There are signs of life at Central Florida's theme parks after a seemingly sluggish start to the summer season. New attractions are opening or are about to open, just as peak summer crowds descend to the seasonally rainy Sunshine State.
June got off to a dicey start. Disney (NYSE:DIS), Universal Orlando parent Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), and SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) were particularly aggressive with June promotions in an effort to goose the quarter's results, a strong indication that attendance levels weren't up to snuff in the early going. Disney lifted most of the month's blackout dates for its cheaper annual pass plans. Universal Orlando offered Florida residents a deal to get two tickets for the price of one. SeaWorld Orlando countered with free beer. However, with new rides and experiences available as the heavy July crowds come pouring in it seems as if Central Florida's theme park landscape is finally ready for its closeup.
Getting ready to ride
Toy Story Land opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida last weekend, and if we go by wait times, it was a huge success. Folks waited as long as six hours to ride the kid-friendly Slinky Dog Dash coaster, and that was before a wait that stretched a couple of hours just to get into Toy Story Land during the opening weekend.
If this was a dry run for Disney ahead of next year's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, it's going to need a bigger boat. The Star Wars-themed expansion is going to draw a much larger crowd, and it's following the same blueprint of having two new rides and a repositioned existing attraction.
Universal Orlando already opened the only new ride it's introducing this year. Fast & Furious: Supercharged attraction has drummed up lukewarm reviews since its springtime debut, but it's been a different story for Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration, a nighttime lakefront show that began entertaining guests earlier this week. The nightly show features clips from many of the Universal film properties in use throughout the park, giving Comcast one more way to bring its theatrical franchises to life.
SeaWorld's Infinity Falls is still likely weeks away from its debut, but crowds have been heavy on weekends at least for the marine life-themed park ahead of the river-rafting ride's rollout. It would have been perfect to have the attraction open in time to cool off the peak summer crowd levels -- especially with the heatwave sweeping the country -- but there's no point in dousing a gift in the mouth.
The rides and attractions are finally here or, in SeaWorld's case, almost here. Florida's theme parks may be open all year -- unlike the regional amusement parks that have much shorter seasons -- but summer is still the time when Disney, Comcast, and SeaWorld have to look their best to cash in on their most financially lucrative quarter.