Monday, May 25, 2015

It's a New Era for Amusement Parks (IFLM, DIS, SIX)

Are you and/or your kids a little bit bored with the theme parks being run by The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) or Six Flags Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:SIX)? As it turns out, you're not alone. While Six Flags Entertainment may be the king of the roller coaster wars (in quantity, with some good quality in the mix too) and Disney Land and Disney World are of course two of the most-polished and charming amusement parks in the world, in a world that's increasingly digital and a culture that's increasingly loves being spooked and mystified, DIS and SIX may be missing the proverbial boat. It's an up-and-coming theme park like the one(s) being designed by Independent Film Development Corporation (OTCMKTS:IFLM) - aka IndyFilmCorp - that's poised to hit the new consumer nail on the head.

Just as the name would imply, by Independent Film Development Corporation is the owner of a decent library of rights to television shows and movies (The Three Stooges, for one), and the maker of some other solid television programs (for example, the Autograph celebrity spotlight series). But a foray into amusement parks? It's not as crazy as it sounds. Indeed, aside from the fact that it worked for The Walt Disney Company, it's perfectly fitting that an organization involved in film and television is developing the next great theme park.

The digital-loving, wanna-be-scared society mentioned above? One only has to look at what's now popular on theater scenes and television to see tastes have changed. Movie franchises like the Twilight saga and Underworld series - both about vampires and werewolves - wouldn't likely have been smashing success 20 years ago, and that's IF they could have gotten made. And now, TV-watchers are quite likely to flip over to an episode of Ghost Hunters, Ancient Aliens, or Most Evil... a show about using forensics to solve some of the most horrific crimes ever committed.

Likewise, one only has to look at some of the world's most popular theme park rides to realize there's a paradigm shift in the kinds of entertainment people want to experience. At Universal Studios in Orlando, the park is home to one "full-sized" thrill coaster. The next-biggest coaster is The Mummy, which as a coaster itself less than thrilling, but as a ride, is one of the best in the park because it immerses riders into a The Mummy movie experience as a character. The next-three most popular attractions are Shrek 4D, Minion Mayhem (a la Despicable Me), and the Transformers Ride... all of them 3D "immersive experience rides", where the screen moves more than the rider. Indeed, in Minion Mayhem and Shrek4D, guests don't move at all. They just watch.

Great, but what does any of that have to do with how Independent Film Development Corporation compares to theme parks owned by The Walt Disney Company or Six Flags Entertainment Corp.? Not that roller coasters and water flumes are going to completely disappear, but there's a clear preference for (1) things that are fascinating because they seem real and a little dangerous (like a 25-foot tall robot with a bad attitude), and (2) attractions that immerse you in an experience rather than just let you watch it (like a mummy chasing you out of a flame-engulfed pyramid tomb). Who better to serve up those thrills and chills that you see and live on the big screen and the small screen than a company that makes television shows and movies?

And that's exactly what IndyFilmCorp is doing. At a 500-acre piece of land in the Catskills, IFLM is planning a theme park to be built around an existing 320 room resort hotel... a theme park that will make real the things that have only lived in our imaginations, or lived on TV or movie screens, by tapping into years of television and movie-making experience.  At this park - perhaps the first of many like it - you're more likely to find Bigfoot lurking around in the trees than you are to find a lovable cartoon character walking around passing out hugs. It will be home to a water-based log ride with the requisite big splash at the end, but this ride will be an escape from Hades via a bumpy ride down the River Styx? And, the haunted house will actually look like it's haunted, rather than just infested with giggling ghosts.

It sounds intense. That's because it is. That's because that's what consumers want.

There's still lots of work to be done, and plenty of planning. But, the ball is rolling. Independent Film Development Corporation owns the land and the existing hotel, and the company is already working with some of Hollywood's top set designers and special effects people.

Is it the next The Walt Disney Company or the next Six Flags Entertainment Corp.? Only time will really tell, but as far as investments go, SIX and DIS have rewarded shareholders pretty well. IFLM may well end up doing the same.

For more information on the theme park concept, here's the company's letter to shareholders unveiling the idea.

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