Warner Bros. Movie World
LocationOxenford, Queensland, Australia
Coordinates27°54′27″S 153°18′45″E / 27.90750°S 153.31250°E / -27.90750; 153.31250Coordinates: 27°54′27″S 153°18′45″E / 27.90750°S 153.31250°E / -27.90750; 153.31250
ThemeWarner Bros. and related DC Comics properties
Slogan"Hollywood on the Gold Coast"
OwnerVillage Roadshow Theme Parks
Opened3 June 1991; 29 years ago (1991-06-03)
Operating seasonAll year round
Visitors per annum~1.4 million in 2016
Attractions
Total17[a]
Roller coasters6
Water rides1
Websitemovieworld.com.au
StatusOperating

Warner Bros. Movie World is a theme park on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Owned and operated by Village Roadshow's Theme Parks division, the park opened on 3 June 1991. It is part of a 154-hectare (380.5-acre) entertainment precinct, with the adjacent Village Roadshow Studios and nearby Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast, among other properties operated by Village. Movie World is Australia's only film-related theme park and the oldest of the Warner Bros. parks worldwide (the others are at Madrid and Abu Dhabi). As of 2016, it receives a yearly average of 1.4 million visitors.

In the late 1980s, a failed film studio lot and its adjacent land were bought out by Village. They entered a joint venture with Pivot Leisure (part-owners of the nearby Sea World) and Warner to develop the land into a theme park. Designed by C. V. Wood, the layout was inspired by Universal Studios Hollywood and Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, and opening attractions were designed to educate guests about the processes behind filmmaking. The park has since expanded to include an array of attractions that are based on Warner and related DC Comics properties. It has survived financial hardships and remains among Australia's most popular tourist destinations.

Attractions range from thrill rides such as Batwing Spaceshot and Superman Escape to family attractions such as Wild West Falls Adventure Ride and Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D, entertainment at the Roxy Theatre and the Hollywood Stunt Driver live show. Among the six operating roller coasters, DC Rivals HyperCoaster is Australia's tallest, fastest and longest, and Green Lantern Coaster has the world's third-steepest drop angle. Film characters regularly roam the grounds to interact and take photos with guests. Each afternoon, characters participate in a parade along Main Street. The seasonal Fright Nights and White Christmas events are hosted annually.

History

1986–1991: Set-up and opening

Hollywood interest in the Australian film industry grew rapidly during the 1980s. Italian-American film producer Dino De Laurentiis visited the country in 1986; he had worked with Australian film alumni in recent years and noted industry buzz over the film Crocodile Dundee.[2] With De Laurentiis Entertainment Limited (DEL), he commissioned and constructed a film studio in Oxenford, near Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, Queensland.[b][2] The studio was to produce the action film Total Recall, but after their finances were jeopardised by several box office bombs (such as Million Dollar Mystery), De Laurentiis left the failing DEL in December 1987. Production on Total Recall halted and AU$3.4 million worth of studio sets were dismantled.[c][2][6] Village Roadshow, who had an established partnership with Warner Bros. in Australia,[d] bought out DEL entirely in 1988 and opened Warner Roadshow Studios (now Village Roadshow Studios) in July.[2]

Movie World's Grand Entrance
Movie World's Grand Entrance

In October 1988, Village acquired a large lot of swampy land adjacent to the studio complex from investment company Ariadne Australia (who had been crippled by the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash).[e][2] The following month, Village persuaded Warner to acquire 50% of the studio and announced that a theme park, provisionally named Warner World, was to be built on the recently acquired land. Warner recognised the value proposition in the theme park more than in the studio.[f][2] In July 1989, the two companies entered a joint venture to develop the park with Pivot Leisure, part-owners of a property trust in Sea World, a local marine mammal park.[g][18] American designer C. V. Wood was commissioned that year to design the park. He had six park designs in his portfolio at the time, including Six Flags Over Texas and Disneyland,[19] and modelled Movie World's layout on Universal Studios Hollywood and Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.[20] It was scaled to let up to 13,000 guests visit all attractions in a single day, even during peak periods.[19][21] Construction took about 16 months, relied on labour from local workers as much as possible[20] and cost an estimated $120–140 million,[21][22] of which Pivot contributed about $30 million.[23]

The Fountain of Fame, the park's entrance plaza
The Fountain of Fame, the park's entrance plaza

