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Paramount Parks logo (1993-2002)
"The Best of Hollywood Entertainment, Now Playing."(2005-2006)
"The Only Place Thrills Are Paramount"(1994-2004?)
"Life Should always be this good"(1995)
"Where the Magic of the movies meet the thrills of a lifetime"(1993)
|Industry||Theme Parks and Themed Attractions|
|Fate||Sold to Cedar Fair Entertainment Company|
|Successor(s)||Cedar Fair Entertainment Company|
|Defunct||June 30, 2006|
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Parent||Paramount Communications (1992-1994), Viacom (1994-2006), CBS Corporation (2006)|
Paramount Parks was an operator of theme parks and attractions, which annually attracted about 13 million patrons. Viacom had assumed control of the company as part of its acquisition of Paramount Pictures in 1994.
The company once owned and operated five theme parks in North America and managed Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy, California. From late 2001 until late 2004, Paramount Parks also managed Terra Mítica, an amusement park in Benidorm, Valencia, Spain. The company's flagship park was Paramount's Kings Island.
Paramount Communications, previously known as Gulf and Western, in turn had acquired the parks from Nelson Schwab and his management group. Schwab and his KECO Entertainment acquired the group in a management-led LBO from the Taft Broadcasting Company, which had built Kings Island in Cincinnati using cast off rides from Cincinnati's Coney Island and to this day there is a small area in the Cincinnati park called "Coney Island" (Named "Coney Mall" in later years) still featuring some of those original rides.
The parks were part of Viacom's Blockbuster Entertainment division until 2002 when they were moved back to Paramount Pictures. After another Viacom corporate shuffle in 2004 the parks became part of Viacom Recreation, a division of Nickelodeon and MTV Networks.
In early 2006, as Viacom went through a corporate split (creating a new version of Viacom and renaming the original company CBS Corporation), Paramount Parks was assigned to CBS Corporation. CBS Corporation, in order to "toss overboard" any unnecessary company assets, sought to sell the parks during the 2006 season, planning to continue their operation until a buyer was found. Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., owners of more well known Cedar Point and Knott's Berry Farm theme parks approached the company in 2006. They officially purchased the parks and a 10-year license, stating that the parks could continue to use the "Paramount" prefix and the titles of any Paramount movies effectively until 2017. However, in 2008, all references to Paramount were removed in the parks. The only references to a Viacom property were the characters and titles used in Nickelodeon Universe (Kings Island) and Nickelodeon Central (Kings Dominion, Carowinds, Great America, and Canada's Wonderland), all of which were rethemed to the children's area utilized by Cedar Fair's own legacy parks, Peanuts for the 2010 season.
In June 2007, it was revealed that a Paramount Park was to be developed and opened at the Dubailand complex (which itself is currently on hold) in the United Arab Emirates. No clear developments have been made, and it is likely the project has been abandoned.
In October 2011 plans for a new Paramount theme park to be developed in Alhama, Murcia were revealed in Madrid. The resort to be called Paramount Park is to be the second largest theme park in Europe after Disneyland, Paris. It is expected to open Easter 2015.
The Paramount Parks were not built by Paramount, but rather were pre-existing and purchased as a whole, rebranded with the Paramount name. Effectively, it seemed Paramount was attempting to enter into the movie-based theme-park business popularized by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Universal Parks & Resorts.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Taft Broadcasting created a division called KECO Entertainment (King's Entertainment Company), which was formed in order to build theme parks nationwide. In 1972 and 1975, KECO built Kings Island and Kings Dominion respectively. In 1975, KECO led a forced purchase on the Carowinds Corporation, a bankrupt company, leaving them no choice but to sell Carowinds theme park in North & South Carolina. In 1981, KECO opened Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. Additionally, hotel company Marriott, owner of two parks (both named Great America) put their parks up for sale. The California park retained the Great America name, and was purchased by the King's Entertainment Company. The Illinois park became Six Flags Great America, as it was purchased by Six Flags.
