Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Theme Parks Cash In on Merchandise Sales

Los Angeles Times: The Legoland theme park in San Diego County is preparing to launch its newest attraction — an area featuring "Star Wars" movie scenes built with Lego bricks — to boost attendance this spring and summer.

But the attraction, opening Thursday, also is expected to boost profit with another important moneymaker for the park: souvenir sales.

Adjacent to the new Star Wars "miniland," the Carlsbad park plans to open a store called the Empire Emporium to sell hats, T-shirts and, of course, Lego kits to build Star Wars spaceships and characters.

"We are definitely merchandizing toward more Lego products for the Star Wars attraction," Legoland spokeswoman Julie Estrada said.

Merchandise sales typically generate about 20% of theme park revenue, but that percentage spikes when a park offers new souvenirs, clothes and hats that are tied to the opening of a new attraction or holiday celebration, according to theme park industry experts.

"Once a new attraction opens, they have a short period — one to two years — to capitalize on it," said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati consulting firm. "They get an immediate hit and then the champagne effect as sales go flat."

As theme parks try to recover from the recession, many are looking for ways to boost income without raising admission prices. And with five of Southern California's largest theme parks planning to launch new attractions over the next year and a half, growing merchandise sales should help.

The Legoland Star Wars attraction will open first, followed in June by a spinning Green Lantern roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Also this summer, Disney's California Adventure plans to open an indoor ride based on the 1989 movie "The Little Mermaid." Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park also plans to launch a gondola ride dubbed Windseeker before July 4. Universal Studios Hollywood plans to open a 3-D ride next year based on the 2007 blockbuster "Transformers."

When Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction last June, park attendance jumped 36% and merchandise revenue doubled from the previous year, to $48.7 million for the three months that ended Sept. 26, according to a report filed by Universal City Development Partners, which owns and operates the theme park.

The merchandise at the Harry Potter attraction includes souvenir magic wands, Slytherin scarves, Dumbledore steins and Voldemort key chains, among other items based on the blockbuster movie series.

"New rides and attractions provide a great opportunity to create fun and unique products that are complementary," said Eileen Strotz, corporate director for merchandising at Six Flags, which plans to offer new clothes, toys and collectables with the opening of the new Green Lantern roller coaster.

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