Saturday, March 31, 2012

Robert Ripley Nominated for Sideshow Hall of Fame

Orlando, FL, USA (March 31, 2012) /PRWEB/ --  Robert Ripley, among the first to bring the strange and unusual to the masses with his odditoriums and his cartoon panel “Believe It or Not!,” has been nominated for Coney Island’s prestigious Sideshow Hall of Fame.

Voting will take place on Friday, April 13, during the first night of the 10-day Congress of Curious Peoples, sponsored by Coney Island USA.

“It is due time Rip makes it into the hall of fame, after narrowly missing it the last two years,” said Tim O’Brien, VP Communications for Ripley Entertainment Inc. “We are going all out this year and plan to pull all the punches we can to make sure he gets elected.”

Ripley, who lived and worked in New York City from the time he was 23, created his first Believe It or Not! cartoon for the New York Globe in 1918, published his first Believe It or Not! book in 1929, opened the city’s first Believe It or Not! museum in 1939 and operated the Odditorium at the New York World’s Fair in 1940.

He also starred in his own radio show and later his own television show – being a pioneer in both mediums - all while living in New York.

Today, the country’s largest Believe It or Not! Odditorum operates in New York City’s Times Square. “We are proudly carrying on the Ripley tradition on a daily basis,” said Michael Hirsch of the New York Odditorium. “Ripley would be proud of what we are doing, and we are working hard to get him into the Hall of Fame, he certainly deserves it.”

The opening night event, being sponsored by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will feature a show by the Lizardman, a popular entertainer at Ripley’s odditoriums worldwide. His show will be followed by nominating speeches and then the official vote.

Ripley’s is taking no chances this year and is having its own voting process, beginning on April 1 on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Facebook pages. For 13 days, fans can vote for Ripley and at the same time become eligible for Believe It or Not! prize packages. Voting results will then be presented to the judges on April 13 in an attempt to persuade them of Ripley’s popularity.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place in the Freak Bar of Coney Island USA, located at 1208 Surf Avenue in Brooklyn. (718) 372-5159 . Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square is located at 234 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan. (212) 398-3133 .

VIDEOS for Week Ending 3/31/2012

This week, IPM News is going global and it's all about the flash dance.  Click here to view the following videos on the new IPM News YouTube channel:
  • New security measures in place at Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 20 years of Disneyland Paris Resort, Marne La Valle, France
  • Press event and unveiling of Wodan at Europa Park, Rust Germany
  • Krake lebt!, a new haunted walkthrough based on the Krake coaster at Heide Park, Soltau, Germany
  • Nemesis Sub-Terra at Alton Towers Resort, Alton, UK
  •  LEGO Friends Weekend at LEGOLAND Florida, Winter Haven, FL, USA
  • Opening of Star Wars Miniland expansion at LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad, CA, USA
  • POV on Cars Land's Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA, USA
  • Unveiling of Verbolten's trains at Busch Gardens Virginia, Williamsburg, VA, USA
  • Falcon's Treehouse on the making of TurtleTrek, SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, FL, USA
  • 40th anniversary of SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
  • WindSeeker and Dinosaurs Alive! at Kings Dominion, Doswell, VA, USA
  • First test run of the year for Raven, Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana, USA
  • A preview of Simex-Iwerks' next 4D project
  • Metrorail announces the April 28 opening of the Expo Line, linking the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Science Center with Southern California's growing rail network.  Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • A behind the scenes look at the new exhibit Creatures of Light, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, USA
  • Chris Melissinos, curator of The Art of Video Games, explains the exhibit's layout at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA
  • Tour the Maritime Experiential Museum, including Typhoon 360, at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore
  • Participate in a mascot event at the Expo 2012 grounds, Yeosu, South Korea

Carowinds Opens for 2012 Season with WindSeeker

Charlotte, NC, USA (March 31, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- In 1903, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina became symbolic to the Carolinas as the site of the "first flight." Now, more than 100 years later, Carowinds is giving guests the opportunity to experience what the Wright Brothers pioneered; the sense of soaring through the air, as the amusement park debuts WindSeeker - a $6.5 million, thirty-story-tall swing ride designed to give riders the feeling of flight.

"This is a must-ride attraction for both families and thrill-seekers alike as the sense of soaring thirty stories in the air is both exhilarating and breathtaking at the same time," said Bart Kinzel, Carowinds' vice president and general manager. "The immense scale of this ride alone is truly stunning as it changes the skyline of Carowinds for the third time in as many years."

