How Cedar Fair’s Amusement Parks Compare By Revenue and Attendance

In today’s post, I take a closer look at how the different parks in the Cedar Fair chain contribute to the company’s overall revenue and EBITDA. As both a fan and member of the amusement park/theme park industry, I am always searching for ways to learn more about the many incredible companies that operate parks all over the world. Although I enjoy putting on my “fan hat” from time-to-time to read  speculation and theories about new rides, I find the most interesting insights come from looking at each business holistically. At the end of the day every park is a business, a fun business, but still a business that is best understood by analyzing it through such a lenses.

There are very few resources to turn to for coverage and data about the inner workings of the industry. The Global Attractions and Attendance Report compiled by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and AECOM is one of the best resources available. Unfortunately, even that report relies on unofficial guesstimates and is considered by many in the industry, including myself, to be directionally, but not completely accurate. The most accurate sources of information are the earnings calls, SEC filings and investor presentations that the major public companies in the amusement park industry release on a quarterly basis. Unfortunately, public companies only release tidbits of financial information that typically focus on the overall company and not specific parks or areas of the business. Large conglomerates such as Disney and Comcast provide less data as the theme park business only accounts for one part of their overall companies. On rare occasions, companies will provide more insightful and complete information about how their business operates at the park level.

Cedar Fair 2017 Map of Parks from FunForward Presentation

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Behind-The-Scenes Of Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure At Shanghai Disneyland

One of my favorite theme park industry events is the annual Themed Entertainment Association’s Summit (AKA TEA Summit). The TEA celebrates the themed entertainment industry’s greatest achievements from the past year by bestowing THEA awards to the most prestigious new projects and attractions from all over the world. The award recipients are invited to share the story of the development and construction of each project. This year, Shanghai Disneyland received numerous awards, including best attraction for the jaw-dropping new Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure. The Disney Imagineering team that worked on the attraction shared behind-the-scenes information and fun facts about the project’s development and construction:

  • A gigantic traditional model of the ride was created to help pitch the attraction. The team credits the model with helping Disney executives visualize the concept and approve construction.
  • The decision to base the entire attraction about the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise was made because of the huge popularity of the movies in China.
  • The “big idea” of the pitch was the giant battle between the two boats that surrounds guests using mixed media.
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat Battle
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat Battle © Disney

GoPro Odyssey: Filming A 360 Degree Roller Coaster Video With BuzzFeed

GoPro Odyssey 360 Camera + BuzzFeed + Xcelerator

In November, Knott’s Berry Farm teamed up with BuzzFeed to film the first-ever professionally produced 360 degree POV video of Xcelerator. We had collaborated a number of times before with the great folks at BuzzFeed. Our first collaboration was in 2015 when they covered their favorite food dishes from the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival. The relationship with BuzzFeed began with a pitch to them from our publicist in 2015 and has continued since then. The Xcelerator 360 degree project began with an email pitch from a BuzzFeed Video producer. Sometimes stories are pitched by us to them such as the recent Try Guys Knott’s Scary Farm Monster Makeover video and like in this instance, sometimes BuzzFeed pitches us a story idea. Through a partnership with YouTube, BuzzFeed Video was provided use of the exclusive GoPro Odyssey 360 degree camera rig. The BuzzFeed team was tasked with brainstorming different ways to best utilize the $10,000+ camera. One of their producers suggested filming members of their team riding a thrilling roller coaster for the first. The GoPro Odyssey packs 16 synchronized HERO4 Black cameras into an all-in-one rig that’s capable of capturing content in stunning 8K 30 FPS video. The footage from every GoPro is then uploaded to the Jump assembler program to create the final video.

GoPro Odyssey 360 Degree Camera

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Disney Proposal Ideas and My Ultimate Engagement At Disneyland Story

Disney Proposal

I knew from the start that my engagement was going to be some sort of Disney proposal. My girlfriend, now fiancé (spoiler alert :)), Meghan, was born to two Disneyland obsessed parents that took her to Walt Disney’s park more than the actual city park. She spent three years during college as a Disneyland Cast Member operating attractions including Autopia and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Disney runs through her veins.

Theme parks were a big part of our relationship from the very beginning. We met while working at Knott’s Berry Farm in the Marketing department. She was known as the “Disney” girl since her office was jam packed with as much Disney artwork and memorabilia as physics would allow. Our friendship slowly formed into a relationship and naturally our first date was at Disneyland.

Disney Proposal Disneyland Engagement Brad and Meghan

Disneyland Proposal and Engagement Ideas

My first idea was for the classic Disney proposal in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. As fate would have it, on our first date, a man asked me to take a photo of him and his girlfriend in front of the castle while he then surprisingly proposed to her. It was a beautiful moment, but … Meghan would later tell me during that same first date that her dream engagement would be Disney related, but that she dreamed of more than the common Disney proposal in front of the castle.

