Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) paved the way for a disappointing quarterly report out of Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN), but it turns out that the regional amusement park operator behind Cedar Point and Knott's Berry Farm is having a slightly better summer than its thrill-seeking rival.
Cedar Fair's performance during the seasonally potent second quarter wasn't spectacular. Revenue rose a mere 1% to $361.6 million, as a 5% increase in per capita spending was enough to offset a 4% decline in attendance.
It's not a shock to see the turnstile clicks decline. There were fewer operating days this period. The magnetic Easter holiday that padded second-quarter results last year landed on the first quarter this time around. Cedar Fair also sold a small water park last year.
Six Flags also lowered the bar -- and not the coaster restraint variety -- when it reported a 3% decline in revenue for the same quarter last month.
In that regard, Cedar Fair's ability to grow at all is an achievement.
Things also get even better as we work our way down to the bottom line where Cedar Fair's profit per unit of $0.85 clocked in ahead of the $0.66 it posted a year earlier and the $0.82 that Wall Street was expecting.
Naturally, things could be always be better. With gas prices holding steady and the economy improving, this should've been a blowout season for the park operators. Disney (NYSE:DIS) posted record results at its theme parks, but that 7% pop was assisted by the opening of a new resort in Florida and the massive capital investment behind expanding its iconic Fantasyland in Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Then again, Disney may not be the appropriate bellwether for the industry since it draws a healthy amount of international visitors. As regional amusement park operators, Cedar Fair and Six Flags rely on locals to keep the turnstiles moving.
We'll get a clearer snapshot of the industry when SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) reports next week. SeaWorld went public at $27 four months ago, and while it has some of the characteristics of Disney with many of its parks operating year-round in markets where the House of Mouse has a presence, it feasts on locals the way that Six Flags and Cedar Fair do.
Cedar Fair wouldn't mind having some Disney magic. It tapped former Disney executive Matt Ouimet to serve as its new CEO last year. For now, it'll be fine settling for baby steps forward as the chain revealed that July and early August have been trending even better than the second quarter.
Waiting for things to get better also won't be so bad for investors as Cedar Fair declared another quarterly distribution that sustains its healthy 5.8% yield.
There's a lot of summer left for the amusement park operators, but it would ultimately be nice to see more people in the parks.