Six Flags scratches new entertainment

Continued financial woes prompt sacrifice

August 4, 2006 - Devin Olson

Six Flags Inc., New York City, NY, USA -

© Josh Davidson
Hired and Fired: Six Flags strategy to increase the number of costumed characters and quantity of family entertainment around the chain lasted six months.
When Mark Shapiro claimed the reigns of the Six Flags chain as CEO this season, his vision for the chain's future called for 1,200 new costumed characters, parades, new shows and wandering performers, all enhancing the entertainment experience. However, half a year later, that vision appears to be crumbling, at least for the moment.

Six Flags' unfavorable financial situation has only persisted under the new ownership and leadership, with the 2006 season defined mainly by disappointing results among the fresh changes. In June, Six Flags announced the consideration of six properties for elimination from the lineup after a quarterly report of falling revenue. One of the parks in the announcement was Magic Mountain, one of the largest parks in the chain and in the world.

Now, Six Flags is scaling back on the strategy adopted this season to attract a stronger family audience. In just the past couple of days, Six Flags Elitch Gardens laid off the majority of its costumed-character workforce, bringing the numbers of the walking Warner Bros. icons back down to levels more in line with previous Six Flags management. Elitch Gardens is among the six parks considered for sale, but other "stronger" properties are feeling equal effects of the ongoing $2 billion debt.

At Six Flags Great Adventure, the chain's largest developed property, more than thirty years of firework shows and nightly parades have come to an indefinite end. The park announced that those events along with shows such as "Welcome to the 60s" and the park's daily opening show are no more. However, Shapiro just recently promised revamping to this park and others in long-neglected areas.

Many parks have lost at least an hour from the end of their daily operating schedules as another effect of the sacrifices being made, one example being Six Flags Darien Lake, another one of the six "weaker" properties. However, this park has not only lost daily operating time, but also over a month of operation at the end of the season which included a version of the chain-wide Fright Fest Halloween event.

The race to get Six Flags back on track continues, but only time will reveal whether the sacrifices being made will help or hurt the chain in the long run.

Josh Davidson contributed to this article.

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