The COVID-19 pandemic dropped a bomb into our global economy, with almost every industry taking a hit in one way or another. The themed entertainment industry has been almost completely shut down for nearly a year now which includes Theme Parks, Family Entertainment Centers (FEC), Location Based Entertainment (LBE), and many other family owned businesses. Disney Parks alone was forced to let go of over 30,000 cast members and employees while we await the end of this pandemic and reported a $2.4 Billion loss.
At first glance things seem bleak, why should you take the risk when a huge majority of small themed entertainment businesses have shut their doors permanently in the last twelve months? Pull down your lap bar until it’s nice and snug then buckle your seat belt and get ready to start this thrilling adventure.
Hunger. People are starving for something to do. The public has been on lockdown for a majority of the pandemic and most entertainment businesses are still closed, leaving a massive void as people seek out any possible way to connect with those around them. Although we’ve been dealt a hefty blow, the consensus in the industry is that tickets are going to sell, and sell quickly, when attractions re-open. If you’re not preparing for maximum allowable attendance upon reopening you may just get run-over.
Talent. There has, in the history of themed entertainment, never been such an enormous available talentpool in search of opportunity. Looking back many current and largely successful businesses sprout from large layoffs and slumps in their industries. From disparity comes inspiration and creation, combine that with an amazing pool of opportunity-seeking talent and innovation is most certainly brewing.
Timing. Use the down-time from covid closures to start building! The first portion of your investment will be spent designing and building your venture, so why wait until things open and miss out on the opportunity to capitalize on the market’s hunger. Use this time to build, be ready to launch instead of sitting and waiting. I guarantee, the competition has been using the drought to prepare their field for rain, have you?
Experience. This lesson is hugely important and often overlooked. Having opened in 2008, the Chipotle company launched in the midst of our last major recession. Most people would call this strategy unintuitive or ill-timed, but after growing to over 2,700 thriving, privately owned locations, covid might have all but wiped half of their businesses off the board. Learning from the previous recession, Brian Nicool and his board kept a large backup sum of working capital ready in the event of a repeat economic crisis, and have used that to float calmly through this pandemic. Experience breeds preparation, a smart business owner opening during a crisis is more likely to prepare for another.
“There’s always an opportunity with crisis. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to re-examine its policies and practices.” -Judy Smith
I’d especially like to go back and reiterate the most prudent of those four points in regards to timing. Smaller themed entertainment experiences may take up to 6 months from inception to launch where larger visions, like theme parks, may take up to 7-8 years to create. Deutsche Bank predicted that, for Disney theme parks, 2021 would be another “lost year”. According to their report, it could be 2023 before Disney’s theme parks return to pre-COVID performance levels. [Blooloop sept. 2020]. By investing in a new experience now you’ll position yourself in a way as to ride the post pandemic wave and anticipated boom of themed entertainment.
Hunger, talent, timing and experience are all gathered now, and are brewing greatness in the midst of this crisis. Keep your eyes open, great things are birthed from the hottest fires. If you’re not looking at the Themed entertainment industry, you may just miss out on the most transformative experiences this decade has to offer.