There's a lot of seasonality in the amusement park industry, and it all boils down to the peak summer period, when attractions are open for teens, young families, and thrill seekers of all ages looking for something to do while school is out. The second quarter that ended in June won't be as potent as the current period, which includes the busy months of July and August, but how the park operators started off the season and how they see it play out make the next few days of reports critical for Six Flags and Cedar Fair investors.
Investors spoiled by the blowout performance last time out, when all five of the leading amusement and theme park operators posted double-digit percentage revenue growth, will be in for a rude awakening this time. Six Flags and Cedar Fair grew their revenue by 30% and 13%, respectively, in the first quarter, but it was largely the timing of the Easter holiday. Six Flags grew faster than its peers as a result of a new waterpark in Mexico and the decision to keep Six Flags Magic Mountain in California open every day instead of just weekends during the seasonally sleepy first quarter.
The school break holiday shifted from April in 2017 to March in 2018, leading many seasonal parks to open earlier this year to cash in on vacationers and restless locals. However, the shift also means that last April was going to be a hard act to follow this time around.
Wall Street isn't holding out for horrendous showings. Analysts expect Six Flags' revenue to rise 4% to hit $439.8 million in tomorrow morning's report. They see earnings per share exploding 49% to $0.88, making this the chain's most profitable second quarter in more than a decade. Analysts were initially holding out for similar top-line growth at Cedar Fair, but two weeks ago it warned that revenue has slipped 2% this year through July 8 with attendance levels down 3% year to date. The silver lining with Cedar Fair is that it's also expected to come through with a big spike on the bottom line. Wall Street pros see earnings soaring 65% to $0.91 per unit.
Six Flags and Cedar Fair opened some of this year's most anticipated new roller coasters during the second quarter. Cedar Point's Steel Vengeance and Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso single-rail coaster have debuted to critical acclaim from ride enthusiasts. Now it's time for shareholders to strap in and enjoy the ride. Between the second-quarter reports and the sneak peek of how the rest of the summer season will play out, both stocks will be on roller-coaster rides in the coming days.