With the addition of WindSeeker, guests will notice several enhancements around the new ride, including:

  • More than 15,000 square feet of pavers
  • Midway shade structures with 20 new benches
  • A new patio area outfitted with numerous tables and chairs for guests to relax, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the incredible view!
"As the tallest ride ever built in the park, WindSeeker definitely ups the thrill factor at Carowinds," said Josh Harington, Regional Representative of the Southeastern Region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE)."This is one of those rides where you ask yourself, 'how much higher is this thing going to go?' before you realize you are only half way up! This is a tremendous addition to the park and I know guests of all ages will enjoy this exciting new attraction."

Guests can also look forward to two NEW live shows in 2012- debuting on June 9!

  • Got County: An all-new contemporary country show featuring the newest country sounds.
  • Rockin' the Decades: From the early sounds of rock to your favorite 80's hits…this show has it all.
To learn more about the exciting 2012 season at Carowinds, please visit www.carowinds.com.

Carowinds is owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, a publicly traded partnership that is listed for trading on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "FUN." In addition to Kings Island, Cedar Fair owns and operates ten other amusement parks, six water parks, one indoor water park resort and five hotels. Cedar Fair also operates the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in Gilroy, Calif. under a management contract.

Friday, March 30, 2012

World's Largest Titanic Exhibit Opens Sunday in Belfast

Dublin and Belfast, Northern Ireland (March 30, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- For millions of Titanic fans around the world, the city that built the most famous ship on the planet is now Europe's new must-see destination...

In Titanic's centenary year, on the 31 March 2012, the eyes of the world are on Belfast, Northern Ireland. The city that built the most famous ship on the planet has a story of Titanic proportions to tell.

Having completed the largest Titanic visitor attraction available anywhere around the globe, the city that designed, built and launched the legendary transatlantic liner is now ready to tell the world its Titanic story.

After three years of construction - the same time it took to build the famous ship - the eye-catching GBP97 million Titanic Belfast makes an iconic addition to the city's skyline.

Silvery, shiny and standing proudly at the head of the very slipways down which the majestic ship first glided into the waters of Belfast Lough, the angular, aluminium-clad building is a sight to behold.

At the exact height of the original (93 feet), a walk around the star-shaped perimeter of the six-storey Titanic Belfast gives a sense of being dwarfed under the prow of a gigantic vessel and a reference also to the White Star Line, the company that owned her.

Titanic Belfast provides nine interactive galleries that tell the ship's fascinating story from her conception in Belfast's Harland & Wolff Shipyard, to her tragic sinking in 1912 and re-discovery led by ocean explorer Dr Robert Ballard in 1985. It also has a 1,000-seat banqueting suite that includes a replica of the Grand Staircase from the ship's first-class section.

Visitors can take a journey through a simulated shipyard, hearing, feeling and even smelling what it was like to work on Titanic.

Included is a 20m ride in a metal elevator up the Arrol Gantry, an enormous steel structure built to facilitate the construction of Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic.

Visitors can also experience the reality of the ship's interiors in a '3D cave' that recreates the engine rooms, third-class saloons, first-class corridors, Grand Staircase, a la carte restaurant and navigation bridge, and also a virtual 'walk' of the ship's length - it contained five miles of decking.

There are full-scale reconstructions of first, second and third-class cabins, and a replica of a Titanic lifeboat that interprets the aftermath of the sinking. Voices of survivors, recorded in the 1960s, recount that horrifying night.

In the final gallery, 'Titanic Beneath' the visitor has unparalleled access to Dr Ballard's high-definition footage from the wreckage. An Ocean Exploration Centre gives visitors interactive engagement with 21st-century technologies, including live links with Ballard's exploration vessel Nautilus and marine research departments around the world.

At one of the windows in the building, which offer breathtaking views over the city and Belfast Lough, visitors see archive footage of the Titanic's launch on 31 May 1911.

As the footage fades away, it leaves a view of the slipways that are still there today.

Titanic Belfast will be launched at 11.30 am on 31 March by Peter Robinson, First Minister and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.


LINKS:
http://www.titanicbelfast.com
http://www.the-titanic.com
http://www.discoverireland.com


Raleigh Celebrates 24-Hour Opening of New Museum Wing with 24 Themed Discounts

Raleigh, NC, USA (March 30, 2012) /PRWEB/ --  The clock is ticking for the April 20, 24-hour opening of the Nature Research Center, a new wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau is celebrating with the launch of “Raleigh’s New World.” The campaign begins today and targets the 24 days leading up to the opening of the new wing.

“Raleigh’s New World” features 24 themed discounts and deals at area restaurants, attractions and accommodations. Deals include: $24 off standard room rates at Embassy Suites Raleigh Crabtree, $24 Chef’s Tasting at Market Restaurant and a ‘24 Incredible Things to Know’ specialized tour created by Tobacco Road Tours, among many others.

The campaign is also offering the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Amazon rainforest with Nature Research Center director Dr. (Canopy) Meg Lowman, a “real-life Lorax.”