The opening ceremony held on 2 June 1991[h] was attended by more than 5,000 people, among them celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.[25] To mark the occasion, Premier of Queensland Wayne Goss cut a novelty film reel with Eastwood and Bugs Bunny.[21] The evening prior, 1 June, a special edition episode of Hey Hey It's Saturday ("Hey Hey It's Movie World") shot on-location had host Daryl Somers interview many of the celebrities in attendance, such as Eastwood and Russell.[i][21][28] The park opened to the public on 3 June.[h][21][26] Between 400 and 500 jobs were created upon its opening.[j][19][30] The initial guest admission fee was $29 for adults and $19 for children.[22] With increased international tourism to the Gold Coast since the 1980s,[2] Village had hoped to tap into a market with American and Japanese customers; attractions were subtitled, and tour guides were trained, in Japanese.[k][19] Described as the world's first "movie-based theme park" built outside the United States[31] and the first "American-style" theme park since Tokyo Disneyland,[19] it was expected to draw between one and 1.5 million visitors within its first year.[l][22][32]

1991–1998: Early attractions

Police Academy Stunt Show was one of the opening attractions.
Police Academy Stunt Show was one of the opening attractions.

Opening attractions at Movie World educated guests about the processes behind filmmaking.[33] Marketing slogans billed it as "Hollywood on the Gold Coast" and its design was intended to capture the aesthetic of American theme parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios.[34][35] Beyond the Fountain of Fame opening plaza, Main Street featured replicas of buildings and facades from various Warner films, such as Rick's Café Américain from Casablanca, the bank robbed during Bonnie and Clyde and the Daily Planet building from Superman.[32][35] A film studio tour[26] included the Movie Magic Special Effects Show with audience participation on a live set.[22][35] There were two live daily shows: the Western Action Show featured actors performing amusing stunts with live animals[35] and the hour-long Police Academy Stunt Show staged shoot-outs and car chases for an audience of 1,500.[22] The Warner Bros. Classics & Great Gremlins Adventure interactive dark ride had guests escape from a gremlin invasion of a studio set.[22][32] Young Einstein Gravity Homestead, based on the 1988 film Young Einstein, featured sloped floors and optical illusions to simulate the effects of gravity. The Roxy Theatre screened 3D films. The Looney Tunes Land children's area featured several attractions, including the Looney Tunes River Ride dark water ride[32] and the Looney Tunes Musical Revue live show.[36]

Batman Adventure – The Ride, a $13 million motion simulator ride, opened on 23 December 1992.[14][37] The ride's four-minute film portion, directed by Hoyt Yeatman and produced at the Dream Quest Images animation studio, featured props and set pieces from the film Batman Returns.[37] McFadden Systems, Inc. manufactured the motion platform and Anitech designed the 20-person simulation capsule.[38] The ride was widely anticipated[14][39] and immediately popular upon opening.[40] More than 12,000 people visited on 30 December and set a single-day attendance record.[41] In 1995, the Western Action Show was replaced by The Maverick Grand Illusion Show, based on the comedy film Maverick.[40][42] Lethal Weapon – The Ride opened as the park's first roller coaster in December. The Suspended Looping Coaster by Vekoma[43] was the first of its kind to feature a 765-metre (2,510 ft) layout with a helix (or "bayern kurve").[44][45] It was Australia's first inverted coaster[46] and its construction required more than 600 tonnes of steel.[47]

Lethal Weapon – The Ride was the park's first roller coaster.

Marvin the Martian in 3D opened in December 1997 at the Roxy Theatre as the world's first animated 3D film[46][48] and on Boxing Day, 26 December, Looney Tunes Land reopened as Looney Tunes Village with several new rides.[49][50] Boxing Day 1998 saw the opening of the Wild Wild West (now Wild West Falls Adventure Ride). The flume ride by Hopkins Rides was at the time the largest single ride investment in Australia and featured an artificial mountain that was approximately 400 metres (1,300 ft) wide and 32 metres (105 ft) tall.[51][52] Originally to be called Rio Bravo after the 1959 Western film of the same name,[51] the ride was renamed to tie-in with the 1999 film Wild Wild West.[53] In their annual report, Village identified Wild Wild West as a crowd-pleaser and credited it with the attendance spike that year.[54]

2000–2008: Expansion

Road Runner Rollercoaster was Australia's first coaster designed for children.
Road Runner Rollercoaster was Australia's first coaster designed for children.

