How will Cedar Fair and Six Flags match collectively?

How will Cedar Fair and Six Flags match collectively?

November 1, 2023, 9:09 PM ·

Let’s assume that the proposed merger of Cedar Fair and Six Flags is occurring. If the deal comes by Thursday morning, I’ll replace this submit with these particulars. And if it doesn’t occur, nicely, I’ll preserve this submit up for the inevitable subsequent time that this rumor will get consideration. [Update: The deal happened. It’s a “merger of equals,” but Cedar Fair’s CEO is in charge, and the company remains at Cedar Fair’s HQ in North Carolina.]

How would these two theme park chains come collectively? What would keep and what would go as they mix operations throughout North America?


Let’s begin on the prime. I can’t think about {that a} mixed firm wouldn’t preserve “Six Flags” as its consumer-facing model. “Cedar Fair” has zero client model worth. While Six Flags might need considerably diminished model worth nowadays, it enjoys large model recognition and the addition of a number of well-regarded Cedar Fair theme parks could assist enhance shoppers’ opinions of Six Flags, particularly if the brand new firm is to be run by former Cedar Fair management.

That mentioned, there are not less than a few present Cedar Fair theme parks that most likely shouldn’t undertake Six Flags branding. We’ll get to these in a bit.

Beyond park names, the merger of Six Flags and Cedar Fair creates some potential branding conflicts. Let’s begin with Six Flags Fright Fest versus Cedar Fair’s Halloween Haunt. If I’m working the brand new firm, I’d select “Halloween Haunt” because the extra precious of the competing Halloween model. “Six Flags Halloween Haunt” could be a wholly new model that might reenergize Halloween occasions at (nearly) all parks within the chain.

I additionally could be inclined to decide on Cedar Fair’s Winterfest model over Six Flags’ Holiday within the Park, just because that is one phrase versus 4. But Six Flags’ holds a reside trademark for its vacation occasion model, whereas Cedar Fair doesn’t have the identical for its. If the brand new firm can get a trademark for Winterfest as a theme park occasion, then go along with that. Otherwise, it is likely to be time for “Holiday in the Park” at many of the present Cedar Fair theme parks that keep open in November and December.

Intellectual Property

Six Flags brings IP licenses for DC Comics and Looney Tunes characters from its former house owners at Warner Bros. Cedar Fair brings a license for Snoopy and the Peanuts characters that it inherited with its buy of Knott’s Berry Farm.

This is one space the place I consider that this merger would offer a transparent enhance in worth to the parks, because it might enable the Cedar Fair parks to dump the moribund Peanuts franchise for its kiddie lands in favor of the better-known Looney Tunes. (Again, with one exception.) The merger additionally might enable Cedar Fair to select from varied DC franchises in branding curler coaster and thrill rides, which may very well be a plus if carried out judiciously.

The new firm’s determination on its youngsters’s space might present a inform as to different developments within the U.S. theme park enterprise. If the brand new firm doesn’t transfer to increase its use of Looney Tunes, that may very well be a sign that Warner Bros. won’t be inclined to increase its license with Six Flags. Disney would love for Warner Bros. to take again the DC rights and promote them as a substitute to Universal, as that deal would make Universal extra inclined to promote its Orlando rights to Marvel characters to Disney. But Universal would have zero curiosity in Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes, given the success of its personal DreamWorks and Illuminations franchises, led by the Minions, whom I’d argue are much more precious model than Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes with right this moment’s younger shoppers.

So if Warner Bros. needs to maintain the American theme park rights to Looney Tunes and DC collectively, Six Flags is its greatest – and maybe solely – wager… except Warner Bros. has plans to get again into the U.S. theme park enterprise itself.

The Knott’s exception

Now let’s get to that exception that I preserve mentioning. Six Flags and Cedar Fair now function parks in simply two frequent media markets – San Francisco and Los Angeles. The San Francisco market is about to develop into irrelevant, however Los Angeles would current an enormous problem for the brand new firm.

The merger would carry the 2 “Great America” theme parks underneath the identical possession for the primary time since they had been Marriott’s theme parks. But Cedar Fair has offered the California’s Great America property, with a lease that can terminate the corporate’s rights to function the park inside a decade. I’d be shocked if a Six Flags/Cedar Fair deal didn’t speed up the closure of California’s Great America. Why put something into selling and working a lame duck park when there’s one other park in the identical media market (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom) that basically might use some further advertising and capital funding help?

In Southern California, each Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm can, and will, proceed to function. Both draw sufficient guests to rank within the TEA/AECOM Top 20 for North America and each take pleasure in disparate fan bases on both aspect of Los Angeles that will not switch simply to the opposite.

The problem comes with branding. Six Flags lengthy has promoted “Six Flags” as the first branding for every of its theme parks, utilizing the remainder of every park’s title solely as modifier and nationwide differentiator. In the LA market, “Six Flags” means Magic Mountain. Slapping the Six Flags model on Knott’s Berry Farm solely would trigger confusion.

That’s why I’d argue that Knott’s Berry Farm ought to retain its personal branding, not only for the park itself, but additionally for its Knott’s Scary Farm and Knott’s Merry Farm occasions. Let Six Flags Halloween Haunt/Fright Fest and Holiday within the Park occur up the 5 in Santa Clarita.

And let Knott’s Berry Farm preserve its Camp Snoopy, too. Magic Mountain already has a Looney Tunes space. There’s no have to duplicate that in Orange County.

I additionally would pause earlier than any rebranding of Cedar Point. Nothing that the corporate might do would enhance the worth of the Six Flags model greater than including it entrance of the beloved Cedar Point title. But nothing that the brand new firm might do would extra harm its Cedar Point model than slapping “Six Flags” in entrance it.

Six Flags Kings Island? Six Flags Carowinds? Sure, the previous Paramount Parks has prepends earlier than, they usually can cope with them once more. But I’d tread very rigorously earlier than doing something with the title of Cedar Point.

Will parks shut?

I see no cause why this merger would entice the eye of the Justice Department on antitrust grounds. First, the U.S. authorities appears to have forgotten that anti-trust legal guidelines stay on the books. Second, even the mixed firm would path market leaders Disney and Universal by fairly a bit. I believe regulators usually tend to see these as troubled corporations teaming as much as attempt to survive slightly than market leaders trying to create limitless market energy.

That mentioned, with 25 parks after CGA’s inevitable closure, the brand new firm would come with many parks which can be dragging down its model worth. Even with a presumed enhance in entry to capital, there isn’t any lifelike method that the corporate might afford to put in attendance-driving new rides each few years at every of those parks.

Therefore, the brand new firm’s managers ought to have a look at promoting or closing its underperforming parks. Rank ’em by attendance, then begin from the underside of the record. If you discover any takers, promote. If not, take into account closing the worst performers, anyway.

What about season passes?

And right here is one other space the place a merger can create worth. Even if the chain closes underperforming parks, the brand new firm would have a stronger line-up of prime parks to entice followers to purchase chain-wide premium seasonal and annual passes or memberships. Knott’s and Magic Mountain collectively? Cedar Point, Kings Island and Six Flags Great America? These are combos that may drive gross sales, or not less than upgrades, from extra theme park and thrill experience followers, particularly with extra aggressive value will increase.

That, in flip, makes more cash obtainable for the corporate to put money into its prime parks. The Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks want higher capital funding if they’re to have any hope of remaining the favored locations that they’ve been. A merger offers a possibility to get that, however provided that the corporate’s new administration doesn’t fumble the bag when integrating the chains.

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