4:42 PM

@MLB: That’s just good ol’ fashioned Midwestern hospitality and manners. You don’t get that in large cities. For the uninitiated, Six Flags “St. Louis” is actually located in Eureka, Missouri, about 30 miles from St. Louis.

On my recent vacation to the southeast, there was staffing issues everywhere. Restaurants that were drive thru only, and help wanted signs everywhere. Dollywood did not have on ride pictures available at any of their rides with signs posted the reason was staffing issues, so @MikeW, this is not just a Six Flags problem.

July 28, 2021 at 11:09 PM

I went to Six Flags Great America about a year before the pandemic and the lines for food and snack/beverage/alcohol service were absolutely atrocious. Coupled with the general feeling of indifferent at best customer service we received, I left wondering a) how an operation like this continues to function with a clear lack of training and quality control top to bottom and b) how much more wonderful a park this could be if their A-list attractions anchored a park that was kept up to a level befitting them, and not a county fair that got lucky and landed the prettiest rollercoaster date in school.

July 28, 2021 at 11:31 PM

There’s a reason why Six Flags is the butt of jokes in the theme park industry. It’s an awfully run business with TMs not fully trained, not being clean or organized, terrible riders per hour system, and just awful all around. Six Flags is for the worst guests of the theme park world.

July 29, 2021 at 1:07 AM

Honestly, if the chain was still operating under capacity restrictions for much of Q2 (along with some of their parks still closed for a portion of it) and revenue was only down 4%, I'd consider that a pretty big win. The Q3 numbers are going to be the real tell of whether the demand stays strong or it was just everyone using their extended passes, but on the whole I'd say Six Flags seems to be emerging from the darkest part of the pandemic on a reasonably good trajectory. I've been hearing some of the parks broke attendance records this past month, which is exciting to think about. As mentioned in the call, they are short staffed and that has led to some operational issues this year, but no theme park is immune to that this year and with time it should improve as well.

July 29, 2021 at 11:21 AM

@AJ

Can only speak for Magic Mountain since it’s the only Six Flags park I’ve been too since it reopened and there was no capacity limit when it reopened. This park didn’t bother to follow safety protocols, they just reopened like nothing ever happened. I had 2 sisters who gave their 2 week notice shortly after it reopened because it was terribly run and management didn’t even give a care as long as they got business.

July 30, 2021 at 8:21 AM

I’d like to see how 2021 ends to give a “pass or fail” to Six Flags.

3 of their 4 most popular parks were pretty much shuttered in 2020 due to Covid and time. For example, my SFGA is only usually open from April to October with a scattering of December weekends. They never opened until the December weekends which was a bit of something thrown together.

Great America is suffering just like every other theme park, but they’re not open all year round. They are having a hard time getting people to work.

As for them not enforcing the mask mandates, I never saw that problem. With that, I’ve seen many Disney and Universal members break down online and even quit because the abuse is so great. People are berating park employees about mask wearing so people don’t want to work there anymore

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