Road Runner Rollercoaster, a Vekoma Junior model, opened on Boxing Day 2000; it was Australia's first coaster designed for children.[55][56][57] During 2001, the Great Gremlins and Gravity Homestead attractions closed,[58] and the Looney Tunes Splash Zone was added to Looney Tunes Village.[59] Two new attractions opened on Boxing Day: Batman Adventure – The Ride 2, a refurbishment of the original, and the Harry Potter Movie Magic Experience.[60][61] Built on the Gravity Homestead's footprint,[58] the $2 million Harry Potter attraction was a direct tie-in to the film series' first film, The Philosopher's Stone, and featured a walk-through replica of Diagon Alley and a live owl show.[m][62] The following year, it was updated with the release of The Chamber of Secrets[63] to feature film set pieces such as the flying car and creatures of the Forbidden Forest.[64] Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster opened on 17 June 2002;[65] the $13 million Wild Mouse coaster by Mack Rides was themed to the 2002 film Scooby-Doo.[65][66] The indoor ride featured ghost train elements, an elevator lift and a coaster section.[65][67]

The Harry Potter attraction closed and was replaced in September 2003 by The Official Matrix Exhibit,[68] which featured props from the Matrix film series.[69] In 2005, Village announced expansion plans totalling $65 million for their Gold Coast parks, in which Movie World would receive a share with two new attractions.[70][71] First, the Roxy Theatre was refurbished for a new film, Shrek 4D Adventure. Opened on 17 September, the experience used sensory effects, moving seats and animatronics.[72][73] Superman Escape, the other attraction, opened on Boxing Day. The $16 million Accelerator Coaster by Intamin[74][75] was the park's first major thrill ride in about a decade.[71] Batwing Spaceshot, a $5 million Space Shot by S&S Power, opened in December 2006.[76]

The Official Matrix Exhibit ran from 2003 until 2007.
The Official Matrix Exhibit ran from 2003 until 2007.

Looney Tunes Village was renamed to Kids' WB Fun Zone in 2007, with two new rides added.[77] Police Academy Stunt Show drew its final curtain call on 30 April 2008 after 16 years and 18,000 performances; the enduringly popular attraction was among the world's longest-running stunt shows at the time.[78][79] Its replacement, the $10 million Hollywood Stunt Driver, opened on Boxing Day. A cast of 10 stunt drivers were selected from more than 200 applicants and, in preparation for the show, the venue was renovated to increase its stage area and seating capacity from 1,400 to 2,000 guests.[80] Another new live show, Looney Tunes: What's Up Rock?, replaced The Musical Revue.[81][82] In October, construction of a roof over Main Street was completed.[81] The 4,000 square metre (43,000 sq ft) roof supplied by MakMax Australia was designed to improve guest protection from the elements and provide for a 2,000-person capacity venue for functions and events.[83][84]

2011–present: Continued additions

Hollywood Stunt Driver 2, a relaunch of the original show, opened in 2014.
Hollywood Stunt Driver 2, a relaunch of the original show, opened in 2014.

Looney Tunes River Ride[85] and Batman Adventure – The Ride 2 closed in 2011.[86] Showtime FMX's MotoMonster Xtreme show temporarily replaced Hollywood Stunt Driver from 26 June to 18 July as alternative winter holiday entertainment.[87] Green Lantern Coaster opened on 23 December:[88] the El Loco coaster by S&S Worldwide[89] featured a 120.5° drop angle–the Southern Hemisphere's steepest and world's third-steepest.[90] Lethal Weapon – The Ride closed in January 2012 for a $2 million refurbishment. The coaster received a new train manufactured by Kumbak with lap bar restraints and on-board audio.[91][92] It was renamed Arkham Asylum – Shock Therapy, themed to the Batman: Arkham video games; the ride building transformed into an Arkham Asylum seized by the Joker and his cohorts. The ride reopened in April.[92][93]

Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D, opened in 2012, incorporated animatronic characters and 3D projections.
Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D, opened in 2012, incorporated animatronic characters and 3D projections.

