With Six Flags
) and Cedar Fair
) taking entirely different approaches to the 2006 operating season, one would expect some type of divergence in results. Cedar Fair scaled back prices at its flagship parks and introduced $0.25 sticks of cotton candy for thrifty snackers, as Six Flags propped up prices but invested heavily in cleaning up the parks and improving the guest experience.
Disparity? You bet, but it shouldn't really surprise anyone to see that the divergent paths find both companies essentially flat when it comes to overall top-line growth early in the season.
Yesterday, Cedar Fair announced that year to date, attendance was up 1% on comparable trends in per capita spending at this point last year. Last week, Six Flags reported that attendance was down 12.5% but that the average guest was spending 14% more. Even though revenue was down 1% year to date at Six Flags, the picture improves slightly once you account for the Astroworld park that had the land beneath it sold off by Six Flags and the New Orleans gated attraction that was flooded last year during Hurricane Katrina and is unlikely to reopen anytime soon.
The companies are passing ships when it comes to assets, too.
Yesterday, Cedar Fair got antitrust clearance for its pending purchase of Paramount Parks from CBS
). This follows last week's announcement by Six Flags that it was exploring the sale of six more of its regional parks.
A year from now, this may mean that Cedar Fair will be the larger company. That doesn't mean that the different paths won't converge once more. If Cedar Fair is able to achieve the synergies it projects in swallowing down Paramount Parks, and Six Flags becomes a more efficient company with a better-respected brand, both companies may share the trait of improving operating profits -- and healthier visibility in the sight of fiscally savvy investors.