Have we passed the golden age of theme parks?

Discussion in 'Rest of the World Parks and Attractions' started by Matt N, 18th Feb 2020.

  1. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Hi guys. Being a UK enthusiast, I follow a lot of UK park forums and pages, and one thing I often hear tossed around on these places is "[insert park here] was so much better in the 1990s" or "[insert park here] has really passed its prime". And to be truthful, I don't just hear this in the UK community; for parks across the world, I often hear people say "[insert park here] has gone way downhill since its heyday in the [insert decade here]s" and "[insert park here] doesn't build major rides as often as it used to". Even with some manufacturers, I often hear "they don't build them like they used to" tossed around. So my question to you today is; do you think we have passed the golden age of theme parks? Was there a better time for our industry that has now gone by?


    Personally, I think there are valid arguments to justify both sides, but I'm controversially going to say no. Even though roller coasters aren't necessarily breaking records or pushing the envelope like they used to, I personally think that the quality of the rides produced in the 2010s far outweighs that of the rides produced in the decades before it, on average. There are of course exceptions, but on the whole, I think coaster quality is arguably the highest it's ever been. I think that the same goes for other types of theme park attraction; for example, dark rides and immersive attractions are arguably on levels of quality we've never seen before, and even outside of the rides, parks around the world are thinking up new and inventive ways to improve guest experience and make the best possible days out for people.


    But what are your thoughts?
     
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  2. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    In the UK at least, it is clear that the golden age has passed for every park other than Paultons. Visitor numbers are evidence of this. Ride Rater made this article six years ago: https://riderater.co.uk/4134/what-is-the-future-for-independent-theme-parks/
    I think most of these predictions are coming true except they hadn't foreseen the Smiler crash so 3 million visitors at Alton Towers is now unachievable.
     
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  3. D4n

    D4n TowersStreet Member

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    There is a very simple answer to this.

    We haven't.
    But in this country, yes, we have. A while ago.
     
    Posted 18th Feb 2020
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  4. Danny

    Danny Gugu Rides’ Number 1 Fan

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    The UK, yes.

    Other places are only really just getting started. Once you get out of the UK and see what else can be done outside Florida, the message is clear. We are sub-par and there is no desire bar seemingly Paultons to offer something of exceptional quality.
     
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  5. rob666

    rob666 TowersStreet Member

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    It all started to fall apart in 1982, when they killed off the Reel in Blackpool.
    We got lucky in 1994, but that was a one off.
     
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  6. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    Theme parks, I'm not sure.

    Amusement parks and roller coasters more broadly, I guess it depends by what metric you measure by. The 'golden years' that we frequently talk about on this forum were essentially part of a renaissance.
    Switchbacks and Scenic Railways were everywhere pre-WW2, with some lasting much longer than others. Same in the states, but on a much larger scale.

    What we now know as a theme park and the scale that is expected means that consolidation and closure of some smaller facilities is inevitable, not least those that are a victim of their location's wider troubles.

    By most measures and in most circumstances it's no longer enough to find a semi attractive plot, dump a few rides on it and call yourself a theme park, nor is it enconomically attractive to do so.

    The industry isn't owed an existence, in a lot of ways it's similar to the pub industry. Think about pubs of today vs those of yesteryear. Many have a corporate management structure, rather than an autonomous landlord. They serve good food, instead of a pickled egg and a mouldy pie. They have a good range of beers and non-alcoholic drinks too. They have evolved, just like the parks are doing.

    I think things like Winter Wonderland show how you can do something differently, quite successfully.
     
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  7. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    I think we are having a repeat of the 70s, in 1972 there was an accident at Battersea Funfair that killed five people. After that there was a significant drop in the number of roller coasters with at least 13 closing from 1973-75 including some from the 1900s (according to the RCDB). Six roller coasters were built in those three years, none of which reached the new millennium.
     
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  8. Log Flume's Dennis

    Log Flume's Dennis TowersStreet Member

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    it's just nostalgia. the 80s and 90s just seemed better because we didn't have responsibilities and all our relatives weren't dead
     
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  9. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    Perhaps however
    1. Visitor numbers are down significantly from the 90s (Alton Towers usually got 2.5-3 million per year but are now down to 1.9-2.2 million per year).
    2. We only had four new extreme roller coasters in the 2010s compared with 14 in the 1990s.
     
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  10. Jb85

    Jb85 TowersStreet Member

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    Personally I think the cost is a lot to do with it

    a day out at towers is easily £100 plus for a family of four let along six like my family. I can pay for a whole years national trust membership for that
     
    Last edited: 18th Feb 2020
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  11. Log Flume's Dennis

    Log Flume's Dennis TowersStreet Member

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    14 extreme 90s coasters?
     
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  12. Sam

    Sam TowersStreet Member

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    No.
     
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  13. DiogoJ42

    DiogoJ42 TowersStreet Member

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    Yes.
     
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  14. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    A golden age is behind us, far behind us really. It hit it's peak around the time of Nemesis/PMBO/Shockwave/Vampire/Megafobia and didn't last much into this century. It was just a case of various parks all trying to outdo each other delivering actually quality and innovation. Developments then had a scale and completeness which has been entirely lacking for the last 15 - 20 years as Merlin in its various guises has become too comfortable to have to bother and the independents have not been comfortable enough to invest.

    It certainly isn't just nostalgia.

    I'm confident we're just in a lull now, golden ages will come when the market is in the right place.
     
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  15. Danny

    Danny Gugu Rides’ Number 1 Fan

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    The golden age has just been restored. Praise be to Oktoberfest.
     
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  16. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    List of extreme roller coasters built in the 90s (because some people don't believe there were 14).
    1. Looping Star, Great Yarmouth
    2. Pepsi-Cola Loop, Ocean Beach
    3. Looping Dipper, Barry's Amusements
    4. Ultimate, Lightwater Valley
    5. Boomerang, Pleasure Island
    6. Shockwave, Drayton Manor
    7. Nemesis, Alton Towers
    8. Big One, Blackpool Pleasure Beach
    9. Klondike Gold Mine, Drayton Manor
    10. Tornado, M&Ds
    11. Oblivion, Alton Towers
    12. Looping Star, Codona's
    13. Traumatizer, Southport Pleasureland
    14. Millennium, Fantasy Island
     
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  17. MiserableMonkey

    MiserableMonkey TowersStreet Member

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    Some of those can only be classed as extreme in terms of being extremely bad.
     
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  18. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    A Pinfari ZL42 is better than nothing! (Which is what quite a lot of parks have had for the last decade).
     
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  19. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    Big fan of databases but this is far more of a nuanced thing.
     
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  20. venny

    venny TowersStreet Member

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    If quantity is anything to go by, just look at the UK parks which have closed over the years, with very few new parks replacing them: Camelot, Frontierland, Pleasureland, American Adventure, Granada Studios, Belle Vue, Pleasure Island and my personal favourite, Blobby Land.

    Blobby aside, you only have to look at the ambition shown by parks in the 80s and 90s in comparison to now to show you where we are. Nobody is talking about BPB building the tallest rollercoaster in the world, or Alton Towers building a true world’s first or Chessington creating first class dark rides.

    The best we can muster now is Thorpe’s new ANPR cameras and whether Alton might ever decide to clean the monorail instead of bulldozing it.
     
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