Housed in the former Batman Adventure building, Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D opened in September 2012 and incorporated special effects, animatronics and 3D projections. The $9 million interactive dark ride attraction was manufactured by Sally Corporation, with additional technologies provided by Alterface, Threshold Entertainment, Bertazzon and others.[94][95] Hollywood Stunt Driver closed and was replaced by its sequel on 20 February 2014, a revamped show that featured Showtime FMX motocross riders who performed more complex stunts than before.[96] The $4 million Junior Driving School, where riders navigate a miniature Movie World replica, opened at the Kids' WB Fun Zone on 12 September.[97] Built on the former Boot Hill Graveyard, the DC Comics Super-Villains Unleashed interactive precinct opened in September 2016.[98][99] Its main attraction was Doomsday Destroyer, a Suspended Twin Hammer thrill ride[n] designed by Intamin.[99][100] Statues of DC supervillains (such as Harley Quinn and Scarecrow) were activated by RFID wristbands to interact with guests.[99] The same month, optional virtual reality headsets were added to Arkham Asylum's ride experience.[101]

DC Rivals HyperCoaster opened on 22 September 2017. The $30 million Mack Rides hypercoaster was at its time the single largest ride investment in Village's history,[102][103] and as of 2020 is Australia's tallest,[104] fastest[105] and longest coaster.[o][107] An Aquaman exhibition opened on 13 December 2018 to feature props and costumes used in the film.[108] Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster closed for maintenance from July to November; it was refurbished with new projection mapping technologies and other special effects,[109] and rebranded as Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster: Next Generation for its re-opening in December.[110] The WB Studio Showcase, opened on 1 November 2019, exhibited props, sets and costumes from numerous Warner films such as Suicide Squad, Mad Max: Fury Road and A Star Is Born.[111] Later that month, Australian students of New York Film Academy (NYFA) began to offer guests a look at the filmmaking process with the NYFA – Hot Sets attraction.[112] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the park closed on 22 March 2020[113] and reopened on 15 July at 50% guest capacity with social distancing and sanitisation policies in effect.[114][115]

Park layout

A float from the daily Star Parade
A float from the daily Star Parade

Movie World is located in Oxenford on the Gold Coast, Queensland, approximately 20 km (13 miles) from Surfers Paradise.[2][19] It is part of a 154-hectare (380.5-acre) precinct that includes three other Village properties: Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast, Australian Outback Spectacular and Paradise Country.[116] The 17 attractions[a] can be divided into five broad areas: Main Street, Kids' WB Fun Zone, the wild west, DC Comics Super-Villains Unleashed and the DC Comics superhero hub.[117]

The opening plaza encircles its centrepiece, the Fountain of Fame, just beyond the entrance. Main Street continues with guest services, dining, gift shops and other amenities lining the footpaths.[35] The Roxy Theatre off Main Street screens Yogi Bear 4-D Experience.[118] Hollywood Stunt Driver's crew perform motorcycle and rally car stunts daily.[96] Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster passes corridors of eerie projections and booby traps before its elevator lift drops riders backwards into tight, unbanked turns.[119] WB Studio Showcase exhibits props from the studio's oeuvre.[111] Characters such as Batman, the Joker, Scooby-Doo, Austin Powers and the Looney Tunes cast roam the grounds and pose for photos; each afternoon, they parade with themed floats and vehicles along Main Street.[120][121]

Wild West Falls Adventure Ride

Kids' WB Fun Zone features attractions from car rides and carousels to frog hoppers and splash pads.[77] Patrons ride through Junior Driving School's miniature park replica[97] and embark on the Road Runner Rollercoaster.[55] DC Comics Super-Villains Unleashed displays DC supervillain statues amid criminal acts. Guests use RFID wristbands to help the villains destroy the area or hang upside-down on Doomsday Destroyer.[99] In the DC Comics superhero hub, Arkham Asylum plunges through twists, turns and inversions,[44] optionally in virtual reality.[101] Batwing Spaceshot exerts 4 g-forces as it launches up a vertical tower.[76] DC Rivals navigates a camelback and non-inverting loop while riders on each train's last row face backwards.[122] Green Lantern drops beyond vertical into outer-banked turns and two inversions.[89] Justice League patrons blast animatronic aliens on 3D screens.[94] Superman Escape catapults from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 2 seconds up a top hat element.[74] Wild West Falls, which headlines its eponymous area, traverses a Native American village and ghost town before a splashdown finale.[51]

