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CORPORATEPublished on January 28, 2014 NewsParcs to take an extended break
EVENTPublished on November 10, 2013 IAAPA Attractions Expo 2013 debuts next week in Orlando
CORPORATEPublished on November 10, 2013 Difficult season for Compagnie des Alpes' amusement parks
NEWPublished on October 21, 2013 Theme Park Supplier's News of the Week #12
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NEWPublished on October 13, 2013 Theme Park Industry News Roundup – Issue #6
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NewsParcs is an online trade publication dedicated to theme park industry professionals worldwide.

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Theme Park Industry Year in Review 2012 : Part I

Update : 23/06/13 - 17h00 Published by François Mayné the 6 January 2013, Feature.
While 2013 has just begun and the glances are now turned to the coming months, NewsParcs today takes a little time to look back on 2012 one last time by presenting a retrospective of the year.

In a changing world, where the geopolitical uncertainties go together with economic gloom, the amusement park industry has withstood once again, proving that it remains a sure value in these difficult times.

If it has not yet recovered a level of popularity equal to the period prior to the financial crisis (particularly in Europe and North America), the industry can now rely on the emerging markets as those of South America, Middle East, Eastern Europe or Asia which is a fast-growing market in recent years.

Given the plenty of events that occured last year, we decided to focus our retrospective on the most important ones, including some of the industry's trends and a focus on the major suppliers. We thus may have forgotten specific events for which we apologize.

A year of celebrations

Around the world, many great names of the industry celebrated the milestone of a symbolic birthday starting first by the Luna Park Melbourne in Australia which just began the festivities of its centenary in December. In the Netherlands, the dream of Peter Reijnders and Anton Pieck - Efteling - celebrated its 60th anniversary by unveiling Aquanura, the Europe's largest fountain show which has been awarded by a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Themed Entertainment Association.

Luna Park MelbourneAquanura (Efteling)

In North America, Six Flags Over Georgia celebrated its 45th anniversary with new shows including the acclaimed iLuminate, just like La Ronde in Canada which opened Vol Ultime, a 45 meters high (147 feet) Star Flyer from Funtime. In Ohio, Kings Island celebrated its 40th anniversary with a major expansion of its water park Soak City for an investment of 10 million dollars (7.5 million euros) while another industry icon, Epcot in Florida, passed the milestone of 30 years with the reopening of one of its top rides - Test Track - after a complete makeover that lasted nine months.

In France, there are two 'institutions' that have celebrated their anniversary with great fanfare, beginning with Disneyland Paris which started its 20th anniversary festivities with the addition of Disney Dreams!, a unique night show spectacular designed especially for the Sleeping Beauty Castle and which won a IAAPA Brass Ring Award. At 25 years, Futuroscope has continued its investment program with street entertainments and the transformation of the 'Danse avec les Robots' robocoasters experience in partnership with the famous French DJ Martin Solveig.

Disney Dreams! (Disneyland Paris)Danse avec les Robots by Martin Solveig (Futuroscope)

In Germany Phantasialand has celebrated its 45 years discretely while Mirabilandia in Italy celebrated its 20th anniversary with an impressive new ride: Divertical, the world largest water coaster! Ocean Park Hong Kong has concluded its 35th anniversary with the prestigious Applause Award, while Nigloland in France got itself one of the first Gerstlauer's Sky Fly ride for its quarter century.

To be as comprehensive as possible, we can also quote Chessington World of Adventures in the United Kingdom (25 years), Six Flags Fiesta Texas in the United States (20 years), Parque Warner Madrid in Spain (10 years), Movieland Studios in Italy (10 years), Walibi Sud-Ouest or Vulcania in France (10 years) which all celebrated these events with various new rides, special events and entertainment.

Ups and downs

The amusement park industry, like every year, had its ups and downs with good and bad news.

On the positive side, several theme park projects came to an end during 2012, mainly in Asia which remains today the most dynamic market for the industry. In Malaysia, the UK operator Merlin Entertainments has launched LEGOLAND Malaysia, the first LEGOLAND theme park on the continent. Just like the other five LEGOLAND theme parks in the world, it is targeted at families with children of 2 to 12 years and offers a about forty rides and shows on the theme of LEGO toys.

LEGOLAND MalaysiaDauling Dragon (Happy Valley Wuhan)

In China, the OCT Group (Overseas Chinese Town) continued its expansion by opening a new Happy Valley in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. This amusement park offers, on a stretch of 210 hectares / 519 acres, a large portfolio of rides and stands out with a Launch Coaster from S&S Sansei and a racing wood coaster designed by The Gravity Group with a world first track element: the High Five, where the two tracks are inclined at 90 ° facing each other.

