Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cedar Fair Files Very Interesting New Trademark

I love a new Cedar Fair trademark filing as much as the next guy, but I really love it when the name being trademarked is a great mystery:

Yes, Cedar Fair filed a trademark for "Voyage to the Iron Reef" on October 14th.  What in the world is "Voyage to the Iron Reef" you're wondering?  Well, I am too.

The trademark is being filed for 'the usual' items that come with a large new ride or attraction, for use in categories such as amusement park rides, souvenirs of all kinds, clothing and more.

My mind is trying to put together what this will be, and I keep thinking that it can't be for a roller coaster... the name is simply too long.  That then takes me to a dark ride or something along those lines.  We haven't heard of a possible name for Knott's new dark ride, so could this be it?

Looking around the interwebs for "iron reef" doesn't show much, aside from a Louisiana based diving company, and sites about putting iron in your fish tank.  That would lead me to believe that Cedar Fair's version of an "iron reef" may be a mythical place, which also seems to fit with a dark ride theme.

Plus, the building that Knott's is rumored to be using for a dark ride is in the Boardwalk themed area, and oceans are certainly found near boardwalks.

Or, this could be for something even further down the line, like a 2016 project (water ride?) that we've heard nothing of yet. 

What do you guys think?  What is the "voyage to the iron reef?"

Comcast Revenues Soar in Theme Park Division - Thanks, Harry!

Comcast's 3rd quarter earnings came out this past week, and the success of its theme park division, a part of its NBCUniversal segment, continues its upward trend.

Comcast is a gigantic company, so although the parks division is doing really well, there's still limited detail included in the earnings releases.  But there are some interesting numbers to look at.

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
The 3rd quarter of 2014 saw the company's theme park division post a 18.7% increase in revenues, up to $786 million compared to $661 million in 2013.  A huge part of this is higher attendance and guest spending from the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.

For the first nine months of the year the parks segment's revenues increased 13.1% to $1.9 billion, compared to $1.7 billion last year.

It is not just more people that are coming out to the parks for the latest additions, it's record numbers of people!  The company reports that the added hotel capacity from Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Diagon Alley, led to "record summer attendance and a record labor day" in Orlando.

Transformers The Ride, another recent addition.
Also as expected, the amount of cash being spent inside Universal Studios Florida due to Diagon Alley is astounding, leading to double digit increases in per capita spending.  Also as planned, a large increased in park-to-park ticket sales has taken place, with guests wanting to experience both parks and Hogwarts Express.

It is no wonder that NBCUniversal is still itching to expand the Orlando resort even further - they seem to be no where near the roof on how many additional people they can get to come to the parks.

The release also said that Despicable Me at Universal Studios Hollywood is continuing to drive "strong attendance."  It sounds like they are anxious to see the response of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once it opens in a couple years in Hollywood.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buh-Bye Big Disney's Hollywood Studios Hat!

© Disney's Hollywood Studios
This isn't really much "news," in the traditional sense, but for fans of the Florida Disney parks this is pretty much a big deal.  The large sorcerer Mickey hat that has been sitting in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre replication in Disney's Hollywood Studios is finally on its way out.

The park confirmed the news today that the hat, which arrived at the park in 2001, will be removed early next year.  The reason why Disney fans are so happy to see the hat go has to do with the impact it had on the Hollywood Boulevard themed area, mostly the views from within it.  The park's original design used the Grauman Theatre as a "weenie," and the hat - well it got in the way.  Plus, the hat is very large and busy, with a store and stage underneath it.

Disney's Hollywood Studios also confirmed the removal of The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, a show based on the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, on November 6th.

Previously announced was the closure of the Backlot Tour, which oddly hasn't been taken off the park's map yet.  Probably because without it the small park will look too tiny!  It seems like big plans are under way, perhaps Star Wars themed if you listen to the rumors.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Spins into 2015 with Sky Force

The Sky Force, a brand new Gerstlauer Sky Fly attraction, will debut at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 2015, it has been announced.

