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An interview with Mark Shapiro


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A big shout-out to Arthur Levine of about.com for landing an interview with Mark Shapiro.

 

http://themeparks.about.com/od/sixflagsarticles/a/shapiro2006.htm

 

The interview clears up some misconceptions (mainly started by some "all-knowing" enthusiasses), and I have to say I'm impressed with where he wants to take the company. It's going to take some time, but we're all better off with him at the helm as opposed to the old guys.

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Interesting interview. One thing I'd like to see addressed is security at parks. One of the things I think keeps families away is the perception that these parks are not safe. At some SF parks, especially on a weekend, line jumping and obnoxious behavior is rampant. I'm curious to see if they will do anything to change this...

 

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Shapiro brings up some very good points, and I'm glad to see that he's not totally abandoning adding coasters at the parks...

 

However, I'm afraid that all of these general ideas they are implementing for the entire chain will not work at some parks (ie. SFMM, SFGa, SFGAdv) where their customers expect something big or something new every year. I mean, take a look at the attendance figures for SFMM since the opening of Scream (shoot, since the opening of X/Deja Vu). You will notice a nice decline (yeah, it went up one year 3%...but look how far down it was).

 

I'm really curious to see what Tatsu will do for that park...

 

Anyway, let's see if the big man can back up his big words...

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Seeing as how the old "drug addiction" method of attendance maintainance failed miserably as far as cash goes, it makes sense that Shapiro is willing to try out so many new ideas. I really hope he succeeds, because it's not like he's compltely against adding rollercoasters, he just thinks it should be done a bit less compulsively.

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Well, I wonder.

 

Clearly, Shapiro is trying to Disneyfy 6F, but nobody out-Disneys Disney, or even comes close. Parades, for instance...Whatever 6F come up with, I'm betting it won't be another MSEP, or even close. One can only hope the parades are less abysmal than 6F's lousy stunt shows. And while costumed characters are an integral part of The Disney Experience, does Shapiro think that some guy in a Batman suit is really going to attract more families, especially for repeat visits? I mean, is anyone more likely to go to IOA because there's somebody dressed up as Spiderman running around?

 

The English have a phrase for it: "Mutton dressed as veal."

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^ actually I think people really like universals approach to characters with live people vs the foam characters I, a 24 year old, would rather see the character be as life like as possible (ie: popey and betty boop) than the foamy's.

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Good interview, the future for Six Flags looks bright.

 

Six Flags Magic Mountain is not in any way lacking, when it comes to Roller Coasters.

 

If SFMM did not build another Roller Coaster for several years I would be fine with that.

 

What I would like to see at SFMM is a major overhall of the themeing of this great Theme Park.

 

When you look at an truely exceptional Theme Park like Islands of Adventure, they have many great rides, and they have exceptional themeing.

 

If they didn't build another major coaster at IOA for several years, I wouldn't care, because that park has a great combination of original rides and fantastic themeing.

 

SFMM could be so much better than it currently is with a major theme makeover.

 

This new management will get the Six Flags corporation on the right track!

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Let's see what I would like to see park by park

SFNE, How about focusing on lines and and actual park management?

SFGAdv, Improve line capacity, clean up park

SFA, Create a more family friendly enviroment

SFOG, Build two kiddie coasters and a nice kiddie area

SFNO, If you keep it, well make sure the standard of the park stays the same(at minimum)

SFGrAM, ENOUGH COASTERS!,make the park more friendly to kids

SFSTL, more flats would be nice

SFOT, Massive cleanup campaign needed

SFFT, We need a waterpark here and cleanup

SFEG, Not much here

SFMM, FLATS AND KIDDIES is needed

SFMW, Not much here

GE, not much here

SFDL, ANOTHER COASTER

FC, a solid kiddie area will work.

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What I would like to see at SFMM is a major overhall of the themeing of this great Theme Park.

 

When you look at an truely exceptional Theme Park like Islands of Adventure, they have many great rides, and they have exceptional themeing.

 

If they didn't build another major coaster at IOA for several years, I wouldn't care, because that park has a great combination of original rides and fantastic themeing.

 

SFMM could be so much better than it currently is with a major theme makeover.

 

This new management will get the Six Flags corporation on the right track!

 

Well, aside from the fact that Shapiro didn't talk about major retheming, just adding fireworks and (yawn) stunt shows, the fact is that IOA is at the absolute top of the heap - not even USF is anywhere near as well-themed. Not even BGW, whose IOA-ish ride, DarKastle, is a definite second-rater compared to Spidey. Not even - dare I say it - much of WDW.

 

Not be be mindlessly negative, but, aside from bits-and-pieces retheming like the new area arond Kingda Ka, it's hard - impossible? - to imagine that 6F is going to invest the time and money in shutting down large areas of its parks to engage in IOA-style retheming.

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^Shepp, I wasn't implying that SFMM would do a retheming along the size and scale of IOA.

 

Instead, it would be nice to see a bit more effort put into the rides that have virtually zero theming at all.

 

It's sad when Six Flags decides to spend millions of dollars to build a rollercoaster like Scream, only to build it over the old parking lot, and not even bother to make the minimal effort to remove the painted parking spaces below the ride!

 

I mean even plain dirt would look better than seeing the white lines of the preexisting parking spaces.

 

Anyhow, we'll see what the future holds. Fireworks and Stunt Shows are a nice start, but I'll be hoping for more.

