Six Flags cash flow positive for year on rise in revenue, per cap and attendance

Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:29 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Six Flags, Inc. announced today its operating results for the year and quarter ended December 31, 2008.

Commenting on the Company's performance, Mark Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Six Flags, Inc., said: "The three-year turnaround for Six Flags required a great deal of patience. I am proud and grateful that the efforts and commitment of our workforce -- some 30,000 strong -- resulted in our best year ever, putting our operations back on solid footing. The remaining challenge is the inherited balance sheet and we are in comprehensive dialogue with our lenders to remedy that issue."

For the year ended December 31, 2008, total revenues increased $50.5 million, or 5%, to $1.02 billion from $970.8 million in the prior year. Attendance for the year was 25.3 million, an increase of 0.4 million, or 2%, compared to 24.9 million in the prior year. The attendance increase was driven by increased paid admissions, partially offset by planned reductions of approximately 0.5 million in complimentary and free promotional attendance.

Total revenue per capita for the year increased $1.31, or 3%, to $40.30 from $38.99 in the prior year, reflecting increased per capita guest spending as well as growth in sponsorship, licensing and other fees. Increased per capita guest spending of $0.53, or 1%, to $37.97 from $37.44 in the prior year was driven by increased rentals, food and beverages, parking, admissions and retail revenues. Sponsorship, licensing and other fees increased $20.4 million, or 53%, to $59.0 million.

Operating costs and expenses, including cost of sales, depreciation, amortization, stock-based compensation and loss on disposal of assets, decreased $55.4 million, or 6%, to $877.3 million for 2008, compared to $932.7 million in 2007. Key planned reductions were achieved in marketing, loss on disposal of assets, third party services, repairs and maintenance, travel-related expenses, supplies and seasonal labor.

Income from continuing operations before income taxes was $19.4 million, an improvement of $252.4 million over the prior year pre-tax loss of $233.0 million. The improved results reflect a net gain on debt extinguishment of $107.7 million compared to a $13.2 million loss on debt extinguishment for 2007, increased revenues of $50.5 million, reduced operating costs and expenses of $55.4 million, a $5.5 million reduction in net other expense, and reduced net interest expense of $21.5 million. The lower net other expense reflects the 2008 loss related to an interest rate hedge that no longer qualified for hedge accounting treatment, compared to the prior year's cost of settling a class-action labor lawsuit in California and costs associated with implementation of an early retirement plan. The reduced net interest expense resulted from lower long-term debt and interest rates in 2008.

Adjusted EBITDA for 2008 was $275.3 million, an $85.7 million improvement over the prior-year's Adjusted EBITDA of $189.6 million, reflecting increased revenues and reduced cash operating costs and expenses.

The Company's Preferred Income Redeemable Shares ("PIERS") are required to be redeemed for cash on August 15, 2009 for $287.5 million plus accrued and unpaid dividends, which totaled $15.6 million at December 31, 2008. The Company does not expect to have sufficient cash to redeem the PIERS at their redemption date. The PIERS redemption is just one component of the comprehensive restructuring of the balance sheet that the Company is pursuing. Accordingly, the Company's 2008 Annual Report on Form 10-K will include the disclosure of risk factors associated with the Company's liquidity, pending PIERS maturity and the restructuring effort.

Read the entire press release on PR Newswire.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:57 AM

Well, the numbers were all good, which should help them to strike back against all those ready to write their obituary. The real question is, will it be enough?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 11:09 AM

I don't understand the whole PIERS things, but it would seem to me they are essentially saying that they don't have enough money to repay a loan by the deadline. Am I over-simplifying this? Is this their way of saying chapter 11 reorganization is only a matter of time?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:39 PM

So now we're three years into this (Red Zone/Shapiro) and let's face it, they didn't screw up. All those ideas and changes that everyone said would kill the parks did just the opposite. More people are visiting the parks and they're spending more while they're there.

That doesn't sound like something unsatisfied people do.

Let's just hope they weren't too far in the hole when they started.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:54 PM

I have to say, while I've been skeptical the entire time, here they are. I can't imagine that they could be in a better place short of the debt fairy waving her wand and making it all go away. I hope they can figure it out. I assume that bankruptcy is their long-term "out," but I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:19 PM

But..but....FlashPass will still kill them....soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:53 PM

Just because some people don't like Lo-Scam doesn't mean that they think that it will keep customers away and kill the chain, if you're talking about me. A lot of people don't have a choice but visit their closest SF parks if they are looking for an amusement park experience, line-cutters or not. Luckily, I do.

Last edited by LostKause, Tuesday, March 10, 2009 4:00 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 4:30 PM

Not just you and not just Lo-Q.

Man, if I had the time to dig up all the old threads...

No one will pay those admission prices. No one will pay $15 for parking. $25 preferred parking will never work. In-park pricing is too high, no one will ever buy a $4 drink. Lines and service will never improve. How do they expect to keep drawing people without building big coasters? How do they expect to draw people if they keep removing rides? Sponsorship ruins the experience!

The list goes on and on. Every move they made that went against the grain was scrutinized by the enthusiast community when it seemed (to me) that in order to fix things they had to change the game. Flat out, a majority of the community was wrong. What enthusiasts want is not what the larger population looks for or cares about or notices.

