The regional amusement park operator posted a better-than-expected 23% spike in revenue to $129.7 million during the period. It did report a steep loss of $1.14 a share, but that included a $62.4 million one-time hit on the impairment and retirement of fixed assets. Absent the non-cash charge, Cedar Fair would have come through with an operating profit.
This is a rare feat for the seasonal operator. Most of its parks close after Halloween festivities die down in October. However, it was a fitting close to a record year at the company behind Cedar Point, Dorney Park, and several other regional attractions.
Attendance climbed 8% to 22.8 million guests last year. Cedar Fair credits its aggressive season pass sales for the surge. The flip side to pass-wielding repeat customers is that they don't spend as much as one-time visitors. Regulars don't load up on souvenirs and on-ride photos. They sometimes don't even eat at the park. Under this backdrop, it's actually surprising that per-capita guest spending fell by just 1%. Out-of-park revenue -- stemming largely from the on-site resorts at its Ohio and California parks -- climbed a robust 6%.
Cedar Fair isn't the only park operator rolling these days. Rival Six Flags
Cedar Fair will still have to win the trust of its unit holders. They're the ones that voted to strip CEO Dick Kinzel of his chairmanship and nearly voted to pass a proposal that would have forced the company to emphasize restoring its once-chunky yield over paying down its debt. Investors are still miffed at how Cedar Fair was willing to sell itself cheap in a thankfully botched buyout proposal last year.
However, now that Cedar Fair's units are gaining ground and the company is delivering record performance, it's about time for angry owners to cut management some slack and begin enjoying the turnaround.
Are amusement park operators a good bet for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves hitting amusement parks, and he hit more than a few this past summer. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.