Attendance, Revenue Plummet at Six Flags

November 10, 2022, 11:45 AM · Theme park attendance fell 33% in the three months ending October 2 at Six Flags versus the same period one year earlier, the company reported today. The attendance drop contributed to a 21% decline in revenue for the quarter, from $638 million in 2021 to $505 million in 2022.

Guest spending did rise 17% to an average of $60.96 per visitor, driven by a 22% increase in spending on admission, as Six Flags raised gate prices and saw a higher percentage of visitors using single-day tickets. (Looking at it another way, visits by passholders basically tanked.)

"This was a year of transition for Six Flags, as we made bold changes to our business model in order to elevate the guest experience and to position the company for sustainable, long-term earnings growth," Six Flags President and CEO Selim Bassoul said. "While it will take time to achieve our ambitious goals, we are encouraged by our recent progress, with guest spending per capita up nearly 50 percent year-to-date relative to 2019, and with attendance trends and season pass sales significantly accelerating in October and early November. We have an exciting lineup of new rides and immersive festivals planned for 2023, and we are optimistic that our momentum will continue through the upcoming season and beyond."

None of Six Flags' top parks have yet announced major new coasters for 2023, with the company's announced plans for next year relying heavily on themed seasonal festivals.

Six Flags' net income for the quarter dropped 26% year-over-year, to $116 million, with Adjusted EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] dropping 19%, to $226 million.

Looking at the year to date, Six Flags' attendance for the first nine months of 2022 was down 25% from the first nine months of 2021, which is an incredible number considering the Covid restrictions that kept several top parks closed or operating at reduced capacity in early 2021.

In other news reported by the company today, Six Flags has amended its agreement with H Partners to allow the New York-based investment firm to increase its ownership of Six Flags common stock to 19.9%.

"We are excited about the company’s strategy to deliver an exceptional guest experience and to drive sustainable, long-term earnings growth," Arik Ruchim, a Partner at H Partners and director on the Six Flags Board, said. "We believe that meaningful change takes time to implement, and we are encouraged by the early signs of progress on this ambitious journey."

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Replies (9)

November 10, 2022 at 12:40 PM

I'm not sure there's any silver lining here. For as bad as Sea World's report was earlier this week, this from Six Flags is even worse. Losing 25% of your attendance year over year following 2021 when parks were still under restrictions and limits is absolutely shocking. SF tries to sugar coat the numbers by noting the increase in guest spending, but almost all of that is attributable to the chain shifting more guests into single admission tickets and away from season passes.

The fact that the chain reports these results and then doubles down on the "progress" is just as tone deaf as Sea World's horn tooting over their "record revenues" and moves to further cut costs.

I really wish these theme park companies would understand how their businesses worked and what guests want, because both SF and SW are quickly losing touch. Six Flags was, is, and always will be a theme park chain that delivers value to guests on the lower end of the economic ladder. To not recognize the need to court, incentivize, and maintain healthy relationships with those guests (yes, that includes those undesirable teens too), is completely tone deaf to the market that the chain exists within. SF trying to shift to a marginally higher quality experience to woo bigger spenders is obviously not working, yet they appear to be too thickheaded to understand what made Six Flags successful in the first place.

H Partners increasing their stake in the company is a clear signal that the company will soon be on the market as inflation naturally drives up the value of even failing businesses.

November 10, 2022 at 12:39 PM

the numbers speak for themselves, but I frankly haven't seen any evidence of this improved guest experience that six flags keeps talking about. I don't think a visit to six flags is as bad as some complain about ... but it's certainly not getting better. more expensive? sure. but better? I don't see it.

November 10, 2022 at 3:03 PM

@Jacob - That "improved guest experience" is for those of us who actually went to SF parks this year and had practically the entire park to ourselves.

Granted it was after a heavy rainstorm, but we stopped at SFGAdv on our way home from New York on a Sunday afternoon in June and were able to WALK ON El Toro, Medusa, Jersey Devil, Nitro, and Batman all within the span of 2 hours. In previous years, we would have felt lucky to ride all those coasters in the span of a full 8-10 hour day.

When we were in Texas around the 4th of July, SFoT was virtually empty on 2 different days we visited (not more than 3 dozen cars in the second parking lot). At SFFT, if not for single train operations on Superman Krypton Coaster and Iron Rattler, we would not have waited more than 15 minutes for any single ride at the San Antonio park.

I'm used to SFA being pretty empty during our normal Sunday visits (lots of church going folks in the area make Sundays comparatively quiet over Saturdays), but we even visited on a Saturday evening during Fright Fest to find lines no more than 10-15 minutes on rides that are typically 30+ on fall Saturdays.

