Six Flags charts course, but skies aren't clear yet

Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 11:04 AM | Contributed by Benjamin Polson

In just his second year as Six Flags chief executive, Mark Shapiro has watched the company stock price hover around $2, and has seen bad weather in Texas and a tragic accident in Kentucky contribute to a 9 percent attendance drop in July. Yet his outlook for the theme-park chain remains sunny, even as he stepped through puddles on a recent cold, rainy weekend visit to Six Flags Over Texas’ Holiday in the Park.

Read more from The Star-Telegram.

Monday, December 24, 2007 12:45 PM
It's yet another year to "put-up or shut-up." Go Six Flags. You can do it finally in your third year. Ha, Ha.
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Monday, December 24, 2007 9:54 PM
It's gonna be more of the same next year & they'll be back to blaming the weather for the drop in attendance & revenue when really it's the fact that they're pricing customers out of the parks.

It really makes one wonder just how much better off the chain would've been had it remained under Burke's control doesn't it?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 9:51 AM
What's to wonder? They'd be out of business. Burke's m.o. was, "Everything is swell." At least Shapiro can be honest about the reality of the situation.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 11:59 AM
I was just at the movies the other day, and my friend commented on the prices at the theater for snacks saying "Now I know why I haven't been in a rush to go to the movies, wouldn't they make more money if the food was cheaper because I would actually buy some then, it's like when I went to Six Flags over the summer" This being just a normal non coaster enthusiast as GP as you get friend, but I guess SF is really not catering to average as you go GP anymore. I know this issue has been brought up so many times and beaten to death, but this just happen to come as a surprise to me my friend would even relate the 2, as I've noticed more people doing these days. I guess not enough people think like him (or I, as I tend to buy more food when its cheaper just because it's cheaper, slap all the "perceived value" labels you want but fact is when you're getting more oz of food per penny, it's a fact of better value, not just "perceived")

I was overall satisfied with my first visit to a SF park this year, but there was much room for improvement where I have seen better in those specific areas at just about every other park I've been to on other visits. I can honestly understand why some have a beef with SF from this. (A big one being ride ops/restraint checks and employees in general)
*** This post was edited by P18 12/25/2007 12:05:29 PM ***

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 4:54 PM

as I tend to buy more food when its cheaper just because it's cheaper, slap all the "perceived value" labels you want but fact is when you're getting more oz of food per penny, it's a fact of better value, not just "perceived"

Unless you fall victim to "Sam's Club Syndrome" - where you buy more than you need/use.

Use something like Milk for example. Someone is charging $3 a gallon for milk, but they'll only charge $1 per gallon if you buy 10. The catch is that there's no way you'll possibly use 10 gallons of milk before it goes bad.

In this case you have to use more than 3 1/3 gallons before it goes bad otherwise the higher price was the better deal.

Yeah, that's a weird example. :)

That's one line of logic I still don't get in the amusement park sense, though. If I tend to need/want 5 drinks, two meals, and two snack breaks druring a given park day - I can certainly understand the people who say they cut corners and do less than that if prices are too high, but I never got the logic that you'll get more than you need just because prices are low.

"I'm not hungry, but these prices are just so great that I'm going to buy more food."

or

"No one is thirsty, but drinks are so cheap that I'm going to buy another round for the family."

That's comically absurd to me.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 5:06 PM
So what happens if things don't work out after the third year? I was really impressed by how well things were run at SFGadv. in July. I would hope that they can continue on that momentum.

What we didn't care for though was the food prices. We only ate once and it was very expensive and none of the three of us felt like we had that much to eat.

To be fair though, Cedar Fair was absolutely ridiculous as well, except for their buffets at CP and KI. I remember on that trip that we were looking at the pizza prices at KI, and we all just said "No." Thank goodness we found the buffet over by the Nickelodeon section.

So what happens if the company doesn't do well this year? Does the company get turned over again, or does another CEO get brought in? I would think with all the new attractions added this year, that the gate numbers will go up, as long as the weather cooperates.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 8:07 PM
^ I suspect the numbers will go up. Not substantially, but enough to justify keeping Shapiro around. If Shapiro's in trouble, so is the company.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007 10:48 PM
LG, you don't understand simple economics. If they lowered food prices then they will encourage people to spend more. The gate prices are high and they are priced above what the cast majority of the general public is going to pay since the price of gas is going higher and higher. Whenever I do anything, I look at what is the most bang for the buck and most do. I can compare Six Flags to Comcast since they have raised rates and are charging for service calls while they are decreasing the number of channels they are offering.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007 12:31 AM

LG, you don't understand simple economics.

