Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN) reported first-quarter results earlier this week. As is typically the case, the amusement park master limited partnership operated at a loss with the majority of its parks closed during the cold weather season. Yet early second-quarter results point toward a strong year ahead.

Cedar Fair results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q1 2017

Q1 2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$48.318 billion

$58.438 billion

(17%)

Net loss

($64.754 million)

($48.486 million)

N/A

Net loss per unit

($1.16)

($0.87)

N/A

Data source: Cedar Fair Q1 2017 earnings press release.

Cedar Fair's Valravn rollercoaster

Image source: Cedar Fair.

What happened with Cedar Fair this quarter?

Net revenue fell 17% year over year to $48 million, primarily due to the shift in timing of the Easter and spring-break holidays, which occurred in the second quarter of this year compared to mostly the first quarter of 2016. Cedar Fair's revenue was also negatively impacted by a decline in first-quarter attendance due to heavy rains in California.

Operating costs and expenses were $117 million, comparable with the year-ago quarter and in line with management's expectations.

In turn, the net loss increased to $65 million, or $1.16 per limited-partner unit, compared with a net loss of $48 million, or $0.87 per unit, for the prior-year quarter.

Preliminary results

To normalize for the calendar shift, CEO Matthew Ouimet shared early-season attendance and revenue trends through the end of April during a conference call with analysts:

Preliminary net revenues through the end of April achieved a new record high of $124 million, up 2% when compared with the first four months of last year. During this time, guest spending is up 2%, while attendance was comparable with last year's record number of visits.

Ouimet also highlighted some of the strong performances of several of Cedar Fair's early opening seasonal parks:

Kings Dominion, our park in Richmond, Virginia, had its best April in years, while Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina had its strongest single week for spring break in the park's history, continuing to validate our confidence in this park's long-term potential. Meanwhile, our newest wooden coaster at Kings Island opened to rave reviews, with the park's season passholder event being the best-attended attraction opening in the park's history.

Moreover, Ouimet noted that season pass revenue is up 10%, driven by both higher unit prices and unit sales.

Looking forward

Based on these results, Cedar Fair reiterated its goal of achieving $500 million of adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) by the end of 2017. Said Ouimet in a press release:

While it is too early to predict definitive full-year trends at this point in the year, we are encouraged by the early-season strength in all of our advance purchase channels, including early-season trends in season pass sales, all-season dining and beverage sales, and group event bookings. [...] Based on the momentum coming out of our record performance in 2016 and the strong early-season trends in long-lead indicators this year, we remain confident in our ability to execute on our long-term strategy and expect 2017 to be another record year for Cedar Fair.

Joe Tenebruso has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cedar Fair. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.