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Six Flags Magic Mountain opens daily in 2018, might add Hotel

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Exclusive: Six Flags Magic Mountain will open daily all year in 2018

Arthur Levine, Special for USA TODAY Published 7:45 a.m. ET Aug. 23, 2017 | Updated 8:52 a.m. ET Aug. 23, 2017

"More flags! More fun!" That's been a tagline for Six Flags advertising across its chain of amusement parks. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif. may want to consider modifying its slogan to "More days! More fun!" Today the park announced that starting January 1, 2018, it would switch to a 365-day operating schedule.

Magic Mountain will join other L.A.-area destination attractions, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, and remain open daily all year long. According to Bonnie Weber, the park's president, the expanded schedule reflects both the company's increased presence domestically and internationally and its desire to capture more of the 47 million visitors who pour into the region seeking fun. "We have to be open 365 days a year to tap into that market," she says.

Opened in 1971 and long recognized for its impressive collection of roller coasters – with 19 of them, it boasts more than any park in the world – Magic Mountain is already on the radar of tourists, convention attendees, and other visitors. With the planned rollout of Six Flags parks in Dubai, China, and other locations beyond the USA, the company is growing its brand and awareness across the globe. "If you come to Southern California and you want thrills, you come to Six Flags, hands down," says Weber.

But you can't experience marquee rides such as the wooden-steel hybrid coaster, Twisted Colossus, or the 415-foot-tall, 100-mph launched coaster, Superman: Escape from Krypton, if you go to the gate only to find a sign that reads, "Sorry folks, park's closed." (Fun fact: Magic Mountain stood in for Walley World, the fictional amusement park in the original Vacation movie.)

With its prime location and its sunny California weather, Magic Mountain has long remained open all year long. When school was in session, however, it would only be open weekends and holidays.

Weber says this will mark the first time that Six Flags is jumping into the destination market. But all of the company's parks have been extending their operating calendars for a number of years, and the chain has tested the vacation destination waters.

Like other seasonal parks, Six Flags locations used to focus on the window between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That remains the peak period. But with the successful introduction of Halloween events, Christmas celebrations, spring break promotions, and other festivals, the shoulder seasons have become increasingly important for Six Flags and its regional park competitors. One of the chain's smallest properties, The Great Escape in Lake George, N.Y., opened Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, an indoor water park hotel that is open year round.

The Legoland parks in California and Florida, are open all year long, but, like Magic Mountain, close some midweek days in the slower seasons. Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. closes for a few weeks in the winter, but is otherwise open virtually year round. All three of the parks have added on-property hotels. With Magic Mountain's bid for destination park status, might a hotel be in its future? As part of its long-range plans, Weber says the park is looking at a number of options. There is available land on-site to build a hotel and other resort amenities. The company might also try to develop Six Flags-branded accommodations at a nearby off-site location with a third-party hotel partner.

Magic Mountain has been upping its game in anticipation of its schedule expansion. "We've been developing 'wow zones,' " says Weber, pointing to the Screampunk District the park built a couple of years ago and the DC Comics-themed Metropolis land it opened this year. Nobody would equate them with Disney's highly immersive Cars Land or Universal's impeccably rendered Harry Potter world, but they are a step up from the more generic lands of most regional parks. And the 4D, interactive, roving motion-based Justice League ride that Magic Mountain debuted in Metropolis this season is on par with the attractions at the established destination parks in Southern California.

With the transition of Six Flags Magic Mountain into a destination park in its own right, Weber says that visitors should expect additional wow-worthy attractions, an increased focus on stories, new events, and more attention to detail. "We want to give people a great, compelling reason to visit the area."






Six Flags Magic Mountain plans year-round operation to compete with bigger rivals


By Hugo Martin - Contact Reporter

AUGUST 23, 2017, 5:00 AM


Good news for thrill-seekers: Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and its stomach-churning roller-coaster collection will operate every day of the year, starting Jan. 1.


The expansion represents an attempt to transition from a niche regional theme park to a major destination resort like Southern California rivals Universal Studios Hollywood and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.


The change also means Six Flags Magic Mountain can better target tourists who visit from outside the region, including travelers from Asia, Mexico and Australia, said Bonnie Weber, president of Six Flags Magic Mountain.