List of attractions

See also: List of former Warner Bros. Movie World attractions

Batwing Spaceshot (left) and Superman Escape (right)
Batwing Spaceshot (left) and Superman Escape (right)
Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster
Roxy Theatre
Name Section Type Manufacturer Opened
Thrill rides
Arkham Asylum – Shock Therapy DC Comics superhero hub Suspended Looping Coaster Vekoma December 1995[p]
SBNO 2019[43]
[43]
Batwing Spaceshot DC Comics superhero hub Space Shot S&S Power December 2006 [76]
DC Rivals HyperCoaster DC Comics superhero hub Hypercoaster Mack Rides 22 September 2017 [102]
Doomsday Destroyer DC Comics Super-Villains Unleashed Suspended Twin Hammer Intamin September 2016 [99]
Green Lantern Coaster DC Comics superhero hub El Loco S&S Worldwide 23 December 2011 [89]
Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster Main Street Indoor Wild Mouse Mack Rides 17 June 2002[q] [110]
Superman Escape DC Comics superhero hub Accelerator Coaster Intamin 26 December 2005 [74]
Wild West Falls Adventure Ride Wild West Log flume Hopkins Rides 26 December 1998 [52]
Family rides
Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D DC Comics superhero hub Interactive dark ride Sally Corporation September 2012 [94]
Junior Driving School Kids' WB Fun Zone Mini-cars Unknown 12 September 2014 [97]
Looney Tunes Carousel Kids' WB Fun Zone Carousel Unknown September 2007 [77]
Road Runner Roller Coaster Kids' WB Fun Zone Vekoma Junior Coaster Vekoma 26 December 2000 [56]
Yosemite Sam's Railroad Kids' WB Fun Zone Miniature railway Zamperla December 1997 [77]
Children's rides
Looney Tunes Splash Zone Kids' WB Fun Zone Water play area Unknown December 2001 [61]
Speedy Gonzales Tijuana Taxis Kids' WB Fun Zone Children's car ride Zamperla 3 June 1991 [123]
Sylvester's Pounce 'n' Bounce Kids' WB Fun Zone Frog Hopper SBF Visa Group September 2007 [77]
Sylvester and Tweety Cages Kids' WB Fun Zone Aerial carousel Zamperla December 1997 [49]
Shows and entertainment
Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 Main Street Stunt show N/A 26 December 2008[r] [80]
JL 52 Batmobile Main Street Photo opportunity N/A N/A [124]
Looney Tunes Dance Party Main Street Street show N/A N/A [125]
NYFA Australia – Hot Sets Main Street Film set tour N/A N/A [126]
Roxy Theatre Main Street 4D film theatre N/A 3 June 1991 [32]
Streets Star Parade Main Street Street show N/A N/A [125]
Tom and Jerry Meet and Greet Main Street Meet and greet N/A N/A [127]
WB Studio Showcase Main Street Film exhibition N/A 1 November 2019 [111]

Events and guest features

Main article: List of events held at Warner Bros. Movie World

More than one million Christmas lights decorated the park for its first annual White Christmas event in 2010.
More than one million Christmas lights decorated the park for its first annual White Christmas event in 2010.

Two seasonal events are held annually: Fright Nights during Halloween and White Christmas during the Christmas holidays.[128] Fright Nights features mazes, street parades performed by Halloween characters and night rides on several attractions.[129][130] It is a consistently popular event, with around 7,000 guests attending each Fright Night evening in October 2017.[131] The park offers a paid Fast Track priority pass[132] and free virtual queueing on select attractions,[133] as well as mobile ordering and queueing at certain food outlets.[134] Star Tours began in July 2016 and offer a behind-the-scenes look at several attractions. Included in the experience are Fast Track passes, priority seating for the afternoon parade and other features.[135] A climb up the 282 steps of DC Rivals' lift hill began in September 2018.[136]

To celebrate the park's first anniversary in 1992, a daily parade featuring Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters was held each afternoon from 1 June. Evenings from 20 June onwards played host to Illuminanza[s]—a sound and light show featuring Batman and Catwoman—followed by screenings of Batman Returns at the Roxy Theatre. Celebrations concluded by 19 July.[138][139] Easter 1994 was marked with the $200,000 Bugs Bunny Megga Easter Party from 1 to 10 April. An evening parade starring 140 cast members concluded with a fireworks display.[140] A 10th anniversary celebration hosted by B105 FM was held on 4 August 2001. More than 1,000 attendees were treated to live performances by Human Nature, Invertigo, A Touch of Class and Joanne Accom.[141][142] Halloween Family Fun Night, the first Halloween event, was held on 31 October 2006 and offered guests night rides on several attractions. The sold-out event was immediately popular with more than 7,500 attendees, such that it was extended into the following evening.[143][144] It has since become Fright Nights, an annual tradition.[131]

