Halloween might be several weeks away, but good luck telling that to the theme park operators and regional amusement park chains kicking off their holiday-themed festivities this weekend. Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal Studios began frightening nighttime guests on Friday at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. Guests can walk through as many as 10 haunted houses, including one themed on Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) smash hit Stranger Things.
Many of the regional attractions opened their Halloween scare zones this weekend, with most of them scheduled to be up and running by next weekend at the latest. Disney (NYSE:DIS) beat everyone to the punch with a mid-August start to its Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and it even sold out the first night. However, that event is a family-friendly celebration of candy consumption and costumed cartoon characters. Everyone else takes things up a notch on the fright-o-meter for their seasonal offerings.
More treats than tricks
Halloween is big business, especially for an industry that historically peters out after Labor Day with kids going back to school. Seasonal parks close down during the week, and larger parks see their crowd levels thin out dramatically.
Haunted mazes, scare zones, and a safe but sinister vibe have helped players prop up their financials during the fourth quarter, which has been a sleepy period in the past. It's not a surprise that Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) has posted more revenue growth in the fourth quarter than it has for the entire year in recent years.
It's not just park operators and fear-seeking visitors flocking to these events. Netflix's Stranger Things wouldn't have come to Comcast's Halloween Horror Nights this season if the country's leading premium streaming service hadn't seen the appeal of promoting its popular series to the growing and receptive Universal Studios audience. However, now that even Netflix has a handful of consumer products, it isn't a surprise to see cinematic properties warm up to parks that will collectively attract millions through the next few weekends.
Universal's Halloween Horror Nights has houses on both coasts themed on Poltergeist, Halloween, Trick 'r Treat, and The Purge this year, and some of those properties aren't even owned by Comcast. Studios and park operators are coming together in a win-win proposition, and don't be surprised if the partnerships keep expanding to include more than just horror franchises in the future. Theme parks and amusement parks have already had a strong first half in 2018, financially speaking. The treats -- not the tricks -- will keep coming.