Category Archives: Amusement Park News

DISNEY RUMORED TO BE IMAGINEERING NEW “LOST” RIDE

Movie | Line


This week, Lost fans have been buzzing about a petition for Disney to develop a Lost attraction at one of their theme parks (so much so that Movieline came up with five necessary suggestions for such an endeavor). Executive producer Carlton Cuse responded by tweeting that he’d like to see Disney make “a big Lost E-ticket ride,” a comment I’d mostly brushed off until a trusted source revealed there’s more to the story.

According to Movieline’s mole, a Lost ride is one of several attractions being workshopped at Walt Disney Imagineering right now, and loose-lipped WDI insiders were buzzing about the project at the recent International Associations of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAPPA) show in Las Vegas. The Lost attraction would be a motion-based dark ride featuring Kuka arm technology (right), the flexible new innovation that Universal is employing for its upcoming Harry Potter theme park.

Disney actually passed on employing the Kuka arm years ago due to its low capacity and loading lines, but our insider says that WDI has since warmed up to the technology, especially so as to be competitive with Universal. In the following video, you can see WDI’s initial use of the Kuka in its Epcot attraction The Sum of All Thrills:

Our source cautioned that Disney likes to workshop many projects at once, but the mind reels at how the Kuka technology could be employed to enhance a property like Lost. Perhaps our Smoke Monster Roller Coaster isn’t so far-fetched! (Jack’s Time-Out Room for Toddlers may be another story, however.)

Movieline spoke to a Disney rep who denied the development but said he wouldn’t rule anything out in the future, particularly if Lost remains an evergreen property for the company.

Equity firm to buy Knott’s Berry Farm’s parent

Apollo Global Management agrees to acquire Cedar Fair. The $2.4-billion deal total includes refinancing of Cedar Fair’s debt, Apollo says.

By Hugo Martín and Tom Petruno
Los Angeles Times

The $2.4-billion buyout of Knott’s Berry Farm’s parent company by a private equity firm may be a sign of confidence in the future of theme parks, analysts said Thursday.Apollo Global Management agreed late Wednesday to acquire Cedar Fair, the Sandusky, Ohio, company that owns Knott’s in Buena Park and 10 other amusement parks, seven water parks and five hotels in the U.S. and Canada.

The deal, including the assumption of debt, follows a poor summer for Cedar Fair — the recession clipped park attendance. The company also said in a Nov. 3 earnings report that attendance had continued to fall in October.

Still, theme park consultants and others who follow the industry say the deal relieves Cedar Fair of debt pressure brought on when the company bought the Paramount Parks chain in 2006.

“It’s good news that they no longer have this debt hanging over them,” said Robert Niles, editor of a website on theme park news and a former Disney theme park host.

Dennis Speigel, president of industry consulting firm International Theme Park Services Inc., said that by investing in Cedar Fair, Apollo Global Management has shown it believes theme parks will be profitable in the future.

“It says that [the equity] group feels we have bottomed out as an industry,” he said.

Although theme parks nationwide will probably continue to offer discounts next year to attract guests, Speigel believes the discounts will be smaller as the economy slowly rebounds.

The deal is the second time this fall that a private equity firm has ventured into the theme park business. In October, Blackstone Group agreed to buy the entertainment business of Anheuser-Busch InBev

, which includes the SeaWorld attractions in San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando, Fla., as well as the Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va.

Besides Knott’s Berry Farm, Cedar Fair’s 11 amusement parks include Cedar Point in Ohio, Kings Dominion in Virginia and Great America in Santa Clara, Calif.

New York-based Apollo, led by Leon Black, said it would pay $11.50 a share for Cedar Fair. The stock on Thursday soared $2.12, or 23%, to close at $11.20. Shares had plunged as low as $6.10 last month after Cedar Fair said Nov. 3 that revenue for the first nine months of the year fell nearly 8% from a year earlier, to $811 million.

The buyout price is about one-third of what Cedar Fair was worth at its peak share price of $35.71 in 2004.

The stock will cost Apollo about $635 million. Apollo said the $2.4-billion deal total includes refinancing of the company’s debt.

Cedar Fair’s heavy debt load has been a source of worry for the company’s equity investors. Crushing debt pushed one of its rivals, Six Flags Inc., to file for bankruptcy protection in June.

Cedar Fair Chief Executive Dick Kinzel said that after considering a range of alternatives, the company decided that the Apollo deal was in the best interest of shareholders.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co., Barclays Capital, UBS Investment Bank and KeyBanc Capital Markets agreed to provide nearly $2 billion in financing commitments for the buyout, Apollo said.