In 2010, a DC Heroes vs. Villains parade ran during the June–July school holiday period to celebrate DC Comics' 75th anniversary.[145] In partnership with the Gold Coast's newspaper and AFL team, a Christmas charity event was held on 3 December for 3,000 disadvantaged locals.[146] Later that month, the first annual White Christmas events were held for the public. More than one million Christmas lights decorated the park, which hosted festivities such as a Looney Tunes ice-skating show, a Christmas parade and a visit from Santa Claus.[147] The event was immediately popular and reached its maximum 7,500 person capacity on several evenings.[148] The event has continued each year throughout most nights in December with changes in entertainment line ups as will as additional cost experiences such as the North Pole Pass, Awkward Family Photos and Elf Club - where children become elf's in training, guided by an array of Santa's Elves including McJingles, Zippy, Tinsel and Doughy and have the opportunity to lead the nightly parade[149]. Throughout June–July 2014, Carnivale events were held on select evenings and featured music, parades and cuisine inspired by the Brazilian Carnival.[t][153] Festivities and a parade commemorated the park's 25th anniversary on 3 June 2016.[154] In 2020, Fright Nights was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions,[155] while White Christmas went ahead.[156][157]

Attendance and performance

1991–2008

Retail has contributed to strong revenue since the park's opening.
Retail has contributed to strong revenue since the park's opening.

During its first year of operation, Movie World received 1.2 million visitors,[14] exceeding its conservative target of one million.[32] John Menzies, CEO of Warner Village Theme Parks, said that attendance at Sea World and local competitor Dreamworld was consistent with prior years. "So long as the themes are different, parks like this can [proliferate] ad infinitum", he said.[14] Nationwide theme park attendance grew 12% from 1992 to 1993 and Movie World recorded 1.3 million visitors during the financial year.[140][158] Park general manager Mark Germyn attributed attendance growth in part to success with the international market: about 25% of the park's visitors were from overseas, and half of these were from Japan. "We're coming on strong in the Asian markets", he said, "including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand".[140] He further noted retail sales of about 2.6 million units of stock across its 25 outlets generating $17 million in revenue.[140] In 1998, Village marketing manager Ken Minnikin highlighted the success of the "3 Park Super Pass",[u] which recorded a 20% sales increase during Christmas 1997 over the prior year's period, and cited the Gold Coast's theme park industry as a major domestic tourism drawcard.[159] A 20% decline in attendance during 2000 was attributed to Y2K hysteria, but the "Super Pass" deal continued to be popular, contributing about one third of park ticket sales.[160]

Batwing Spaceshot's opening helped boost yearly attendance in 2007.
Batwing Spaceshot's opening helped boost yearly attendance in 2007.

There were more than 10 million lifetime visitors by 2001.[142] International visits that year were negatively impacted by the September 11 attacks[66] and although park visits fell slightly during financial 2001, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild's attendance increased and Village's parks division posted an EBITDA rise of 23.1%.[161] In 2003, visits by international tourists declined by about 50%,[v] with the war on terror and 2002–2004 SARS outbreak cited as key factors. In response, daily operating hours for several rides were reduced.[w][162] Visits from key Asian markets to the Gold Coast had dropped by about 95% and Village emphasised a need to target their domestic market with discounted tickets and Shopa Docket vouchers.[163] In May 2006, Village acquired Warner's stake in their theme park division for $254 million but maintained the latter's licence and branding. The deal let Village take sole ownership of several park properties, including Movie World.[x][165] Strong attendance figures over financial 2007 contributed in part to a net profit of around $45 million,[166] offsetting $40 million in losses the previous year.[167] More than 1.32 million people visited during 2007 (a 5.8% increase from the year prior) and the park was Australia's third highest attended that year.[y][168] Village considered Superman Escape and Batwing Spaceshot's openings to be contributing factors to the increased attendance.[169][170] A decline in attendance during financial 2008 was attributed to unseasonably poor weather during the key summer months.[171]

2009–present

Fright Nights has drawn strong attendance since its inception.
Fright Nights has drawn strong attendance since its inception.