“By operating 365 days a year, that is the entry point to go after the tour and travel trade,” Weber said.


The park, which runs more roller coasters — 19 — than any other U.S. theme park, now operates 250 days a year, primarily in the summer months, during school holiday breaks and on select weekends. The Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park operate year-round.


Industry experts say the move is unusual for a regional theme park but makes sense for Six Flags Magic Mountain, which already has an extra-long season, after extending operations during the Christmas holiday in 2014.


The park has long staged a hugely popular Halloween event that runs for several weeks, starting in September and running until the end of October.


“Any time you can add additional revenue to your fixed costs, you are adding profit,” said Martin Lewison, a theme park expert and business management professor at Farmingdale State College in New York.


On the East Coast, many smaller theme parks shut down in the winter because of extreme weather, which is not a problem in sunny Southern California, he added.


The demand for the park appears to be strong enough to justify the expansion.


Attendance has surged at Six Flags Magic Mountain over the last few years as its parent company, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., has invested heavily in new attractions.


From 2014 to 2016, attendance grew 17% to 3.3 million, according to an estimate by Aecom, the Los Angeles engineering and consulting firm that produces an annual theme park attendance report.


Among Southern California theme parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain ranked sixth in 2016 attendance, behind Disneyland (17.9 million visitors), California Adventure (9.3 million), Universal Studios Hollywood (8.1 million), Knott’s Berry Farm (4 million) and SeaWorld San Diego (3.5 million).


Amusement parks generally don’t release attendance statistics, but the Aecom estimates are considered reliable by industry insiders.


Six Flags Magic Mountain will be the first of the 20 parks operated by Six Flags Entertainment Corp. to open its gates throughout the year.


The operating schedule for the adjacent water park, Hurricane Harbor, won’t change. The water park is open 103 days a year, primarily between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with September weekends added on.


The move to operate 365 days a year also makes it easier for Six Flags Magic Mountain to team up with other Southern California tourist destinations to offer foreign and out-of-town visitors travel packages that combine two or three destinations during one trip.


Although Six Flags Magic Mountain does not operate a hotel in the theme park, Weber hinted that such a project could be in the works. “We are looking at all our options,” she said.


A hotel could be a profitable addition to the park because guests would be willing to pay higher nightly rates to stay in an on-property hotel that is designed with superhero or roller-coaster themes, Lewison said.


“If you are going to have your park open all year, it makes sense to have accommodations all year-round as well,” he said.


The park has already invested in new attractions to help boost attendance as travel spending has increased nationwide, thanks to lower airfares and high consumer confidence.


In July, the park opened its first “dark ride,” an indoor, 3-D interactive attraction starring DC superheroes and villains, called Justice League: Battle for Metropolis.


Last spring, the park teamed up with electronics giant Samsung to strap virtual-reality goggles onto riders of the park's Revolution roller coaster so they can feel the twists, drops and climbs of the coaster track while watching images of a midair battle with space aliens.


The two projects were only the latest investments by the park’s corporate parent to boost attendance and visitor spending at the park.


“By opening the park all year-round, Six Flags is significantly enhancing the tourism and travel industry, creating jobs and spurring economic growth for the entire region,” said Kathryn Barger, the Los Angeles County supervisor whose district includes the park.


Theme park fans say they are excited about the prospect of riding Six Flags Magic Mountain’s stomach-churning attractions every day of the year.


“I’m good with it because that gets me into the park on more days with less crowds,” said Duane Marden, a coaster enthusiast and founder of the Roller Coaster Database, an online directory of roller coasters worldwide.


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The only problem I have with the daily operations is staffing but they can easily solve that by hiring foreign exchange students. I don't think the park will have too many problems of light crowds warranting an early closure. If Knott's can stay open daily during the off season without many problems, then Magic Mountain can too; both parks are the most visited Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks respectively.

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I think this will help staffing. One of the big negatives to working at the park is that it's only seasonal employment, and that also negatively impacts the training of employees since they have to be rehired in and retrained every year, often losing large chunks of employees and gaining large chunks of new untrained employees. Being open year-round now eliminates the fear of employment being temporary and will probably even attract an older crowd of workers outside just teens looking for a summer job. Operating year-round, the park won't risk losing employee's interest when they're let go for the off-season - employees just continually stay at the park. There's no need to have a massive retraining effort when the park re-opens each year. The more experienced employees stick around longer, and will more efficiently train the steady stream of new employees.


