In 2009, things looked bleak for the nation’s amusement parks, with revenues sinking to $11.6 billion overall. But since then, as recovery for other industries has been sluggish, theme parks have experienced impressive growth. IBISWorld expects 2013 to be a record-breaking year for theme parks, raking in $13.4 billion. This would be a 2.8% increase from last year.
Disney exceeds expectations
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) posted higher-than-expected earnings for its second quarter, due in part to the $3 million the company put into improving its parks, cruise ships, and resorts. Perhaps bolstered by $1.51 billion in income for its latest quarter, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) raised ticket prices for its California and Florida parks. Visitors now pay $92 in California and $95 in Florida for a single-day admission.
But if analysts were worried higher prices might scare guests away, reports of longer-than-ever lines likely assuaged those concerns. Added to that is the fact that The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) hiked its prices last year, as well, and the company ended 2012 with larger-than-ever profits.
For The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), however, its media networks appear to be the biggest earners for the company. The owner of ABC, Lifetime, ESPN and more enjoyed nearly $5 billion in revenue from its networks for the second quarter, attributed largely to recent growth at ESPN. While its theme parks are still important to The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)’s shareholders, the performance of its media outlets appears to be more vital to the company’s earnings.
The wizarding world of Universal
Thanks to the magic of a certain young wizard, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)’s Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios saw a 66% leap in admissions from 2009 to 2011. This period was significant because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuted in 2010, with an expected expansion to the adjacent Universal Studios Florida park in 2014. Plans to add The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to its Hollywood theme park the next few years are currently underway.
Last year, theme parks were big earners for Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), with the company achieving $2.1 billion in sales in 2012. Obviously, its parks are only one of many ventures for the country’s largest cable service provider. In addition to its parks and cable customers, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) owns NBC and CNBC, along with significant holdings in several other cable outlets. Still, parks are an important new part of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)’s business, with the company reporting Universal theme parks as a “standout” in its earning report. Profits on NBCUniversal fell 2.4 percent, while theme park revenue rose 12.2 percent during the same period.
Not to be outdone by Disney, Universal Studios Florida actually boosted its ticket prices this year to $92, beating Disney by becoming the first park to lift ticket prices above $90. But will it harm sales? With Universal Orlando now offering new rides based on the films Transformers and Despicable Me, movie fans will likely show up to try them out. But loyal Harry Potter fans will no doubt pay the new price to try out the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando.
Six Flags Entertainment Corp (NYSE:SIX) over everywhere
While it’s no Disney, the Six Flags Entertainment Corp (NYSE:SIX) chain of amusement parks is no slouch in the amusement-park game itself. Known as the world’s largest chain of theme parks, the company operates 19 venues throughout North America, including Six Flags parks in 11 states, Canada, and Mexico.