2004 Theme Park Attendance Estimates Announced

Strong gains at top U.S. theme parks, fueled in part by a weak dollar, helped drive global theme park attendance up in 2004, according to Amusement Business magazine.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 13, 2004 at 5:48 PM
Strong attendance gains at U.S. theme parks, after two years of declines, helped drive worldwide attendance up 2.2 percent, to 252.4 million visitors in 2004, according to an annual estimate by Amusment Business magazine.

U.S. theme park attendance grew by 4 percent over 2003, to 169.1 million visitors, the magazine reported. A weak dollar has helped keep U.S. tourists at home, and made the U.S. a more afforable destination for many Europeans.

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued to lead the world's theme parks in attendance, attracting 8 percent more visitors this year, for a total of 15.1 million ticks of the turnstyles. Anaheim, California's Disneyland jumped its Tokyo sister for the number two slot, with a 5 percent increase in attendance bring the flagship Disney park to 13.4 million visitors for the year.

Both the Tokyo Disney parks were flat in 2004, with Tokyo Disneyland bringing in 13.2 million visitors and Tokyo DisneySea attracting 12.2 million.

Disneyland Paris help on to the number five slot worldwide, with 10.2 million visitors -- flat from last year.

The Disney World theme parks continued to rule the Orlando market, with Epcot, Disney-MGM and Disney's Animal Kingdom taking the number three throgh five slots for top U.S. theme park attendance.

None of the positions among the U.S. top ten changed, with Universal Studios Florida capturing the sixth slot, followed by its sister Islands of Adventure. Disney's California Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood again rounded out the top ten in the U.S.

Here are the year-end attendance estimates for U.S. theme parks, from Amusement Business magazine:

Theme Park2004 AttendanceIncrease from 2003
Magic Kingdom15.1 million8%
Disneyland13.4 million5%
Epcot9.4 million9%
Disney-MGM Studios8.2 million7%
Animal Kingdom7.8 million7%
Universal Studios Florida6.7 million14%
Islands of Adventure6.3 million13%
California Adventure5.6 million6%
SeaWorld Orlando5.6 million4%
Universal Studios Hollywood5 million8%

From Robert Niles
Posted December 13, 2004 at 5:50 PM
Okay, checking the math on these numbers from the 2003 estimates, and I see a problem with the Universal Orlando numbers, which AB is reporting as doube-digit percentage increases over last year.

However, my notes from last year show AB's estimate of USF's 2003 attendance at 6.9 million, and of IOA's at 6.1 million. That would give IOA a 3% increase (not 13%) and USF a 3% decrease.

I'll check with my hard copy of the magazine when I can dig it up, and look for changes on the AB website. (It's subscription-only, otherwise I'd provide a link.)

From Justin Smith
Posted December 13, 2004 at 6:07 PM
It would be better if DIsneyland of Epcot got #1 for a change. At least DCA is higher than Universal Studios. YAY. But Sea World Orlando will probably beat it next year.

From Carey Lynn Holtsclaw
Posted December 13, 2004 at 6:58 PM
Is there any way we can view the entire top 50 list?

From Derek Potter
Posted December 13, 2004 at 8:35 PM
Here's another tidbit from an article on the subject. 12 of the 13 Six Flags parks in the worldwide top 50 either saw no increase or a decline by as much as 13 percent in 2004. Overall attendance at Six Flags parks dropped 4.5 percent in the first nine months. Also, the only major Florida park that didn't see an increase was Busch Gardens Tampa...they will certainly see one next year though with the new B&M coaster. If you want to see what a B&M coaster can do for you, just take a look at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark... who had a 30 percent increase in attendance with the introduction of Demon.

As for my home parks, Paramount's Kings Island saw a 7 percent increase and 3.5 million visitors this past year. It was the highest ranked regional park. Cedar Point saw a 4 percent decrease this past year with 3.1 million visitors. Also worth noting is Paramount's Canada's Wonderland, which saw a 30 percent attendance increase to actually finish ahead of Cedar Point this year with 3.4 million. Paramount seems to have their stuff together, and with the Italian Job coaster going into both PKI and Canada's Wonderland, they will be sitting pretty next year as well.

Came across this list of the top 25 in attendance for 2004.


From Matt E
Posted December 13, 2004 at 9:17 PM
According to the recent AB article on 2004's attendance figures, they mention a "re-working" of the originally released 2003 numbers due to changes in the research methods causing certain estimates to be lowered from their original estimates released late last year. Specifically, they pointed out the Universal parks as being among the most affected (in terms of lowering original estimates).