Edit: ^Darn, you beat me again.

Edited by Matt Kaiser
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They probably already did research before deciding if this would be profitable but I hope it works out well for Six Flags. Disney has a lot of AP holders that visit the parks after work in addition to all the tourists and Knott's although it has thrill rides, seems more of a family park that would attract more of an age range (Ghost Town, more shows and more tame rides). Magic Mountain looks like the type of park where the target audience is teenagers and young adults and if they are on limited hours during the week, closing at 6 or 7, how many people are going to be visiting the park on a Tuesday in the middle of January? Maybe they will not have everything open besides the rides closed for annual refurbishment?

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So what happens with ride up keep? Do they pick certain rides at certain times to be closed for an extended period of time? Id assume they will be making updates on their site as to when and how long and what rides are closed

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Just like with other parks that have year round operations, attractions close seasonally for maintenance. They'll most likely have to start posting rehab schedules with each coaster closing for a month or two in rotation for maintenance.

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I just hope that when they close the rides for maintenance they do it between November and March excluding late December where crowd levels are lower. It would be bad on a crowded day in the summer for the guests to see one or two major coasters down for annual maintenance.

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I mean, I hope they give you notice on when these rides are going to close. Imagine going and then boom, a couple big rides are down for maintenance without warning.

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I thought what they normally do is work on 1 train on each coaster at a time so each coaster can mostly remain open but run 1 train or 2 trains for the rides that have 3 trains. Wasn't that one of the reasons Great Adventure sent Green Lantern's 3rd train back to Magic Mountain so Riddler's Revenge wouldn't be running 1 train so much of the year?

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Personally, I'm putting my money on this being very short lived. Weather has never been and never will be a deterrent issue for this park. The issue, however, (as Great Adventure has done) is that there is very little balance and/or variety available in this park for every member of the family to enjoy. The overwhelming emphasis on roller-coasters at the expense of everything else results in a very limited target audience of teenagers and young adults. The issue of gang fights in this park have been well established over time. The local teenagers should be in school during the week leaving an even smaller prospective group of teens/young adults from out of state or out of country. The location of this park (a growing, but still desolate part of Los Angeles County) is completely the opposite direction for anyone traveling as a tourist in Southern California. Sure, it's on the way to central and Northern California if driving, but only if driving that particular route (as opposed to driving the scenic coast). Valencia is no tourist destination because of Magic Mountain or anything else. Nice place to visit, but wouldn't want to live or even spend a few days there. I certainly wish them luck with this attempt, but have to believe that they can really lose their shirt with this Venture and any profits from the more viable operating days they currently enjoy.

Edited by Daved Thomson
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  • 5 months later...

Six Flags will look at opening other warm weather parks year round if Magic Mountain is successful.





Ryan Sundby


Hey. Just a quick follow-up here on, I guess, your response to Michael's question on Magic Mountain. And I totally acknowledge that this is -- you're early here, but what are the -- I guess, what would you need to see for Magic Mountain start to consider some of your other warm weather parks to go full year?


Jim Reid-Anderson


Well, there are a number of metrics that we look at. But I don't know if you remember, Ryan. You may not. I know many of the others will. When I first joined the company, we did an intense review of breakeven points to all of our parks. And what we did was we really went back to basics. And all of the park Presidents worked very hard to make sure that we could reduce breakeven points on any day that we're open, we can maximize profitability. That's the net of it all.


And so the concern would be in opening up a park that there'd be several days where you don't get past that breakeven point. And so that was the starting point to the work around Magic to make sure that there would not be days where you don't get past the breakeven point, or at least minimize them, and then you really maximize the days when you're way past breakeven.


And so my positive outlook on Magic is reinforced by that, that we really are not seeing days where you wouldn't be way past that breakeven point and very comfortable in terms of the revenue and the profitability that's being generated, which if you think about the fixed costs being fixed and the relatively limited incremental variable costs, it gives you a definite upside. So, if we see that success for a year, we would then look at other warm weather parks, then come to a conclusion as to whether we want to do that there as well.


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