The 2009 season will be the fourth with Shapiro at the helm. I've always spouted the "less customers paying more" approach but he outdid me with the even better "more customers paying more" approach. :)

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, March 10, 2009 5:43 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 5:36 PM

Not directed at you LK. Directed at everyone who makes the claim "the thing I don't like about the park is the thing everybody doesn't like so it will kill the whole company."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 10:34 PM

I know. I just wanted to make sure that everyone else knew.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 10:50 PM

Now that I know the prices I have started to subscribe to the idea that "Q-bot is the devil". I forgot which of you said that recently but I think you were right on. A Q-bot costs more than a ticket. That just seems wrong to me. Unfortunately, I might still have to get a regular q-bot on busy days, but if I don't think I need it I will skip it. My beloved free paper flash passes will be missed, but that doesn't mean I will stop going. It just means I will continue to visit but I won't have flash passes anymore, on most of my visits.

And I'm glad things are improving for Six Flags.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 11:07 PM

SFMMAddict said:
A Q-bot costs more than a ticket. That just seems wrong to me.

It does more than a ticket. Seems logical to me.

Unfortunately, I might still have to get a regular q-bot on busy days, but if I don't think I need it I will skip it.

1. Regular Q-bot is nice for avoiding line or 'doubling up', but Gold Bot is a much better value - even at the much higher price.

2. Skipping Q-bot if you don't need it seems like a common sense move. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 11:27 PM

You're exactly right, it does do more than a ticket and if you can afford it, that will really help you if the park is crowded. The problem is that for me personally, I used to get free flash passes on every visit. I cannot afford to buy a Q-bot on every visit. So I used to be able to skip the line 4 times per visit and now I won't be able to at all on 90% of my visits. I realize this is not the case for everyone, but for me a small amount of my fun of visiting has been taken away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:18 AM

They used to give flash passes away? Four tickets per visit? Doesn't that just add to the overall wait time? They shouldn't be given away like penny candy at a parade. There's a reason they are expensive.

Sorry for your loss, but good for SF for not letting everyone with a season pass to cut.

I don't know if it was me who said that flash pass is the devil, but I agree. Lo-Q came up with a brilliant idea when they figured out a way to let some people cut in front of other people, making money hand over fist in the process. They have totally changed the Six Flags experience, in my opinion, for the worst. The idea that I have to pay more if I don't want people to cut in front of me is degrading.

Lo-Q came up with a way to make people accept line jumping. Their reasoning is, if you spend the extra money, you could cut too.

SFMMAddict, you just said that you can't afford spending the extra money on flashpass every time. I said that once, and Gonch told me that if I could afford to visit the park, then I could afford to spend $50 or $100 on a Flashpass on top of my admisssion, so that line of thinking has already been proven wrong by those who control mass opinion on CoasterBuzz.

I'm very lucky that I have many parks to choose from, so I don't have to put up with Lo-Scam. A lot of other people don't have an option, and if they want to visit a park, they have to either put up with people cutting, or pay up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:14 AM

Hey sweet! This thread is turning into another LostKause-a-Thon of anti/pro Flash Pass posts. Didn't see that one coming!



Last edited by Sean Menefee, Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:15 AM
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:42 AM

LostKause said:
Gonch told me that if I could afford to visit the park, then I could afford to spend $50 or $100 on a Flashpass on top of my admisssion...


Show me where I said that and I'll personally write a letter to SF complaining about Q-bots, virtual queues, drink prices, Mark Shapiro and whatever else you'd like me to include.

Sometimes I wonder if you even read the actual words I write.

EDIT - here's a good start for anyone wanting to try to find me telling LK he should be able to afford a Q-bot...or for anyone wanting to see just how many times we've had this conversation over the years even though VQ systems continue to spread and become an accepted part of the park experience after almost a decade in use.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:51 AM
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 3:08 AM

LostKause, yes, they used to give you 4 passes per visit if you had an Xtreme Play Pass. I agree with the rest of your post.

Here is my situation. An Xtreme Play Pass is $125. Very reasonable for a whole year of entertainment. Since I got admission free, had free parking, and got 4 free flash passes on every visit, I could go to SFMM and get 7-10 hours of entertainment for about $8 (the cost of a meal after a 25% discount). Other than roller coaster addiction, the low price is one of the main reasons I go to amusement parks so much. A regular Q-bot is $32. If I had to spend approx. $40 (or more for gold or to add X2) per visit instead of $8, I wouldn't be able to afford to go as often. Since I can't pay, and am not willing to stop going, I must put up with it.

With regard to other parks, KBF is about the same cost per visit for me. A season pass is $84.99 to renew and it is $40 to add parking. So it's $124.99 per year, same as SFMM (give or take a penny). They don't give food discounts unless you eat at a sit down restaurant, which I never do since it costs too much. When I go there I leave the park and eat fast food, so the cost of a visit is about $5.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 9:33 AM

LostKause said:
... so that line of thinking has already been proven wrong by those who control mass opinion on CoasterBuzz.

Who do you think you are? No one controls anyone's opinion on CoasterBuzz. There have been plenty of healthy debates and discussions here with a variety of opinions.

Just because the majority does not agree with you on this topic, doesn't mean you get to start throwing around irresponsible commentary about the site.

You have the same options here that you have with the parks you frequent in that if you don't like it, you can leave!

Last edited by Carrie M., Wednesday, March 11, 2009 9:45 AM
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:14 AM

Come on, Carrie. You know that if people disagree with you, it's only because their opinions are being controlled by The Man.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:23 AM

Carrie M. said:

LostKause said:
... so that line of thinking has already been proven wrong by those who control mass opinion on CoasterBuzz.

Who do you think you are? No one controls anyone's opinion on CoasterBuzz. :)


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