I certainly have seen an improved guest experience over previous years at all of the SF parks we've visited this year, but it's primarily because there are so few guests in their parks, not because the parks are doing anything out of the ordinary to make a visit substantially better. The problem is that in order for the experience to stay this good, people have to stop coming, which probably means the chain goes out of business.

November 10, 2022 at 2:46 PM

I was up this morning doing some housekeeping tasks and decided to tune into their earnings call and may have lost a few IQ points listening to the soup nazi contradict himself over and over. He talked about how cheap passes and dining pass ruined the company, then said they brought back cheap passes and the dining pass which improved attendance later in the quarter. Said that big new rides are driving attendance but there literally no major new rides in the pipeline. Talked about how special events like Fright Fest are an opportunity to drive attendance (something they have already been doing for over 30 years). Talked about how their main priority is improving the guest experience and operations, then said over and over again about how they are eliminating full time staff because it’s a waste of money (anybody that has worked at a SF park for any period of time knows they already had basically no full time staff as evidenced by the fact that so many parks run 1 train on so many rides the first few months of every season now).
At one point he literally said “the sticker shock was emphasized by the lag between increase prices and park improvements” lmao. SF got lucky the market is way up today and that fund is trying to buy the dip (that is yet to be seen).

I hate to say it because I agree with his (and the fund buying in's) general premise that the parks should be better and it takes time to turn things around. I have no problem with them eliminating freebies and raising pass prices, the problem is they did this while simultaneously not doing anything to make the parks better, pissed everyone off, and now are going back to more of what they were doing before and acting like they did something productive. His obsession with cutting full time staff especially irks me as I have worked in the industry 25+ years and have seen it over and over again with executives, where they walk through the parks and get mad. "Paint this, fix that, why does that look like that?" The reason being they keep cutting people whose full time job it is to keep the park looking nice, then they walk through and say this place sucks fix things, so they spend the $ to fix everything once and the executive goes to bed at night thinking he is the man and turned things around. But because they cut the full time maintenance staff there is not enough people to maintain things and it falls into disrepair again. If they want better long term guest experience they need to invest in long term staff, not cut even more of what is already underfunded.

If they were actually doing the right things the parks wouldn't be opening with 1 train on the most popular rides every season and their best coaster at their biggest park wouldn't be having accidents keeping it closed two years in a row. More fulltime maintenance staff would actually fix both of these issues.

November 10, 2022 at 1:54 PM

I’d rather be in cedar fair or sea worlds circumstances vs six flags. The Falling knife might just be a guillotine; no need to try to catch when you have no head!

November 10, 2022 at 2:57 PM

I do not believe there is any justifiable excuse for these numbers. A small drop is acceptable for a transition year, but losing a third of your attendance and over a fifth of your revenue is not a small drop. By my estimate, even with the increased guest spending, they'd need to increase their attendance by around 25% from what they had this year just to meet the revenue they were getting previously, which is a very tall order after burning so many longtime customers. This is doubly true when the only new ride coming to the chain next year (that I'm aware of) is a ride that was originally announced for 2020. I'm pretty sure the reintroduction of cheap passes is an attempt to prevent Q4's numbers from being even more disastrous. It's very clear that Bassoul is out of touch with who Six Flags's customer base is, and I don't see any chance of the company recovering under his leadership.

I will give Bassoul a little bit of credit for improving the guest experience, however. While not things that will drive ticket sales, I have seen more effort going into upkeep this year, and small things like ride wait time boards and single rider lines have made a difference in enjoyability. Smaller crowds and better operations have also kept the lines much more reasonable. That said, these are things that might inspire me to visit more as a passholder, but would not get me to make an extra visit if I were buying a ticket. For that, the parks need new capital.

November 10, 2022 at 8:55 PM

Good riddance. My daughter wants to go to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom this Saturday for her birthday with friends, and I'm dreading it. There are only a handful of rides I care anything about riding, and the hassle, expense and irritation factor easily overwhelm any joy I could hope to achieve. It's like going to a really crappy, rundown outdoor mall. Literally the only thing I'm looking forward to is that they sell beer.

November 13, 2022 at 10:51 PM


November 14, 2022 at 11:32 PM

At our local SF park (La Ronde in Montreal, Canada) they used to practically give away the season pass, and season-long meal deal. That was unsustainable, so they jacked up prices for both this past season. I don't mind that too much, and still had fun with my season pass. But, now that they are charging much more per guest, they really need to add something to the park. There hasn't been anything new since 2019. No one expected new rides during the pandemic, but again, nothing new has been announced for the 2023 season.

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