It had been three years since Six Flags (NYSE:PKS) had turned a profit in its second quarter. The debt-laden regional amusement park operator has never had a problem closing out its more potent third quarter in the black, but the June quarter had been tricky -- until now.

Six Flags earned $0.06 a share and revenue rose by 8.4% in Q2, while attendance rose by 6.6% at its parks. That compares favorably to Cedar Fair's (NYSE:FUN) report last week of second-quarter revenue climbing by just 3% with attendance falling by 2% at its properties.

The turnaround at Six Flags shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Last week, a story out of the Daily Herald in Chicago cited that attendance at Six Flags Great America was likely to hit 3 million visitors, a 20% improvement from last year's season. The story was written from the perspective of growing street traffic, but that nuisance is clearly a pleasantry for investors. A new water park has helped speed up the turnstile clicks, and that's something the company is likely to consider for its existing properties that lack a watery afternoon escape.

The company didn't raise its full-year guidance. It is still expecting to produce $300 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Given the company's beefy debt and its penchant for acquisitions that it seems to have satiated a few years ago, Six Flags likes to lean on EBITDA since the company has so many non-cash factors dinging its results on the way to the bottom line.

That's fine. Improving financials will help the company eventually hack away at the $2.1 billion in long-term debt that's eating away $180 million a year in interest payments.

Six Flags and Cedar Fair are the two publicly traded pure plays in the regional amusement park industry. Companies such as Disney (NYSE:DIS), Motley Fool Inside Value selection Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD), Viacom (NYSE:VIA), and General Electric (NYSE:GE) all run popular parks around the country, but they have diversified conglomerates to see them through the off-season.

That's why it's so important for Six Flags to deliver, now. After three straight quarters of healthy attendance increases at its collection of parks, it is heading into its make-or-break third quarter. The momentum in July was pretty good. Attendance is up slightly. Per-capita spending is picking up. Now that its record-breaking Kingda Ka coaster in New Jersey is back in business after being out of commission for most of the early summer season, Six Flags may have finally gotten it right in 2005.

Now for some more summer reading:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves to take his family to new amusement parks every summer. He practices what he preaches; he owns shares in Disney, Cedar Fair, and Six Flags. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.