In 1992, KECO Entertainment sold six of their seven parks to Paramount Communications (which was later purchased by Viacom). Subsequently, in 1993 the "Paramount's" prefix was added to six of the parks, save Canada's Wonderland which, to avoid the use of a double possessive noun, was simply "Paramount Canada's Wonderland." Thus, the first five parks of the Paramount Parks were established: Paramount's Kings Island, Paramount's Kings Dominion, Paramount's Great America, Paramount's Carowinds, and Paramount Canada's Wonderland.
In 2000, Paramount Parks purchased the majority of shares in Spanish theme park Terra Mitica (Land of Myth), branding it Terra Mitica: A Paramount Park. In 2004, Paramount dropped its shares in the park, and the name was reverted without the Paramount suffix.
Paramount Parks were one of the few remaining seasonal park operators to exclusively use themed layouts and rides (a practice usually observed only by annual park operators such as Universal Studios and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts). It's this aspect that likely helped the parks stand out against other regional competitors such as Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (who later purchased the parks), who ran lightly themed amusement parks exclusively.
For example, while Cedar Fair's flagship Cedar Point debuted Wicked Twister and Top Thrill Dragster in 2002 and 2003, respectively, Paramount's flagship, Paramount's Kings Island opened Tomb Raider: The Ride and Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle. These two attractions, while costing only slightly less than Cedar Point's additions, were indoor, highly themed, immersive rides with synchronized musical scores and Hollywood special effects. The same can be said of Paramount's last additions to their parks, The Italian Job: Stunt Tracks, which are family-oriented roller coasters that also feature flames, water, synchronized music, and many movie props.
There is often much debate over some of Paramount's later additions and how they influence the parks' themes. For example, Paramount's Kings Dominion received two copies of attractions that had proven successful at Paramount's Kings Island: the aforementioned Italian Job: Stunt Track (under the name Italian Job: Turbo Coaster) and Flight of Fear. Oddly, these two rides were placed in Kings Dominion's Congo area, sparking much debate by enthusiasts. Notably, however, after Cedar Fair came to own Kings Dominion, they placed the NASCAR themed Intimidator 305 coaster in the Congo section, as well.
Like many amusement park operators, Paramount featured one flagship park (similar to how Six Flags focuses much of its investment on Six Flags Magic Mountain and far less on Six Flags America, and Cedar Fair capitalizes on Cedar Point as opposed to Valleyfair). Paramount's flagship was Paramount's Kings Island.
When Cedar Fair acquired the Paramount Parks, they revolutionized their own season pass system using Paramount's as a blueprint, and also absorbed some of Paramount's theme-focused entertainment, combining it with their own well-proven thrills to create some of their most famous attractions: Maverick and Diamondback, among others.
Without the Paramount Pictures film licenses, many of the rides at the Paramount Parks were renamed to more generic names so as not to infringe on Paramount's copyrights. Many of these changes were "in name only," having no actual bearing on the rides appearance. Because of the level of theme involved in Paramount's later rides, though, (such as The Italian Job: Stunt Track and Tomb Raider: The Ride) some rides did lose core elements, such as synchronized musical scores, special effects, and pre-shows (thereby eliminating story lines).
- Drop Zone: Stunt Tower was renamed Drop Tower: Scream Zone at all five parks.
- Top Gun: The Jet Coaster was renamed Flight Deck with the exception of Carowinds, which was renamed Afterburn.
- FACE/OFF at Kings Island was renamed Invertigo.
- The Italian Job: Stunt Track at Kings Island, Kings Dominion, and Canada's Wonderland were all renamed Backlot Stunt Coaster.
- Tomb Raider: The Ride and Tomb Raider: FireFall at Kings Island and Kings Dominion respectively were both renamed The Crypt with the exception of Canada's Wonderland, which was renamed Time Warp.
- Days of Thunder go-kart tracks were renamed Thunder Alley.
- Paramount Action-FX Theater was renamed Action Theater.
- The Paramount Theatre was renamed after each park it was located in (e.g. Kings Island Theatre).
- Borg Assimilator at Carowinds was renamed Nighthawk.
- Cliffhanger at Canada's Wonderland was renamed Riptide.
