Southern California's leading roller coaster haven is ready to take on the big boys. Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) announced on Wednesday that Six Flags Magic Mountain, the chain's most popular amusement park, will be open every day in 2018. The move will pit the regional attraction against other year-round parks in the area, including Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Disneyland, Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCS.A) Universal Studios Hollywood, Cedar Fair's (NYSE:FUN) Knott's Berry Farm, and SeaWorld Entertainment's (NYSE:SEAS) SeaWorld San Diego.
Six Flags Magic Mountain has historically opened every day during the peak summer and holiday periods, while opening only on weekends during the off-season. Tacking on 100 more days to its operating calendar next year may not seem like much, but it's a big step up to match its southern rivals that are open every single day.
The thrills just keep coming
Six Flags Magic Mountain attracted 3.3 million visitors last year, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. We're naturally a far cry from Disneyland's 17.9 million guests or the 8.1 million tally at Comcast's Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016. However, Six Flags isn't too far removed from the 4 million guests at Knott's Berry Farm and the 3.5 million visitors going through the turnstiles at SeaWorld San Diego.
Going from 265 to 365 days of operation -- a 38% increase -- won't result in a commensurate spike in guest counts or revenue. There's a reason why the park has historically closed on weekdays when area schools are in session. However, year-round access should result in a modest uptick in traffic, enough to overtake the reeling SeaWorld San Diego and possibly challenge Cedar Fair's Knott's Berry Farm.
The bold move to go all-in for the 2018 calendar should also help improve season pass sales. The value proposition for an annual pass at Six Flags Magic Mountain is stronger with year-round availability, and it will be interesting to see if this provides the chain with the pricing flexibility to inch rates higher.
Six Flags Magic Mountain sets itself apart from the competition with its growing collection of scream machines. The park has a record 19 roller coasters on its hilly terrain, nearly as many as all of its area rivals combined.
Keeping the park open every day next year won't solve the park's limitations. It has no on-site resort lodging option like Disney, Knott's Berry Farm, and Legoland California do. It's also far removed from Southern California's touristy outposts -- it's an hour away from Comcast's Universal Studios Hollywood and an even longer drive to the other theme parks. Six Flags Magic Mountain relies on locals and coaster-seeking tourists willing to make the drive up I-5 to get there.
Opening the park on seasonally slow days won't transform Six Flags into a growth-stock darling. The regional amusement park operator remains a steady performer that will be known more for its dividend -- now yielding a hearty 4.9% -- than its top-line gains, as it works on its seventh straight year of single-digit revenue growth. However, if this is the first step for the chain's broader ambitions to widen its appeal, it won't be an insignificant move. It's the first ride up a hill for a park with many coaster hills to climb.