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How Disney, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Are Set for a Great 2015

By Bradley Seth McNew - Jan 19, 2015 at 12:15PM

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What's on tap for these theme parks?

Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida. Photo: Disney

There are going to be great theme park additions this coming year. In addition to Walt Disney's (DIS -0.17%) new park in China, Comcast (CMCSA -1.07%) owned Universal Studios and Six Flags (SIX 1.04%) are also going to keep theme park lovers like myself busy in 2015. And for theme park investors, all of this excitement could mean great returns.

More profits, more fun in the past 2 years
Just a few weeks ago, during the holiday season, Disney theme parks in Florida and California actually had to hold visitors at the gates because both parks were at capacity. Theme park operations revenue grew 7% year over year for Disney in its fiscal year ended in September. Even better, operating profit for the division jumped 20% year over year. 

Universal Studios' revenues are nowhere near as high as those of Disney, at around $2.2 billion annually compared to over $14 billion for Disney in the most recent fiscal year. Six Flags notched roughly half the annual revenue of Universal Studios at $1.1 billion. Still, theme park revenues have been a major source of growth and income for these companies, and new attractions at all of these parks are sure to bring revenue growth in the year to come. 

Getting ready for an even better 2015
Each of these companies has big plans for new attractions in 2015. Here's a sneak peak. 


The company with the most new attractions planned for this coming year is Disney, thanks to its massive new $5.5 billion resort in mainland China. Disney Resort Shanghai is planned to open by late 2015. The over 900-acre park will house a theme park similar to Magic Kingdom in Florida as well as multiple hotels and other attractions.  

Disney Hong Kong's "Paint the Night" parade. Photo: Disney

In the U.S., other attractions expected for Disney include a new parade at U.S. parks mirroring the Hong Kong-debuted "Paint the Night" parade, which is expected to start at Disneyland this year for the company's 60th anniversary celebration. Visitors have a "paint brush" (sensored LED wand) that makes it appear as if the holder can actually "paint" the float in front of them, right from their seats (as in their movements actually control the lights covering the float). That may sound a bit silly as a "coming attraction," but the parade has been a huge hit at Disney's theme park in Hong Kong. 

Universal Studios

While no new Universal theme parks are opening this year (though the company has plans for its own new mainland China theme park in the near future), Universal is adding some potentially very cool new attractions to its parks on both coasts here in the States.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, a new motion-based simulator based on the Fast and Furious franchise, including a 50,000-square-foot space with a 400 foot-long screen, will give riders the feeling of actually being in the film. Also at this park, Universal is expanding its current Simpsons cartoon ride into a full fictionalized town of "Springfield," complete with a Krusty Burger, Duff Brewery, and more. 
At its Islands of Adventure park in Florida, the company is constructing a new project so far only known as "Project 340." We are still waiting on more info about this project, but most speculation has centered around a  King Kong attraction, perhaps like the King Kong 3-D ride at the company's resort in Hollywood. Whatever this new attraction is, Universal never disappoints with these big projects. 
Six Flags
Six Flags will try and compete with Disney and Universal by being the theme park for roller coaster lovers. At its park in Texas, Six Flags is preparing to premier a 4-dimension roller coaster in which the car moves in multiple directions with other elements thrown in. The company is also transforming one of its iconic wooden coasters in California, originally built in the 1970s, into a wood-steel hybrid that will hold the title of the world's longest hybrid roller coaster, with "four minutes of thrills on nearly 5,000 feet of track."

Six Flags says Twisted Colossus will be the longest hybrid coaster in the world when it opens this year. Photo: Six Flags, 

While it's hard for Six Flags to compete with adding characters to its parks, since Disney and Universal have such a massive character empire to choose from, the company does have licenses to use the DC comic brand. Its new DC Comics Justice League-themed 3-D interactive ride in St. Louis looks like it could spark excitement this year. 
Fun for visitors and investors alike
For Disney, theme park revenue growth actually surpassed the company's total revenue growth in the last two years. For Comcast, Universal Studios has been a valuable addition to its overall diversification and revenue stream. Six Flags itself is just a theme park company, and one that has been doing quite well recently, reflected by a near 25% rise in share price in the last three months.
For investors looking to get in on all of this fun, all three of these companies should be experiencing even more revenue and income growth this year as the companies continue to add more attractions, and benefit from increased consumer confidence and spending as well as lower gas prices that mean more families are willing to take trips to areas with these kinds of attractions. However you choose to play, 2015 is set to be a great theme park year.

Bradley Seth McNew owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
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Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
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Six Flags Entertainment Corporation Stock Quote
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation
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