Local 6 Theme World: Ranking the parks

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By Ken Pilcher - Producer
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Welcome to Local 6 Theme World


June 4, 2013

Ranking the Parks & Reading the TEA Leaves.

Welcome to yet another busy week here in Theme World. The headline today: The Themed Entertainment Association is out with their top theme park rankings for 2012.
Let me spiel out some of the numbers - and then let me read the TEA leaves as to what I (and analysts I've been reading) think the numbers mean. Sorry gang, today we will be light on pictures and heavy on words. More pics tomorrow, I promise.

No surprise -- Disney's Magic Kingdom remains not only the top theme park in Central Florida, but the nation -- and, yes, the world. But let's stick with the nation.
Quoting here from the TEA report:

  1. MAGIC KINGDOM  +2.3% 17,536,000 
  2. DISNEYLAND, CA  -1.1% 15,963,000  
  3. EPCOT +2.2% 11,063,000  
  4. DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM +2.2% 9,998,000
  5. DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS +2.2% 9,912,000  
  7. DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE +22.6% 7,775,000  
  8. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA +2.5% 6,195,000  
  10. SEAWORLD FLORIDA +3.0% 5,358,000  
  11. SEAWORLD CALIFORNIA +3.5% 4,444,000  
  12. BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY +1.5% 4,348,000

That lists the theme park, percentage change in attendance then estimated 2012 attendance.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon remains the number one water park worldwide with about 2.1 million visitors. Disney's Blizzard Beach is #2 in the nation with 1.9 Million.
SeaWorld's Aquatica is #3 with 1.5 Million. Universal-Owned Wet N Wild is #4 with 1.2 Million.

All of those were up about 2 percent from 2011.

That 2% number is important. Here's why!
While we should get the stats from VisitOrlando any time now for 2012, TEA's estimates show a 2.2% increase in tourists visiting Central Florida last year.
That's a big sign the nation is on a rebound. But look at the chart above. Magic Kingdom was up 2.3%. Animal Kingdom, Epcot & Hollywood Studios were all up 2.2%.

Those are all, basically, where they should be with 2.2% more people coming here overall.  Up 2.2% is basically flat. Keep in mind, Magic Kingdom could see a boost in 2013 numbers, because most of New Fantasyland did not debut until late in 2012.

Now let's look at who outperformed the average -- and what it means.  Let's start with Islands of Adventure -- which was up another 4%, primarily due to the continued appeal of Potter.

Yes, 4% is a lot less of an increase than the 30% we saw when Potter opened in 2010, and 29% last year. But no one expected that level of increase to continue. Nothing new has been added (yet!) since Potter. IOA is still the fastest-growing theme park in Central Florida. And remember -- Potter 2.0 opens next summer -- which will boost attendance at both Universal Parks.

The other big lesson I can glean is not a surprising one, but it is an important one. Other than IOA, the parks that spent money and opened new attraction rose above the averages.
Small Examples:SeaWorld was up 3% in the wake of the modest addition of TurtleTrek. Expect a bigger boost from Antarctica.

Universal Studios was up 2.5% -- a little over what would be expected. Again, that park opened the small sleeper hit Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.

Spend bigger -- and you're seeing bigger boosts to the bottom line.
Universal Orlando is now soft-opening the Transformers ride here. That ride helped boost attendance at Universal Hollywood jump 15% -- knocking SeaWorld Orlando down to  10th in the nation.

The final lesson is the biggest of all.  Disney California Adventure park (no clue why it's Disney and not DISNEY's -- someone hates apostrophes).
Since opening in 2001, it has struggled in the shadow of the original Disneyland in California -- literally right across the street.
But not in 2012. DCA opened the phenomenally immersive CarsLand, wrapping up a $1+ Billion makeover of what was a misguided park.

Look what CarsLand did: DCA Attendance jumped  22.6%. Disneyland DROPPED 1.1%. Meaning 177,000 fewer guests at Disneyland and 1.4 million more guests at DCA. And CarsLand was only open about 1/2 of 2012!  CarsLand is doing for DCA what Potter did for IOA.

Both are high-profile, Immersive lands that draw guests into another world. It's no wonder Disney is looking hard at cloning all or part of CarsLand here at Walt Disney World.
And imagine what we will see next year with Harry Potter's London opens at Universal Orlando.

Universal is spending big -- and it should boost the bottom line.
Sorry for all the math -- but this helps you understand the strategies of the Theme Park Wars.

One asterisk to all of this: TEA's reports are estimates. None of the big players release attendance per park. However TEA's estimates are considered extremely accurate.
The full report is well worth reading for those of you into this stuff.

More Theme World tomorrow, including a look at the nearly-complete FunSpot additions.

Until then, keep your emails, questions, and comments coming!

Here's a link to my most recent Theme World Blog entries.

See you in the parks!


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