The website, http://www.visitRaleigh.com/newworld, also features insider information about the museum, itineraries and trip-worthy features, highlights of activities taking place the weekend of April 20, blogs and interviews with key staff and researchers as well as information on how the Nature Research Center will influence Raleigh’s position as a leader in science and technology. The site is a valuable resource when planning a trip to the opening weekend of the Nature Research Center or anytime this spring.

The Nature Research Center, the innovative, 80,000-square-foot wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, will bring research scientists and their work into the public eye. The goals of the Nature Research Center are to help demystify an often intimidating field of study, to better prepare science educators and students and to inspire a new generation of young scientists.

“This new campaign just adds to the excitement of the opening of the Nature Research Center,” said Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We hope that by taking advantage of some of these incredible discounts and offers visitors will want to extend their stay to the Raleigh area by a few days to explore the new wing and all of the other great things our area has to offer.”

The 24-hour grand opening, which begins at 5:00 pm on April 20 is expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors and is being billed as the “Biggest Party Downtown Raleigh Has Seen in Years.” Activities during the 24-hour opening include concerts, citizen science projects, Global Town Halls, Trash March led by Paperhand Puppet Intervention along with tours of the Nature Research Center and SECU Daily Planet.

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, as the official destination marketing organization of Raleigh and Wake County, accelerates sustainable growth and development by increasing visitor and convention business. Through its website, VisitRaleigh.com and other tools, the GRCVB assists local visitors in a variety of ways.

Technomedia Supplying A/V Solutions for Legoland Water Park in Florida

Orlando, FL, USA (March 30, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Leading audio visual integration firm Technomedia Solutions announced today it has been awarded the audio visual systems design-build for Merlin Entertainment's new LEGOLAND® Water Park that will adjoin the new LEGOLAND® theme park in Winter Haven, Florida. Scheduled to open in time for summer 2012, the water park will feature a wave pool, Build-A-Raft lazy river, tube slides, body slides and an interactive water-play structure- DUPLO® Safari.

Just last year, Merlin Entertainment awarded Technomedia the AV media content and systems design-build for its newest LEGOLAND® theme park located in the heart of Central Florida's tourist corridor. The new park, at 150 acres, is the largest LEGOLAND® yet and features numerous rides, shows, and interactive attractions along with restaurants, shopping, and spectacular botanical gardens. Technomedia was honored to be selected as the audio visual media producer and design/integration firm to deliver the multitude of innovations that create a truly remarkable guest experience.

Among the highlights of Technomedia's contribution are custom control units and soundtrack production that animate and give voice to the LEGOLAND® characters. Dozens of audio racks distribute crisp, clean digital sound to multiple zones, rides and shows throughout the park. The innovative 4-D "Fun Town Theater" which seats 700 and thrills the senses with 4-D special effects and 3D films that run all day in a totally digital domain.

Tony Miceli, Technomedia's Senior Project Manager, commented, "We knew from the start that Merlin wanted to create a very special park and I'm proud to say that we met the challenge and delivered to the complete satisfaction of the client and, even more importantly, the thrilled guests. Together with the LEGOLAND® team, we have helped create a park experience that will captivate people of all ages for many years to come and we are extremely pleased that they recognized our contributions by awarding us the water park project which we intend to make equally exciting."

For more information on Technomedia, please visit www.gotechnomedia.com

SONY Introduces Digital Motion Picture Center to Improve 4K Process

Culver City, CA, USA (March 29, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Sony's Professional Solutions of America group (PSA) unveiled its Digital Motion Picture Center (DMPC) on Stage 7 last night at Sony Pictures Studios. Officially opening May 1, the Center will offer hands-on training for directors, cinematographers and other professionals in the film and television production industries on the use of Sony's groundbreaking F65 CineAlta™ digital motion picture camera and the production workflows supporting this new, state-of-the art digital acquisition system.

"This will be a place for the Hollywood production community to share experiences with their peers and help make the transition from 35mm film to digital production as seamless as possible," said Alec Shapiro, PSA senior vice president. "Here, on one stage, filmmakers and other content creators can shoot 4K pictures, process them through a 4K workflow on site at ColorWorks and view the results on a 4K projector."

Shapiro, who is also assuming responsibilities as president of the Sony DMPC, added that the extensive expertise of the professionals on the Sony Pictures Studios lot will be invaluable in launching this breakthrough camera with its unprecedented 8K image sensor.

"Critical to our future success is listening to the industry for their ideas and input to further advance the state of the art in digital production," he said. "This new Center will offer those capabilities on a level unmatched by any other facility in the world."

Several F65 projects are already underway across the industry. The first two movies being shot with the camera are Sony Pictures' recently announced "After Earth," the latest film from the production company Overbrook Entertainment and acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan, and the Universal movie "Oblivion."

