On the heels of Walt Disney Co.'s report of record theme-park attendance in 1995, a just-released survey once again ranks Disney's parks as the industry leaders, with one interesting shift from last year.
The ranking of North American theme parks, published by the trade magazine Amusement Business, shows the Magic Kingdom giving up its No. 1 position to Disneyland. The magazine said the park in Anaheim, Calif., had an estimated 14.1-million visitors this year, compared with the Magic Kingdom's 12.9-million.
Tampa's Busch Gardens was the ninth-largest North American park, with an estimated 3.8-million visitors, a 2 percent increase over 1994, according to the magazine.
The Disney switch marks the first time Amusement Business has put Disneyland in the top spot since 1993, when it first started reporting separate numbers for Disney's Orlando parks.
Disney spokesman John Dreyer would not comment on the magazine's report. One Wall Street analyst said he hasn't calculated attendance figures for Disney's parks, but he said Disneyland saw the biggest increase this year, based largely on the popularity of its new Indiana Jones attraction.
"It's a phenomenal ride," said Alan Gould, an entertainment industry analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "I hear there were two-hour lines during the summer. It's the biggest new attraction they've put in at Disneyland in a long time."
Because most U.S. theme parks do not release attendance figures, the annual report by Amusement Business is often used as a gauge of business. The magazine's estimates are based on operational information, projections for the year and interviews with theme-park insiders.
Although the magazine put Disneyland at the top of its list, it also reported double-digit increases at Walt Disney World's three theme parks. It estimated the parks' combined attendance growth at 15 percent, slightly above Gould's estimate of 12 percent to 13 percent.
Analysts attribute Disney World's strong performance this year partly to new attractions, including Alien Encounter at Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom.
New attractions also contributed to attendance growth at Disney's chief rivals in Orlando. Amusement Business reported a 4 percent increase in attendance at Universal Studios Florida, which opened a Barney-theme area in July, and an 8 percent gain at Sea World of Florida, which opened its Wild Arctic attraction in May, the largest expansion in its history.
State officials say tourism was strong across the board this year but add that many in the industry remain cautious.
"We certainly can't sit back and say "Everything is coming up roses.' We still need to protect our market share and try to keep increasing it," said Jim McClellan, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Commerce.
Disney parks still on top
New attractions helped Walt Disney Co. remain the theme park industry leader this year, according to a ranking of North America'smost popular sites by the trade magazine Amusement Business.
'95 attendance Change
Park (Location) (in millions) from '94
1. Disneyland (Anaheim, Calif.) 14.1 +38%
2. Magic Kingdom (Orlando) 12.9 +15%
3. Epcot (Orlando) 10.7 +10%
4. disney-mgm studios (orlando) 9.5 +19%5. Universal Studios Florida (Orlando) 8.0 +4%
6. Sea World of Florida (Orlando) 4.95 +8%
7. Universal Studios Hollywood 4.7 +2%
(Universal City, Calif.)
8. Six Flags Great Adventure 4.0 +25%
9. Busch Gardens (Tampa) 3.8 +2%
10. Sea World of California (San Diego) 3.75 (slight gain)
Sources: Amusement Business magazine, Orlando Sentinel