The park has teamed with the "world famous" Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, known as the Red Arrows, to create the theme of the new flat ride.  The park touts that this is the world's first tourist attraction to have a ride themed to the famed aerobatic team.  The Red Arrows are a part of the Royal Air Force and are known for their aerobatic formations, especially the "diamond nine" formation.

The Sky Force ride will allow riders to control their flight, the ride vehicles can be seen in the upper right of the artwork the park has released.  The attraction will feature a control tower where new pilots will prepare for take-off.

The 12 individual vehicles are located at the end of a giant rotating arm, which moves 360 degrees at a maximum height of 72 feet above the ground.  Riders have the ability to help their plane spin, and full rotations are possible.

At the end of the ride experience guests will be able to check out a Red Arrows shop, with merchandise available exclusively at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  The park has indicated that the ride will be located near the Big One roller coaster.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Heard On... Six Flags 3rd Quarter 2014 Results Call

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has announced their 3rd quarter results, which saw revenues grow to a record $542 million, 7% better than the quarter last year.  This also made EBITDA rise 8% to $291 million, on a 6% increase in per capita spending and flat attendance.

The solid results led the operator to announce a new goal - to reach $600 million in modified EBITDA by 2017.  EBITDA is the earnings before taxes and depreciation, and is commonly looked at by the investing community as a key statistic.

The company held a conference call to discuss the results, and while there isn't any huge news in there here are some notes:

• The quarter saw Six Flags produce a modified EBITDA margin of 40.7%, which they say is an industry record.

• Six Flags is continuing to slowly raise ticket prices and erase the deep discounting that the previous operators relied on to draw guests to the park.

• The Season Pass Membership program, where a monthly fee is paid by the guest year round, has created a 10% increase in the number of active pass holders.

• With regard to the contracts that have been formed for Six Flags branded parks around the globe, the company feels there can be more to come and that this segment will be a "sustainable, valuable and significant long term growth opportunity."  They are also in talks with more operators for additional parks.

• The company plans to continue to invest 9% of revenues into new capital projects, and use excess earning for stock dividends.  They also announced a 11% increase in the quarterly dividend per share.

• Year to date revenue includes $10 million of "international revenue," which I would assume are payments for the Six Flags branded parks being developed.

• The addition of Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Over Georgia will help to create additional revenue in the typically slow 4th quarter.

• Management was asked if they plan to acquire new parks to help reach the new goal of $600 million EBITDA, and management said they do not plan to take that route.  Sorry CNL parks!

• The revenues for Six Flags branded parks outside the U.S. will come from a design period that lasts until the parks open, then long term there will be management and licensing fees.  This actually sounds like a pretty great deal for the company overall.

Dollywood's DreamMore Resort Reaches Construction Milestone

The highest section of Dollywood's new DreamMore Resort was put into place today, marking an important milestone in the project's construction.  The resort's entrance tower, which will eventually greet guests as they arrive, was topped with the structure's highest spire.

The 307 room hotel will open right next door to both Dollywood and Splash Country in 2015.

© Dollywood
This photo shows that final spire being lifted into place, but also just how far along the outside of the building is.  Construction work will now focus on the resort's guest rooms and common areas.

The property also announced two key personnel additions for the property: "Kevin Osborn was appointed as General Manager of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort after spending many years in leadership roles within Marriott International. Cordelia Marzak joins the team as Director of Sales and Marketing. Marzak joins the team after her tenure with JHM Hotels in Orlando."

The DreamMore Resort was inspired by Dolly Parton's memories of growing up in the Smoky Mountains, and will invite families to share stories, celebrate memories, and create new ones.  The property will offer amenities such as shuttle service to the parks, indoor and outdoor pools, landscaped gardens and a full service restaurant, salon and spa.

The resort is now accepting reservations for next year, and is the second addition that is part of a previously announced 10 year, $300 million growth plan.  The first addition was FireChaser Express, a family roller coaster that opened at Dollywood this year.