by Joe Tracy, editor of Theme Park Magazine
There were many big developments in the theme park and themed entertainment industries in 2022. This article covers Theme Park Magazine’s top choices for “Theme Park and Themed Experience Developments of 2022.” Each selection includes a link (many external) to stories about the development.
Alton Towers Closes Nemesis Roller Coaster for Extended Remake
The popular Nemesis roller coaster opened at Alton Towers in 1994 as Europe’s first inverted roller coaster (and only the second worldwide at the time). In 2022 it closed for an extended time period for a major renovation and overhaul. It is set to reopen in 2024. Renovation details are being kept super secret, causing many fan sites to launch their own investigations into what it will become. Alton Towers is owned by Merlin Entertainments, mentioned in our #2 story of 2022.
> BBC Article on Closure
> Leisure Opportunities Article on Closure
Secret Cinema Acquired by TodayTix Group: Worldwide Expansion Planned
Secret Cinema has seen huge success with its themed movie experiences, selling more than a million tickets to over 50 shows. In September, TodayTix Group acquired Secret Cinema for more than $100 million, with plans for a massive expansion of this unique immersive movie experience where guests become part of the story.
> Variety Article on Acquisition
> Secret Cinema Video – The Empire Strikes Back
Walt Disney World’s Epcot Opens First OmniCoaster – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Many new and amazing themed rides opened in 2022, including Futuroscope Park’s Tornado Chasers, Gardaland’s Jumanji – The Adventure, Lost Island Theme Park’s Volkanu, Walt Disney Studios Avengers Assemble Flight Force, etc. While all are great rides, the first-ever OmniCoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind garnished a lot of publicity for its uniqueness and being one of the largest indoor roller coasters, along with Disney’s first reverse-launch coaster.
> Theme Park Magazine Article
> WDWmagic Video
teamLab Influence Grows with Installations Throughout the World
teamLab’s immersive art installations and exhibitions are popping up throughout the world as the art collective sees major interest in its experiences. teamLab uses artists, engineers, animators, programmers, architects, and mathematicians to build its experiences. It was founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko.
> Theme Park Magazine Article on teamLab
Guest Behavior Forces Theme Parks to Act
A growing concern in the theme park industry in 2022 was an uptick in bad guest behavior, whether it be fights, arguments, or general rudeness. It forced some theme parks to act, including Knotts Berry Farm, who created a “Chaperone” policy. Disneyland also issued a message to guests about being respectful.
> Spectrum News Story on Knotts Berry Farm Chaperone Policy –
> Disney Tips Article on Guest Behavior
Universal Creative Senior Vice Presidents Retire
When NBCUniversal offered an early retirement plan to employees, a mass exodus of Universal Creative senior vice presidents who took advantage of the offer shocked the theme park industry. This brought concern among theme park enthusiasts about the upcoming Epic Universe, one of the most prominent Universal Creative projects ever. Universal Creative has become a huge factor in amazing and creative experiences at Universal parks and the industry hopes that creativity isn’t being limited.
> The Wrap Article on Universal Creative Retirements
First Immersive Experience Hotel Opens – Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
While many themed hotels exist around the world, Disney revolutionized the concept by turning hotel stays into themed story-based experiences. There was much fanfare surrounding the opening, along with a lot of pushback from fans over the cost.
> Disney Tourist Blog Article
Pandemic Continues to Affect Theme Parks
In 2000, COVID-19 shut down the theme park industry. Yet even in 2022, it continued to disrupt many theme parks that had to shut down or issue special rules. Most affected in 2022 by closures or restrictions were Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Efteling.
> CNN Story on Shanghai Disneyland Closure
> Efteling Closed to Start 2022
Merlin Entertainments CEO, Nick Varney, Resigns
As CEO of Merlin Entertainments since its inception, Nick Varney has been a powerful force in the theme park industry. He announced his retirement in April 2022 and stayed until a new CEO, Scott O’Neil, was appointed in November.
> Merlin Entertainments on Retirement
> Attractions Management on New CEO
And the top news story of 2022 that surprised a lot of people when it happened is…
Bob Chapek Dismissed as Bob Iger Returns
This was a development that no one, except the Walt Disney Company board, saw coming. Just five months after getting a 3-year extension on his contract, Chapek was forced out as CEO, stepping down for the temporary return of Bob Iger.
> Hollywood Reporter Story
Those are what Theme Park Magazine saw as the top 10 developments of 2022.
Below are the honorable mentions…
> Walt Disney Imagineering Celebrates 70th Anniversary (Disney Parks Blog)
> LEGOLAND Opens Theme Parks in New York and Korea (Korea Herald)
> Authorities Limit Efteling Attendance to Five Million a Year – (Dutch News)
> Europa Park Opens Doors to Ukrainian Refugees (Theme Park Insider)
> Meow Wolf Co-Founder Suddenly Dies (KRQE)
That’s it! Was there a major development in the theme park or themed entertainment industry in 2022 you felt we missed? If so, tell us in the Comments below.