LOL! :)

I guess I don't - I'm the one saying theme parks (mostly the big regionals, at least) are underpriced.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007 10:25 AM
As I have said all along Six Flags under Shapiro has gained nothing. But it has lost alot, guests mainly. He's finally painting the picture of a possible sale I've talked about. Could 2009 finally be the year Six Flag changes hands again? I sure hope so, broken promises and weather excuses don't cut it anymore. He's not making money and rich boys don't keep loosing for long.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007 1:47 PM
Majorcut said

since the price of gas is going higher and higher.

That would be completely incorrect. The price of gas is falling. The other night on NBC Nightly news they said the average price had fallen to $2.85, and I've seen that reflected in the Baltimore area.

Ronman, I think Six Flags has gained a lot under Shapiro, Take Great Adventure for example. This summer, I rode the Skyway (which if you didn't already know is a double Skyway). I've never ridden it, because it was never open. Both sides were open. I also rode the Jolly Rodger flatride next to Skull Mountain for the first time--again a ride I've never seen open. Rolling Thunder was running both sides, and that's something you never saw under the old management.

Look at how many parks are finally getting some new coasters after years of drought. For example, SFFT with two in a row after years of nothing, and SFOT gets their first new coaster since 01' plus a new waterslide for HH. SFSTL finally gets two coasters in a row as well after their drought since 00'. SFGAM gets a new coaster this year (last was S:UF in 03'). SFKK got a complete waterpark makeover last year and a hit attraction in Deluge.

Obviously, we've also lost some attractions under Shapiro, but I think a lot of those attractions were troublemakers and nothing pleases a guest more than seeing a ride that's never open, or a ride that breaks down constantly [sarcasm].

Normally I'd say your right that weather excuses are just excuses, but Texas got slammed over the summer by major flooding. Also, remember that there are a lot fewer Six Flags than there used to be, so that means less revenue than their used to be.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007 3:19 PM
^ But a lot fewer expenses associated with them (the closed parks) too.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007 11:18 AM
Why does it have to be a 3 year turn around? That would be nothing short of miraculous IMO. I would much prefer a slow continuous 10 year turn around time span with a REALISTIC plan and strategy given how incredibly much there is to change (again IMO) and the debt they've still to reduce. Whatever happened to patience?
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Thursday, December 27, 2007 11:53 AM
Intamin, it's only falling for a short time. The prices over all will go higher than $3.75 a gallon by the end of next year. From what I have heard in your neck of the woods, Intamin, gas prices will rise again in the next few weeks. Like I said, most people use thier wallets to do the talking for them as they are seeking the most bng for the bucks and until amusement parks stop raising prices on both the gate and the food then they will price themselves out of the reach for most people.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007 1:03 PM
I see the recent gas price dip as only temporary for a few more weeks and then we begin the slow climb towards spring break, another short dip after that, and then a peak at Memorial Day weekend (as happens every year).
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Thursday, December 27, 2007 4:46 PM

Like I said, most people use thier wallets to do the talking for them as they are seeking the most bng for the bucks and until amusement parks stop raising prices on both the gate and the food then they will price themselves out of the reach for most people.

And like I've said a million times, ther people still willing to pay more can easily cover the people who aren't if done right.

With your logic, any 'upscale' or 'premium' service or experience should be dying, yet people still pay $6 for coffee at Starbucks and $8 for Ice Cream at Cold Stone and $20 for their kids to build-a-bear. (all places I saw a line and waits at this afternoon)

If lower prices encourage people to spend more (you earlier words) - they why weren't these people at the gas station, Dairy Queen and Wal-Mart purchasing the same products?

All SF has to do is deliver the experience and their pricing isn't remotely a problem.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007 8:47 PM
All SF has to do is deliver the experience and their pricing isn't remotely a problem.

Clearly you DO understand economics... ;)

"More, cheaper is better" works fine for WalMart....but no "successful" theme parks have been run on that model, AFAIK.

Philosophy, well, that's not the subject Shapiro is paid to be interested in...although I have a soft spot for those who seem to keep wanting to make that a part of the discussion.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007 9:55 PM
I don't understand the sam's club connection,though I agree with you about that. How many times have friends of mine who use the place given me extra boxes of cereal, or jars of peanut butter etc? lol.

I'm just saying that if I am really hungry at an amusement park, it's easier to buy more to fill me up if the price is cheaper. If a burger and side of fries fills me up, I could get filled for $30 bucks, or get filled for $15 bucks, theres no "buying extra I don't need" involved like there is with 30 boxes of cereal I'll never use vs the 10 I will use and the 20 extra I give away.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, and I guess this strategy doesn't work for certain parks and I accept that.
*** This post was edited by P18 12/27/2007 9:58:46 PM ***

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Thursday, December 27, 2007 10:02 PM
But which pricing are we talking about-- the $15 parking and $4 soda pricing? Or the season pass for the same cost as a single day admission pricing? And if they're not sure about they're pricing, how can they be sure of what kind of experience they will, or will be able to, provide?

Gonch, it seems that Shapiro himself isn't sure of your economic model.

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