Euro Disney Unveils Space Mountain Revamp
By LAURENCE FROST
.c The Associated Press
MARNE-LA-VALLEE, France (AP) - Euro Disney unveiled a major revamp of its
Space Mountain ride Wednesday, promising to take visitors to ``the edge of
the universe'' just months after flat revenue and heavy debt took the
company to the edge of bankruptcy.
Space Mountain Mission II, which opens to the public Saturday, sees the
decade-old roller coaster upgraded with new wagons and a faster launch
catapult for an even more stomach-wrenching start.
Gone are the old visuals and conscientiously French theme based on Jules
Verne's novel ``From the Earth to the Moon.'' Instead, the ride tours the
solar system before hurtling out through asteroid showers to skim past
supernovas and other astronomical phenomena, portrayed with high-definition
video and a host of other new effects.
The launch of the Space Mountain upgrade - pledging to take riders ``beyond
the moon, to the edge of the universe'' - comes only months after Euro
Disney SCA was itself rescued from a financial black hole, thanks to a 1.7
billion euros ($2.2 billion) bailout by U.S. parent Walt Disney Co. and
The deal, struck last September, deferred hundreds of millions of euros in
debt repayments and royalties to Walt Disney and gave the go-ahead for a 253
million euros ($325 million) rights issue that the company recently
The main Disneyland Park east of Paris has never pulled in the 16 million
annual visitors promised at Euro Disney's 1989 stock market launch.
Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios, a second park opened in 2002 on the same
site, together counted 12.4 million heads last year.
That's twice the number of people that climbed the Eiffel tower, but
apparently still not enough - Euro Disney posted a record 145 million euros
($188 million) loss for its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2004.
Chief Executive Andre Lacroix has warned investors not to expect a return to
profit for several years and remains coy about the number of visitors he is
now targeting. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he hoped to
see turnstile entries grow ``beyond the 12.4 million'' in 2005.
The company is also pursuing other strategies to boost profit, Lacroix said.
``Attendance is important but it's also about driving the average spend per
guest, driving the margin.''
Euro Disney is pushing more flexible tickets as part of a marketing drive to
encourage more people to stay at its Disneyland Resort hotels on site and
spend more than one day in the parks.
Lacroix acknowledges that attracting more customers remains crucial if the
company is to be in a position to start paying off its 2.1 billion euros
($2.6 billion) debt when the first deferrals expire in 2008, while still
making a profit.
That is why, armed with research showing that most first-time visitors plan
to return, Euro Disney has decided to use almost all of the cash raised in
its capital increase on opening a new ride every year.
Next year will see the launch of Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast at the
Disneyland park, with a new Toon Studios attraction to follow in 2007 and a
Tower of Terror in 2008 at neighboring Walt Disney Studios.
Euro Disney sees as its core customer base the 122 million Europeans living
within easy striking distance of its Paris resort. ``The potential is there
because out of the 122 million, slightly less than one-third have already
come,'' Lacroix said.
Shares of Walt Disney Co. rose 4 cents to $28.58 in midday trading Wednesday
on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has been trading at a 52-week
range of $20.88 to $29.99.