I remembered that nearly a year later when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and started coming up with Disneyland proposal ideas. Thanks to a lot of planning, pixie dust, Jennifer from MEI Mouse Fan Travel and an awesome friend I was able to create an amazing plan. Continue reading

Creating The 2016 Ad Campaign For Knott’s Merry Farm

Creating The 2016 Ad Campaign For Knott’s Merry Farm

It’s December 17, 2015, about 66 degrees, on a beautiful fall morning in Southern California, and the Christmas season is in full swing around Knott’s Merry Farm. There are gorgeous decorations carefully placed about the park, over a dozen live shows being performed throughout and dozens of festive treats just tempting me to break my New Year’s Resolution before I even have a chance to make it. Despite the fun in the park, I am huddled backstage in a most peculiar place, the Paranormal Inc. maze where it’s “snowing” inside, working on next year’s Knott’s Merry Farm ad campaign.

ad campaign billboard merry farm brad jashinsky

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Spend Money To Make Money: CapEx of Cedar Fair and Six Flags

You Have To Spend Money To Make Money

The saying “You have to spend money to make money” has been shown to be true over and over again in the amusement park industry. A common question that is posed by both analysts, fans, financial advisors and shareholders is what new ride is coming next to the parks. Fans are excited to experience brand new rides and attractions while analysts, financial advisors and shareholders are worried about how much companies are spending on capital expenditures (capex) every year. Unlike companies in some industries, it’s impossible for an amusement park or theme park to be able to thrive without continued reinvestment. Some companies in other industries, for example In-N-Out, can continue to grow for years without changing their offerings, but that strategy simply doesn’t work in the amusement industry where guests need new motivations to turn off Netflix and head to the park. Let’s take a look at how much the two leading regional amusement park chains, Cedar Fair and Six Flags, have been spending annually.

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How I Became The Owner Of Abraham Lincoln’s Left Hand From “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln”

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln

For years now, I have had this strange looking animatronic hand from Disneyland’s “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” attraction sitting on my desk at home. Read on for the story of how I came into possession of the unique item and how you could have the opportunity to own the one of a kind piece.

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Two Years At Knott’s: A Look Back

Knott’s Berry Farm Memories

This summer will be my second anniversary of working at Knott’s Berry Farm. I wanted to take a quick look back and catalog some of my favorite moments. My life has been filled with great Knott’s Berry Farm memories. Some of my favorite memories growing up were at the Farm visiting with my family. To this day, I distinctly remember my first ride on the Timber Mountain Log Ride and being held up by the bandits on the Calico Railroad. During the past two years, I have had such an incredible time interacting with the supportive fan community and hearing what the park means to them. I feel truly fortunate to have been on the team that helped propel the legendary theme park to its highest attendance in its 90+ year history in 2014 and then again in 2015. I can’t wait to experience the all new GhostRider and Ghost Town Alive! this summer.

Knott's GhostRider

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The History of the Fun Bun At Knott’s Berry Farm

The Fun Bun

The Fun Bun almost never happened.

The new pastry creation was amazing. Warm. Sweet. Gooey. Delicious. One-of-A-Kind. It honored and continued Knott’s Berry Farm’s nearly century long culinary legacy, started by the boysenberry and Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. The creation of the delicious combination of a cinnamon roll, boysenberry, funnel cake and a little magic was led by Chef Reuben, and supported by the culinary team. The culinary team called it a “Deep Fried Cinnamon Bun”, which was true, but didn’t provide the proper reverence to this fantastic new treat debuting at the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival in 2015.

Enter Knott’s Publicist Leidy Arévalo. She was the brainchild of the name Fun Bun. Fun Bun is one of those great names that seems obvious in retrospect. A shortened combination of the words “funnel” and “cinnamon bun.” There was a lot of resistance from the culinary team and park management to the new name. Like most businesses, the park had never used anything but straightforward names to describe all of our food offerings. The debate centered around concerns about whether the name set the right expectations for guests. Would guests know what the new dessert was and would they be curious enough to try it? Leidy persuaded the team to give the name a chance.

Fun Bun Knott's Berry Farm

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Knott’s Berry Farm 1980s Video Tour

Are you ready to take a trip back to the late 80s to relive classic Knott’s Berry Farm attractions? Let’s use Professor Well’s time machine to go back about 30 years in time to visit some Knott’s Berry Farm attractions that have been lost to time like Wacky Soap Box Racers, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, the Corkscrew roller coaster, Parachute Sky Jump and countless more.

Knott's Berry Farm Kingdom of the Dinosaurs Photo

All of these videos are taken from a VHS that I discovered during a visit to the Knott’s Berry Farm Company Store. Back in the day, the park sold video tours to guests on VHS tapes. The Merchandise team discovered a case of video tour tapes from the late 1980s last year and sold them in the store for just $1. My $1 purchase included over 40 minutes of nostalgic filled footage. Below are a few of my favorite clips from the video. The entire video is available at the end of the post.

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