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Kings Dominion boss not buying Six Flag’s reason for attendance drop

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NEW YORK — Six Flags took a dive on Monday and not in a fun roller coaster kind of way. The theme park’s shares plunged as much as 9 percent after the company disclosed an attendance drop.

Only 8.2 million people went to one of Six Flags’ 18 parks in April, May or June. That was an 8 percent drop from the same period in 2013.

The company blamed the shrinking crowds on “lingering effects of the long, harsh winter” that extended school calendars and shortened many spring breaks.

But Wall Street isn’t buying that argument, sending the stock on a Kingda Ka-sized sell-off.

“The path to recovery hit a little bit of a snag here. The growth trajectory has stumbled over the last couple of quarters,” said James Hardiman, a senior research analyst at Longbow Research who covers Six Flags.

The slumping Six Flag attendance figures surprised Hardiman, who had been banking on a 6 percent jump thanks in part to the later Easter holiday.

The weather comments are also a head scratcher considering rival theme park operator Cedar Fair says it has been seeing pent-up demand from thrill seekers who were stuck indoors all winter.

“We are seeing first-hand the excitement our guests are experiencing as they leave this winter’s snowy, cold weather behind,” Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet said in the company’s earnings release in May.

Cedar Fair recently reiterated a solid outlook for 2014 revenue, although the company did acknowledge some decrease in attendance.

While Six Flags posted stronger-than-expected earnings, its revenue of $377 million trailed projections from Wall Street for $396 million.

The theme park also said total guest spending per visitor jumped 11 percent in the second quarter to $44 a person as visitors spent more on tickets and goodies while roaming the parks. That’s perhaps another indicator of the economic recovery.

Investors may be wondering if the turnaround ride is over.

Shares of Six Flags are trading around $38 after being over $40 throughout the summer. Fellow theme park SeaWorld Entertainment shed 3.5 percent on Monday.

Slammed by the Great Recession and heavy debt, Six Flags filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The theme park raced out of bankruptcy court, with its stock surging around 50 percent in 2011 and then again in 2012.

But recently the ride for investors has more closely resembled the Enchanted Teacups than the record-setting Zumanjaro. Six Flags trailed the broader markets by rising only 20 percent in 2013 and less than 5 percent this year.

“These guys had done a great job over the past few years as the company emerged from bankruptcy. But I think a lot of the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” said Hardiman, who has a “hold” rating on the stock.


    • Robbie

      Yup, I agree! The last time I went to Kings Dominion the brothers were breaking in line in front of us. I brought it to the attention of the ride operators who didn’t care until I made a scene. Security showed up, I refused to leave until I got my ride first. I did, got my money back and left never to return.

  • jorth storm

    You’re lucky there wasn’t a riot. I was in a (not to be named by order of a 7 page legal agreement) park last summer. Line cutting was rampant. Somebody complained about a group of 8 line cutters to a security guard that said it wasn’t his problem- talk to the ride operator. Person talks to teenager ride operator who says something to one of the line cutters. Line cutter pushes operator into railing and tells him to mind his own f***ing business and start the ride. Several young bucks in the crowd take exception to the treatment given the ride operator. Chaos ensued with first verbal assault, racial slurs and then fists as the people from the crowd begin removing the line cutters seated on the ride. . By now the security guard has 3 helpers and they wade into the melee. Some MACE and plastic handcuffs, a box of band-aids and the line cutters are taken out of the park in a van after having their pictures entered into the computers that run facial recognition at the park gates.

  • Kenny Powers

    Yup, the ghetto animals have ruined Kings Dominion for families. You would have to be out of your mind to take your family there. Who wants to listen or deal with a bunch of loud foul mouthed kids who have no idea who their father is? If they doubled the prices that might keep them away. Most folks would gladly pay more to keep that kind of trash out, just like the reason private schools exist and houses cost more in the suburbs.

  • Edward Pope (@RFRStormer)

    Really people, has this world come down to name calling. I cannot believe that people do not respect each other here. Maybe, if you showed them some respect they would show you the same, Of course, you could just ignore the situation and make the best of it, despite the issues of the people around you.

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