I wouldn't use the "percent" changes much at all this year in trying to compare parks or their respective growths. They are kind of useless in my opinion, especially with the artifical and questionable growth shown for Universal Orlando. In order to post 14% and 13% increases at USF and IOA in 2004, respectively, the parks would have only drawn around 5.9 million for USF and 5.5 million for IOA in 2003. That would be considerable all-time lows for UO, which I just don't believe happened in 2003.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 13, 2004 at 9:44 PM
The huge jump up for IOA makes me wonder if the revised 2003 numbers AB used were too low. I could see a jump at USF due to Mummy, but I'd be surprised if it was as large as AB is claiming.

Looking down the list, Paramount showed well, as did Disney and Universal. Busch was flat, and the only bright spot for Cedar Fair was Knott's, due to massive discounting on kids' tickets. Indeed, Kings Island now beat Cedar Point. And with new themed attractions at PKI next year, compared with flat rides at CP, expect PKI'd lead over CP to extend in 2005.

(I'd also look for Busch to rebound next year, with what looks to be strong attractions in Tampa and Williamsburg in 2005. The SeaWorld parks need some help, though. Stripped-down thrill rides -- a la San Diego's Journey to Atlantis -- won't get it done.)

Six Flags, however, is the financial disaster here, as the halt in capital expansion we forecast here on TPI more than two years ago finally creamed the company in its attendance numbers.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 13, 2004 at 9:53 PM
Also, how in the heck did Disneyland go *up* this year, with fewer discounts and most of its E-tickets closed for the bulk of the year? Not to mention much of the park being behind tarps.

From Matt E
Posted December 13, 2004 at 10:08 PM
^^Maybe it was all the APers taking repeat trips into the park to take a look at the painting projects, lol. Honestly, I don't know how DL saw such an increase either. Maybe TOT did actually help bring people to DCA and thus to DLR as a whole? Who knows.

From David Klawe
Posted December 14, 2004 at 12:23 AM
Here are the Top Ten Worldwide Numbers from AB/ERA for 2004...

1. Magic Kingdom/WDW - 15.1 million (14.044 million in 2003) #1 in 2003

2. Disneyland - 13.4 million (12.72 million in 2003) #3 in 2003

3. Tokyo Disneyland - 13.2 million (13.188 million in 2003) #2 in 2003

4. Tokyo Disney Sea - 12.2 million (12.174 million in 2003) #4 in 2003

5. Disneyland Paris - 10.2 million (10.23 million in 2003) #5 in 2003

6. Universal Studios Japan - 9.9 million (8.811 million in 2003) #6 in 2003

7. EPCOT - 9.4 million (8,620,768 in 2003) #8 in 2003

8. Disney-MGM Studios - 8.26 million (7,870,733 in 2003) #10 in 2003

9. Lotte World (South Korea) - 8 million (8.5 million in 2003) #9 in 2003

10. Disney's Animal Kingdom - 7.82 million (7,305,600 in 2003) #11 in 2003

(Everland in South Korea, #7 in 2003 dropped out of the top 10)

From David Klawe
Posted December 14, 2004 at 12:31 AM
As for Robert's comment about the Disneyhland Resort Attendance... "Also, how in the heck did Disneyland go *up* this year, with fewer discounts and most of its E-tickets closed for the bulk of the year? Not to mention much of the park being behind tarps."

Well, I also find it interestesting, especially after Disney's CFO Tom Staggs went on the record in the Disney's 4th Quarter and Year End Conference call on November 18th....

>>Disneyland Resort had high single digit declines in attendance during the 4th Quarter (July thru September 2004). Mr. Staggs states that the cutbacks in discounting is the main reason for the attendance drops.

And so far during 1st Quarter 2005 (October and early November 2004), there have been modest attendance declines at the DLR.<<

To me, high single digits is 7 to 9%, so if we had that much of a decline during most of the summer, where did the attendance come from..

Well, we know that the "Pay for Disneyland, get DCA for FREE" was offered for the first four months of the year (January thru April), so what happened in May and June, well, we had a new ride, which more than likely increased the AP attendance, as AP holders came out to check the new ride.

So why has attendance dropped so much from the first half of the year, as compared to the second half of 2005?