Various discounting and marketing strategies were devised to offset hardship after the global financial crisis.[172][173] A "Q150 Pass" promotion[z] introduced in April 2009 was extended beyond its original September expiry into the Christmas–New Year holiday.[174][175] The promotional efforts contributed to increased profitability and attendance over the following year.[aa][177] Inclement weather and subsequent flooding impacted attendance throughout early 2011,[178][179] however attendance on 26 June reached a new peak since Christmas with more than 10,000 visitors.[ab][180] Sales of "VIP Pass" promotions throughout financial 2011 nearly doubled over the year prior.[ac][182] Green Lantern's opening helped visitor numbers during January 2012[183] and other additions throughout the year boosted attendance by 27% in financial half-year 2013 over the prior period.[184] By financial year's end, more than 2 million annual visitors were recorded for the first time.[185] Later in 2013, Village partnered with Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure for a $15 million Gold Coast marketing campaign.[186] 2014 additions such as the Carnivale event and Junior Driving School attraction were highlighted as yearly attendance draws.[187][188] Fright Nights had its most successful season to date and White Christmas attendance grew 22% over the year prior.[188] By 2016, the park had received an average of 1.4 million visitors per year.[21]

At a total cost of $30 million, DC Rivals HyperCoaster remains Village's largest single ride investment.
At a total cost of $30 million, DC Rivals HyperCoaster remains Village's largest single ride investment.

The fallout from Dreamworld's October 2016 Thunder River Rapids incident, in which four patrons were killed,[189] had a significant impact on industry performance.[190] By January 2017, combined attendance at Movie World, Wet'n'Wild and Sea World had dropped 12%.[191] The $30 million investment for DC Rivals—Australia's first major theme park attraction since the River Rapids incident—inspired Village's optimism for a financial turnaround; it was the largest single ride investment in their history and Australia's most expensive coaster.[103][192] Its opening set a daily attendance record for September with 11,500 guests.[193] By November, to cut debts after a $66.7 million loss the prior financial year, Village sought to sell the Oxenford precinct's land through a 90-year leaseback agreement.[ad][194] Village posted a narrow profit margin of $200,000 in August 2018 and stated that while April school holiday theme park attendance was inhibited by the 2018 Commonwealth Games, July results were strong with high season pass sales.[190] In February 2020, Village posted an EBITDA increase of 7% to $39 million for the financial half-year and overall attendance at their theme park properties rose 12% to 2.58 million; these results were attributed to a 6% ticket price hike, increased visitors and Fright Nights' continued success.[195] Throughout the year, COVID-19 closures had a detrimental impact on park performance.[196]

Reception and accolades

Reviewing soon after the park's 1991 opening, The Sydney Morning Herald's Andrew Conway highlighted its emphasis on experiences that captured the "magic world of movies" over thrill rides.[35] He considered Police Academy Stunt Show the standout among several well-themed attractions, but felt the park lacked the scale and grandeur of American influences Disneyland and Universal Studios. He said that "if you've been to the mega-parks of the United States, Movie World may well disappoint" but it nonetheless offered great family entertainment.[35] Guest exit surveys during opening year signalled highly positive public reception, with around 95% of respondents rating their experience as "excellent".[29] In 1993, The Sydney Morning Herald's Robyn Willis praised the breadth of a day's entertainment but cautioned its high cost.[197] At the 1994 Australian Tourism Awards, it won the "Major Tourist Attraction" category.[198] The 1998 awards saw Village win the "Tourism Marketing and Promotional Campaigns" category.[159]

Following an incident, Green Lantern Coaster was closed for much of 2015.
Following an incident, Green Lantern Coaster was closed for much of 2015.

At the 2002 IAAPA Awards, the park received an honourable mention in the "Best Supervisory Training Program" category.[199] Movie World and Sea World received joint awards for "Specialty Meeting Venue" at the 2005 Meetings and Events Australia awards.[200] According to a 2014 Newspoll study, the park was Australia's fourth most popular tourist attraction of all time.[ae][201] In 2020, Finder.com.au's Chris Stead thought the park was laid out well in a compact area but offered minimal shade from the heat and suffered long queue times during peak periods. He thought that children aged six to ten would have a limited experience unless they were tall enough to brave the bigger rides, and that visits were best suited to adult thrill-seekers or families with teenagers.[132]

Incidents

Main article: List of incidents at Warner Bros. Movie World

While the park was closed on 5 December 2003, a fire caused more than $1 million in damage to Wild West Falls' upper section;[202][203] the ride was repaired and reopened several weeks later.[204] On 15 March 2015, one of Green Lantern's cars became detached from the rails when a wheel mechanism broke. Although riders were stranded for several hours and had to be rescued by the fire brigade, there were no major injuries.[205][206] An investigation revealed a design flaw in a bolted joint on the wheel assembly.[207] S&S Worldwide redesigned the flawed components, the ride was tested and it reopened in December.[208]