Perhaps the most notable change between park owners, Kings Island's $20,000,000, indoor Tomb Raider: The Ride had its water effects, lasers, Hollywood lighting, pre-show, synchornized musical score, film props, artificial fog, and flame effects removed. Notably, Kings Dominion's The Crypt, similar to Kings Island's except that it was outdoors, retained all of its original theming, music, film props, lighting, fog, and flames.
Sale to Cedar Fair
On January 27, 2006, the CBS Corporation announced its intent to sell Paramount Parks due to the fact that it did not fit well within the company's core business (producing and distributing television content). A number of groups expressed interest in purchasing the company, several placed bids, and on May 22, 2006 it was announced that regional theme park operator Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (best known as the owner of Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio) had outbid competitors and intended to purchase all five parks in the Paramount chain, including Star Trek: The Experience at The Las Vegas Hilton and the management agreement of Bonfante Gardens.
On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair announced that it had completed its acquisition of Paramount Parks from CBS Corporation in a cash transaction valued at $1.24 billion. Shortly following the transfer of ownership, Cedar Fair began the process of integrating the two companies by eliminating the Paramount Parks corporate office in Charlotte, North Carolina and transferring all decision-making to Cedar Fair's offices in Sandusky, Ohio.
The individual parks continued to operate under their Paramount names during the 2006 season, however Cedar Fair began removing the Paramount name and logo from the parks in January 2007. The names of the parks were changed back to their original pre-Paramount names (the Paramount's prefix was removed) with the Cedar Fair corporate logo added. As of January 25, 2008, the parks were given their own named websites, rather than being linked to from the old Cedar Fair  web portal.
Paramount Parks, Europe
On 10 October 2011, it was reported that Paramount would develop a theme park in Murcia, Spain with work set to start in 2012. The $1.5 billion Paramount Murcia park will hope to rival Disneyland Paris as a European tourist destination when the movie themed attraction debuts in spring 2015. The resort will feature 30 attractions with an adjacent shopping center, hotels and casino.
As of November 2013, latest indications are that the promoter and developer of Paramount Murcia (Premursa SA) will be in a position to open the park to the public in the second half of 2015
On 8 October 2012, developers unveiled plans for a new £2billion Paramount licensed theme park on the Swanscombe peninsula, Kent, in the United Kingdom. Dubbed Paramount Kent, the site is 17 minutes from London by train to the nearby Ebbsfleet International Station and the development will create 27,000 jobs. The timetable for delivery, including the planning application process and construction timetable, is geared towards completion and opening in 2018.
- Paramount Murcia (Murcia, Spain, Europe).
- Paramount Movie Park Korea
- Paramount Kent (Swanscombe, Kent, United Kingdom, Europe).
- Paramount Canada's Wonderland (Vaughan, Ontario) (Renamed Canada's Wonderland)
- Paramount's Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina), (Fort Mill, South Carolina) (Renamed Carowinds)
- Paramount's Great America (Santa Clara, California) (Renamed California's Great America)
- Paramount's Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia) (Renamed Kings Dominion)
- Paramount's Kings Island (Mason, Ohio) (Renamed Kings Island)
- Bonfante Gardens (Gilroy, California); (Renamed Gilroy Gardens)
- Terra Mítica, a Paramount Park: Benidorm, Valencian Community, Spain.
- Boomerang Bay (Carowinds, Kings Island and California's Great America)
- Splash Works (Canada's Wonderland)
- WaterWorks (Kings Dominion)
- Raging Waters (San Jose, California); bought by Ogden Corporation in 1999 
- Paramount theme park set to debut in Spain in 2015 LATimes. By Brady MacDonald. Los Angeles Times staff writer. October 10, 2011, 3:54 p.m.
- Paramount Murcia News Tumbit
- Sam Webb (2012-10-08). "Developers unveil plans for £2bn Paramount theme park to rival Disneyland Paris that will create 27,000 jobs". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- PARAMOUNT PICTURES TO BUILD BIGGEST THEME PARK IN SPAIN IN MURCIA By Sally Bengtsson. TheLeader.info. 2010-03-18 15:33:47
- Paramount to build $1 bln Korea theme park Reuters.com SEOUL. Thu May 10, 2007 2:57am EDT