From Matt E
Posted December 14, 2004 at 10:05 AM
^^Besides the 4th quarter though, I believe DL was seeing increased attendance throughout the rest of the year compared to last. But I don't know for sure.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 14, 2004 at 11:52 AM
But isn't the July-September quarter traditionally the busiest of the year? With the October-December quarter strong, too? Isn't the January-March quarter the weakest?

How much higher would the second and third quarter have to have been to offset the 7-9% decline in the strongest quarter of the year, plus the decline in 1Q '05?

And is that reasonable, given that there were no new rides during that period (just a Snow White show)? Plus, Space Mountain was down the whole time, with significant downtimes from Thunder. And wasn't Splash down for part of that time, too?

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 30, 2004 at 11:27 PM
I have had problems with AB's estimates for a couple years now, but this one is really suspect. WDW's numbers are way too uniform. For example, last year MK and AK were flat, Epcot was up 4% and Disney/MGM was down 2%. Historically, the numbers for all four parks have never been as close as this year. That seems a little too coincidental. Especially since it is rare that all parks do well. Ever since AK was built, one park has suffered. This year, with Epcot having the only new E-Ticket, it's increase wasn't that much bigger than the other three parks.

And there is simply no way DL and DCA could have had big gains after such a wretched summer for both parks. Maybe they were wrong on the UO parks last year, but by so much???

Too much here is suspect.

From David Klawe
Posted January 6, 2005 at 8:12 PM
I was reading the 2004 financials of the WDC Annual Report released today...


(Only posting Disneyland related info)

>>Revenues at Parks and Resorts increased 21%, or $1.3 billion, to $7.8 billion... $609 million from the Walt Disney World Resort, and $95 million from the Disneyland Resort.

At the Disneyland Resort, increased revenues were primarily due to higher guest spending at the theme parks and hotel properties.

Across our domestic theme parks, attendance increased 7% and per capita guest spending increased 6% compared to the prior year. Attendance and per capita guest spending at the Walt Disney World Resort increased 10% and 4%, respectively. Attendance at the Disneyland Resort remained flat while per capita guest spending increased 7%.<<

So, could the AB/ERA numbers be wrong?, heck this is the OFFICIAL document from Disney and is regulated by the SEC....

From Robert Niles
Posted January 6, 2005 at 11:01 PM
Well, Disney's annual report is for the fiscal year 2004, which ended Sept. 30, 2004. And AB's numbers are an estimate of calendar year 2004. But that would mean that, for the numbers to be compatible, Disney would have had to had a much, much bigger Christmas is 2004 than in 2003. Which I seriously doubt, given the lousy weather this December, plus the fact that AB published its numbers in early December, 2004, before the actual Christmas attendance was in.

To my eyes, Disney's report seems much more in line with what I saw at Disneyland in 2004 than the AB estimate. Throw in the funny numbers with Universal over the past two years, and I've got some concerns about the AB numbers, too.

From mark walker
Posted January 8, 2005 at 7:06 AM
It's nice to know Universal Orlando are doing there bit to increase attendence numbers. But by 2006 there going to get bigger.

From Robert Niles
Posted January 8, 2005 at 5:05 PM
Cedar Fair has issued a press relases detailing the attendance information it has provided the SEC. Cedar Fair's numbers are in line with AB's, with the exception of the report for Knott's, which Cedar Fair said was up "almost" 2 percent to "just over" 3.5 million guests. AB reported Knott's was up 3 percent to 3.58 million.

From Pete Brecht
Posted January 13, 2005 at 3:03 PM
Could someone please explain to me why PKI is so far ahead of PKD (its sister park) in attendance? They have similar rides (identical in several cases), are run by the same people, and PKD is closer to major population centers (Richmond, DC, and Norfolk), yet PKI crushed it in attendance last year (3.5 mill to ~2.2 mill). Also, PKD has an operating season at least a month longer. What gives?

From Derek Potter
Posted January 13, 2005 at 8:35 PM
PKI has it's own share of nearby major population centers. It's located in Cincinatti, Columbus is a couple of hours away, Indianapolis is a few hours away. Also PKI is in an area with very little immediate competition. PKD doesn't have that, as Busch Gardens is a short drive away. All of those things factor in, but there is one other thing. Kings Island simply is a better overall park. Not to take anything away from PKD because it's a good place, but most people who have been to both will tell you that PKI is better.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted January 13, 2005 at 9:48 PM
I would agree that PKI is a better park than PKD.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted January 15, 2005 at 9:22 AM
It seems about right. I would figure that Disney World would have the most people and Universal has the highest attendence jump from last year. It looks like Flordia is still King!

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