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b Total number of rides only. The park's website lists 30 total attractions including shows, parades and other experiences.[1]
  2. ^ DEL obtained a AU$12 million Queensland Government investment for the construction. The Government bought the land outright and leased it back to DEL.[3]
  3. ^ Following DEL's dissolution, Carolco Pictures picked up Total Recall's production and the film was released to box office success in 1990, directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.[4][5]
  4. ^ Village entered a film distribution partnership with Warner in 1971.[7]
  5. ^ As part of the deal, the nearby Cade's County water park (now Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast) was acquired from Ariadne as well.[8][9]
  6. ^ The Warner licence has since been used for several similar theme parks: Warner Bros. Movie World Germany (now operating as Movie Park Germany without Warner licensing), opened in 1996;[10][11] Warner Bros. Movie World Madrid, opened in 2002,[12] and; Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, opened in 2018.[13]
  7. ^ In December 1984, property developer Keith Williams sold Sea World to the trust owned by Murphyores, Pivot and Wardley Australia for $35.77 million.[14] By April 1992, a mounting $106 million debt to the failing Tricontinental bank compelled Pivot's chairman Peter Laurance to sell their 66% stake in the Sea World trust to Warner and Village.[15][16][17]
  8. ^ a b According to contemporaneous sources, the opening ceremony was held on 2 June;[22][24][25] some retrospective sources erroneously cite the public opening on 3 June as the ceremony date as well.[21][26]
  9. ^ The following year, Hey Hey It's Saturday returned for another special to commemorate the park's first anniversary. A parody segment starring Somers developed into the television film Silence of the Hams (satirising Casablanca), which aired on 15 June 1992.[27]
  10. ^ By November, the park had about 600 employees.[29]
  11. ^ Park development had been advertised to Japanese tour operators for at least 15 months before its opening.[22]
  12. ^ Park attendance in its first year ultimately reached 1.2 million.[14]
  13. ^ The fifteen live owls used in the show were housed in a $100,000 enclosure.[62]
  14. ^ The ride seats guests on two mechanical arms that rotate 360°.[99]
  15. ^ Tower of Terror II, which was taller and faster, closed in 2019.[106]
  16. ^ Formerly Lethal Weapon – The Ride; renovated and reopened as Arkham Asylum – Shock Therapy in April 2012.[92][93]
  17. ^ Renovated and rebranded as Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster: Next Generation in December 2018.[110]
  18. ^ The revamped show opened on 20 February 2014.[96]
  19. ^ Illuminanza returned again in 1994.[137]
  20. ^ The events returned in 2015[150] and 2016[151] but moved to Sea World in subsequent years.[152]
  21. ^ The pass allowed guests unlimited entry to Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild Water World over a four-day period.[159]
  22. ^ Prior to the decline, international tourists accounted for about 40% of annual park visits.[162]
  23. ^ Batman Adventure – The Ride 2, for example, only operated each day from 10–11:15am and from 3-5pm.[162]
  24. ^ By October, Village took full control of the Sea World Resort as well.[164]
  25. ^ The highest was Dreamworld with 1.36 million visitors (a 1.3% decrease) and second was Sea World with 1.35 million visitors (a 6.9% increase).[168]
  26. ^ The pass, exclusive to Queensland residents, gave unlimited discounted entry to Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild during the promotional period.[174]
  27. ^ The Oxenford precinct received over 2.2 million visitors over the second half of 2009.[176]
  28. ^ A park spokesperson attributed the MotoMonster Xtreme show among other factors for the day's attendance peak.[180]
  29. ^ The pass gave residents unlimited park entry over 13 months.[181]
  30. ^ The land was purchased the following month by LGIAsuper for $100 million.[116]
  31. ^ Sea World ranked first, followed by Taronga Zoo Sydney, Dreamworld and then Movie World.[201]
Footnotes
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  6. ^ Stratton, David (December 1990). The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry. Pan Macmillan. pp. 285–286. ISBN 9780732902506.
  7. ^ Quinn, Karl (12 October 2020). "Counting the cost of Village Roadshow's Warner Bros loss". Sydney Morning Herald. News Corp Australia. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020.
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