Theme park at­ten­dance rises 2.2% in 2014

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­

Thanks partly to the open­ing of Min­ion May­hem, a new at­trac­tion based on the pop­u­lar “De­spi­ca­ble Me” movies, Univer­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood’s at­ten­dance jumped an es­ti­mated 11% last year, the big­gest in­crease among South­ern Cal­i­for­nia theme parks.

Over­all theme park at­ten­dance in North America in­creased a mod­est 2.2%, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual es­ti­mate by the Themed En­ter­tain­ment Assn., a trade group for at­trac­tion de­sign­ers and builders, and the en­gi­neer­ing firm Ae­com.

The report at­trib­uted the vis­i­tor in­creases at some parks to the ad­di­tion of at­trac­tions closely tied to pop­u­lar movies and in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ties.

“We see that the sooner you can get IP to move from screen to a phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, the sooner you reap the re­wards and the larger those re­wards may be,” ac­cord­ing to the report, which also at­trib­uted the at­ten­dance rise to a strength­en­ing U.S. econ­omy.

One noted ex­cep­tion was SeaWorld En­ter­tain­ment Inc., whose ma­rine-themed parks in San Diego and Or­lando, Fla., suf­fered at­ten­dance drops of 12% and 8%, re­spec­tively, ac­cord­ing to the report. SeaWorld En­ter­tain­ment re­ported an av­er­age at­ten­dance drop of 4% at all 11 of its parks.

SeaWorld has en­dured harsh crit­i­cism from an­i­mal rights groups since the open­ing in 2013 of the documentary “Black­fish,” which ac­cuses the ma­rine-themed parks of abus­ing and ne­glect­ing or­cas.

Mean­while, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s most pop­u­lar theme park, Dis­ney­land, had a 3.5% in­crease in vis­i­tors, while at­ten­dance grew 3% at its neigh­bor­ing Ana­heim park, Cal­i­for­nia Adventure, ac­cord­ing to the es­ti­mate.

At­ten­dance re­mained flat for Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park last year and dropped 2% at Six Flags Magic Moun­tain in Va­len­cia, the report said.

Most theme parks do not report at­ten­dance at in­di­vid­ual parks, but park in­sid­ers say the Ae­com es­ti­mates are re­mark­ably ac­cu­rate.

Univer­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood’s Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights, which ran for 22 nights lead­ing up to Hal­loween, also helped boost the theme park’s at­ten­dance last year.

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