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What they are thinking is beyond me...

 

They are acting like the Six Flags parks are destination parks. They don't have that reputation at all and they won't gain it in any sort of decent time span. If they implement this kind of plan they need hotels on property, they need attractions you can't find anywhere else, and overall they need not to be just a park.

 

They are heading down a dead end. It is great to attract families but to exist in the way they are proposing requires that you become more than a regional park. What they are doing right now is driving away the people who visited before because it was regional.

 

Lets face it there is a reason that the destination parks are only typically 2 per chain tops. I mean lets face it Disney World and DisneyLand are the only two places that people think of similarly it is USH and USF. Heck you also have the two Busch Parks. Heck Cedar Fair really only has Knotts and Cedar Point.

 

I can't see that they can economically offer a full regional portfolio like they have with enough to make them destination parks yet he never has addressed what will happen when a regional park fails to become anything more.

 

Look I agree to start with that parks like Magic Mountain need to cut back on the huge rides and focus on some smaller rides for years between. But parks like Elitches and other smaller parks have seen very little in the way of action in general. Elitches is a nice park but it isn't worth a higher price than Cedar Freaking Point... Plus the fact that they are asking $15 for parking. I'm sorry but it just doesn't add up.

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I can't see this plan working at Elich's Garden. THey should scrap that park.

Anyways, this is what I would like to know about Shapiro....

Instead of building a new ride, will he use that extra money to maintain the rides they currently have? I mean almost all the wooden roller coasters at the Six Flags parks are neglected, so will they get regular retracking? (say once every 4 - 5 years?)

 

Also another consern is how high will the price hikes go? If they're out pricing disney and aren't really giving me the experience that Disney Does (ie $70,000 shows like Fantasmic) or the 'atmostphere" then I'm not going to want to pay anymore. ALso people don't look at, "oh I'm spending 10 hours at the park today so $60 is worth it." They think, holy crap I have to pay $60 for myself, my wife, and my 2 - 3 kids. And then I got to pay $15 for parking, then I got to buy them all food.

 

I wouldn't go beyond that $60 pricing myself....

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Let's see what I would like to see park by park

SFOG, Build two kiddie coasters and a nice kiddie area

SFOT, Massive cleanup campaign needed

SFFT, We need a waterpark here and cleanup

SFMM, FLATS AND KIDDIES is needed

SFMW, Not much here

FC, a solid kiddie area will work.

 

Seriously!?

 

SFFT has a waterpark, which is the reason their attendance hasn't dropped badly as it did after 2000.

SFOT is the model park for the chain to say the least and a flagship park. Much like SFFT, it's ran very very well by very smart people (who I know personally)

SFOG has one of the better kiddie sections now after the 2004 expansion

SFMM .. I aggree or just burn it

FC is out

SFMW needs to focus on their animals and make it no so ghetto-SeaWorld ish .. most of the animals their in March 2005 looked like they needed Betty Forc Clinic.

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What they are thinking is beyond me...

 

They are acting like the Six Flags parks are destination parks. They don't have that reputation at all and they won't gain it in any sort of decent time span. If they implement this kind of plan they need hotels on property, they need attractions you can't find anywhere else, and overall they need not to be just a park.

 

They are heading down a dead end. It is great to attract families but to exist in the way they are proposing requires that you become more than a regional park. What they are doing right now is driving away the people who visited before because it was regional.

 

Well said. The only reason I traveled 3000 miles to SFGAdv was because of Kingda Ka, not because of the silly Spirit of the Tiger show they added. IMO, specific E-ticket rides, and not fireworks shows and bad Batman stunt "spectaculars," provide whatever attraction 6F-style parks may have to non-locals. No matter how many costumed characters are marching around SFGAdv, you ain't never gonna find find Midwestern non-coaster-riding families saying "Forget Orlando, let's head to sunny Jackson, New Jersey, instead."

 

It really is a simple matter of economics - it's cheaper to hire some guy to wear a Superman suit than to build another S:ROS. And, as other folks pointed out, families no doubt spend more per visit than groups of teenagers, and fireworks keep dinner-buying patrons in the park till closing. But it sounds like the new 6F will be neither fish nor fowl - neither "Extreme" parks, nor WDW-style extravaganzas, but kind of post-CCF KBFs. But hey, the LA area already has DLR as well as Knott's, so why head to Santa Clarita for more of the same?

 

And if 6F is aiming squarely at repeat visits from local families who'll spend freely inside the parks, why jack up season pass prices and send parking fees to record highs, when those are the very things that would discourage middle-income families from making multiple visits? Hell, it's now consideraby cheaper to get a season pass to USH than to SFMW...

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Well said. The only reason I traveled 3000 miles to SFGAdv was because of Kingda Ka, not because of the silly Spirit of the Tiger show they added.

 

I think you've totally missed what the new management is going after. They aren't neccessarily trying to be a global magnet, but to provide a local alternative to Disney and Busch. They are trying to make that trip to Florida less apealing, I mean, if you can take a couple of days and visit your local Six Flags and have an experience that is at least close and yet cheaper, wouldn't that take some luster out of a possible trip or even a return trip to Florida?

 

They aren't loking to pull folks from the midwest into Great Adventure - they are looking to draw crods from Philly, the Beltway and the NYC metro areas.

 

send parking fees to record highs

 

Because at $3.75 / person for a family of 4, parking become fairly nominal. Most of the time, that may only equal the cost of a large drink.

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