In the United States, all eyes turned to Texas where two new parks were opened. In Galveston, along the Gulf of Mexico, the Landry's group has revived the Pleasure Pier by renovating the old platform above the sea with a dozen attractions, on a budget of $60 million (about €45 million). In San Antonio, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainments opened Aquatica San Antonio, a new water park inspired by the model of that of Orlando (ou alors, of the one in Orlando) and which replaced the previous: Lost Lagoon.

Aquatica San AntonioGalveston Historic Pleasure Pier

Unfortunately, the year 2012 has also been fatal to several parks whose doors have closed - sometimes permanently - for various reasons, mainly financial. This was for example the case for Camelot Theme Park in the United Kingdom and Sommerland Syd in Denmark. Both have failed to cope with the declining number of visitors, a result especially of bad weather. In France, the edutainment park Le Bioscope closed after only six years of operation on a admission of failure: its concept did not attract to the public.

On the east coast of the United States in New Jersey, it is the forces of nature which have decided the fate of several small amusement parks severely shaken with Hurricane Sandy. Casino Pier and Funtown Pier has suffered extensive damage threatening their future. Other parks, such as Morey's Piers or Coney Island, also have important work to be done to reopen normally in 2013.

Focus on the major theme park groups

2012 was globally a good year for most of the major operators of attractions and theme parks worldwide. Starting with the world leader, The Walt Disney Company, whose parks & resorts division has reached a turnover of over 12 billion U.S. dollars, up 10% compared to 2011. In addition to the celebrations at Epcot and Disneyland Paris, the Disney parks also made the headlines with the inaugurations of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure (a new themed area inspired by the Cars cartoon), Grizzly Gulch at Hong Kong Disneyland (a new themed area) and the expansion of Fantasyland with many rides, restaurants and shops at the Magic Kingdom (Florida).

Radiator Springs Racers (Disney California Adventure)New Fantasyland (Magic Kingdom)

Merlin Entertainments Group, the second largest attraction operator in the world, has, meanwhile, continued its international expansion with the opening of several new properties including the LEGOLAND theme park in Malaysia that was mentioned above, the LEGOLAND Florida Waterpark, the LEGOLAND Windsor Hotel Resort in the United Kingdom and several midway attractions expanding the global network of the brands LEGO Discovery Center, SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds.

In North America, Cedar Fair Entertainment has achieved excellent financial performance during the year after investing $90 million in its 17 properties (including a third only for Mega Coaster Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland), which allowed the board of directors to raise its annual target of profits. As for its main competitor in the regional parks market, Six Flags Entertainment, it reached a quarter of growth in its sales, for the tenth time in a row, a record for the group that has launched a major program of investment in its various parks across the nation, including the world's tallest drop tower at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Lex Luthors: Drop of Doom (Six Flags Magic Mountain)Leviathan (Canada's Wonderland)

Universal Parks & Resorts has confirmed its status as the third best operator in the world by launching a couple of new rides in its properties, including the impressive dark ride Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Studios Hollywood and the Despicable Me 3D: Minions Mayhem simulator at Universal Studios Florida (together with a new parade and a night show spectacular celebrating 100 years of Universal Pictures movies). The group also announced the future arrival of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan, whilst starting major expansion work at Orlando.

The Spanish operator Parques Reunidos made two acquisitions during the year with Attractiepark Slagharen in the Netherlands and Noah's Ark, the largest water park in the US. Seaworld Parks & Entertainments has, meanwhile, acquired the water park Knott's Soak City San Diego from Cedar Fair in order to transform it into Aquatica in the coming months. At the same time, most of its properties have received significant investments including Seaworld San Diego and Busch Gardens Williamsburg with the Launch Coasters Manta and Verbolten.

Finally, the French operator Compagnie des Alpes has continued to develop the new Walibi brand, invested €20 million (approx $26.5 million) for a new themed area at Parc Astérix and began its international expansion by announcing the arrival of Grévin wax museums in Canada and Czech Republic.

TRANSFORMERS: The Ride - 3D (Universal Studios Hollywood)Manta (Seaworld San Diego)

We will publish the second part of this retrospective in a few days, in which we will review the highlights of the major suppliers and manufacturers in the industry. We will also take a look at the major roller coasters projects and will focus on the trends of the year.

And in the meantime, why not subscribe to our newsletter? It will inform you of the publication of our next articles, at the frequency of your choice.
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