Why Six Flags Lost a LOT of Money While Other Theme Parks Are Thriving

This past week, The Walt Disney Company held its Q3 2022 earnings call and released its earnings report for the quarter. Among other statistics, the company reported that revenue increased by over 50% and demand for the Disney parks is still exceeding the available park pass reservations. But it looks like not every theme park had a great quarter.

Disney World entrance

The Six Flags Entertainment Corp. also reported on this past quarter recently, with less-than-stellar results. From the report, it sounds like the main problem came from an adjusted strategy that worked a little too well.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. reported that attendance at the theme parks fell by 22% this past quarter. That leaves park attendance at 35% below 2019 levels and 10% to 15% below what the company was hoping for.  Chief Executive Selim Bassoul said, “Our execution needs to improve” when it comes to park attendance.

©HANS GUTKNECHT/ZUMA PRESS via the Washington Post

By contrast, many other theme parks have reported improved attendance. Disney has said that demand for their parks “has not abated at all.” In fact, sales from the Parks, Experiences and Products Divison of the company increased to $7.4 billion this year, which is up 70% from last year.

Entrance to Magic Kingdom

Cedar Fair LP reported that attendance is only 8% below 2019 levels, and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported attendance as 3.1% below 2019. That leaves Six Flags with the worst gap between pre-pandemic attendance and current attendance.

SeaWorld Orlando Sign

But attendance wasn’t the only problem. Six Flags also reported that revenue is down 5% and their profits fell by over one-third. The Wall Street Journal said that Six Flags was expected to report $518.5 million in revenue, but they only reported $435.4 million.

©Six Flags

So what’s the reason for this drop in attendance, revenue, and profits? It may be the new strategy that Six Flags is trying out. CEO Selim Bassoul has been working on “a turnaround effort that includes raising prices, attracting a more premium customer base and improving guest experiences by reducing overall attendance” (Wall Street Journal). In other words, the parks have been raising prices on purpose to reduce the number of guests in the parks and attract guests who are willing to spend more money. So far it looks like their plan to reduce attendance has worked a little TOO well.

©Six Flags

However, the plan to attract guests who spend more money is also starting to work. Six Flags reported that guest spending increased by 23%, with the average visitor spending $63.87 in a day. This statistic (per capita spending) is up over 50% from pre-pandemic levels.

©Six Flags

Six Flags appears to be sticking to this strategy. Bassoul said that the board is “willing to pay a short-term price for a long-term benefit.” That short-term price is hefty, though. Six Flags’ stock is down about 50% so far this year, and shares fell 18%.

Disney has hinted that price increases could be coming to the parks again soon — we’ll have to wait and see if that affects park attendance at all. Keep following AllEars for more of the latest theme park news!

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6 Replies to “Why Six Flags Lost a LOT of Money While Other Theme Parks Are Thriving”

  1. Six Flags significantly cut its hours. It used to stay open until 10 or 11 pm in the summer. This year it routinely closed at 6pm. It also didn’t open until 11am instead of at 9 or 10 am. So you get less time at the park and higher prices? I’m a member and my prices didn’t change but I got less time and I’m sure many more decided that more money for less time was not a good deal.

  2. I am a passholder to Six Flags New England and go frequently. Attended the park today with my grandson. Enjoyed the roller coasters. He was also very happy to see so many of his friends there. We all celebrated National roller coaster day!!!

  3. I’m in the target demographic for Six Flags, as declared by their CEO. They overpriced their tickets, and lost our family of 4’s long time season passes as a result. I’m unlikely to visit any Six Flags park any time soon. Too much money for too little value.

  4. I use to live six flags but they handled the communication regarding Covid very poorly. I went back this season and it had many many rides and attractions closed “due to staffing”. It’s run down and everything in the park is significantly over priced. They need to clean it up, open it up and then charge more. Disney would never look that bad.

  5. I no longer visit Six Flags parks due to the deplorable condition of facilities, absolutely awful food, and pathetic management. As a child in the early 70s I could not wait until our annual trips to Six Flags Over Georgia – The park was well-themed, clean, and employees friendly. Now the Six Flags parks are filthy, the buildings lack new paint and are rotting in place. Theming is dissapearing with every year. There is no “zoning” in place regarding what goes where. The employees are generally awful with no pride of care whatsoever for the park. I guess it is hard to blame them when management does not seem to care AT ALL. At times I hear folks saying Disney is not what it used to be in terms of maintenance, cleanliness, and friendliness, but compared to Six Flags it is still truly magical.