"We're pleased that Sony is making this commitment to the filmmaking community and has chosen Stage 7 as its home," said Gary Martin, President, Production Administration at Sony Pictures. "The Center offers professionals an opportunity to see this exceptional camera in action and learn the best practices for using it."

Curtis Clark, ASC and chairman of the ASC Technology Committee, will play a critical role in directing the educational and training activities provided by the Center.

"The F65 is a sea change for our industry," said Clark. "We can shoot with this camera as we do with film. Since cinematographers and directors have decades of experience with shooting film, they know its capabilities and what they can expect from post finishing. With its 16-bit color and 4K spatial resolution, the F65 expands on these capabilities. This Center will help everyone become familiar with the tremendous potential of this new system and the workflow that supports it."

In addition to the F65, the Center will offer training and education for film and television production on Sony's range of Super 35mm digital systems, including the PMW-F3 camcorder and others. To help Sony keep the DMPC relevant to the needs of the production community, an industry advisory board has been selected. Members include: Ray Feeney, AMPAS Chair of IIF (ACES) project; Michael Goi, President, American Society of Cinematographers; Tom Walsh, President, Art Directors Guild; Hawk Koch, President, Producers Guild of America; Elizabeth Daley, Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts; Steven Poster, President, International Cinematographers Guild; Leon Silverman, President, Hollywood Post Alliance; Gary Martin, President, Production Administration, Sony Pictures; and Curtis Clark, ASC.

Sony also plans to make the DMPC available to local rental companies and resellers to conduct training for their respective customers as well as 3rd party workflow partners including: Assimilate, Avid, Blackmagic, Codex, ColorFront, FilmLight, MTI Film and YoYotta.

Sony Pictures is currently conducting intensive F65 training workshops, following in the tradition set by its popular 3D Technology Center program. These sessions focus on digital workflows, DIT cart and dailies solutions. These workshops are linked to ColorWorks, Sony Pictures' digital intermediate facility, where F65 camera data will be evaluated in a digital intermediate color grading suite.

For information on the Sony Digital Motion Picture Center contact: SonyDMPC@am.sony.com.

Gilroy Gardens Thanks Locals With Free Day at Park

Gilroy, CA, USA -- Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is hosting its 3rd Annual Resident’s Day for Gilroyans on Saturday, March 31, 2012 from 10am-6pm. This private event is reserved for Gilroy residents only, in appreciation for all their support of the park. New this year, join us for “ART IN THE PARK” with demonstrations by local artists at the park.  The park will open to the general public on April 1.

Residents can show proof of residency at the Front Gate ticket windows to gain FREE admission into the park. Also, residents can enjoy a special lunch buffet of Penne Pasta Marinara with Italian Sausage, Vegetarian Pasta served in a Creamy Alfredo Sauce, All-Beef Jumbo Hot Dogs, Home-style Mac & Cheese, Spinach Salad with Pears, Feta Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts paired with Vinaigrette Dressing, freshly baked Dinner Rolls, Unlimited Coca-Cola Soft Drinks and Unlimited Ice Cream Novelties. Lunch will be served on a first-come, first-served basis, and is $9.00 for ages 3-10 and $13 for ages 11 & up (Children 2 and under are FREE). All lunch proceeds will go to the Gilroy Gardens Education Program, serving children & schools in the South Bay.

Plus, Gilroy Gardens is offering a special “Value Card” promotion through May 31st. “Everyone’s A Kid” until the end of May and can get a Season of Fun for the price of a single-day kid’s admission, only $34.99. Prices for “Value Cards” go up June 1st.

For a complete operating calendar and information about the 2012 season, and all upcoming events, or to purchase your 2012 Value Card or Membership, visit www.gilroygardens.org or call (408) 840-7100      .

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is located at 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy (Hwy 152), Gilroy, CA 95020. Gilroy Gardens, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization managed by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, a publicly traded partnership headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is located in Gilroy, CA and is California's only horticultural theme park featuring more than 40 family attractions including six majestic gardens, educational exhibits, rides and the world famous Circus Trees. The park has been awarded a Golden Ticket by International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) for Best Landscaping, 2nd or 3rd place, every year since 2005.

Ripley's St. Augustine Holds "Trashy Fashion Show" for Local Teen Designers

Kennedy Trugter newspaper dress
St. Augustine, FL, USA (March 29, 2012) /PRWEB/ --  Ripley’s “Trashy Fashion Show” on Saturday, March 24th produced three winners and three new exhibits that will go on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! St. Augustine Odditorium. Teen and “tween” designers swept the competition, winning all three categories.

The challenge for this fantasy fashion show was simple; take what would ordinarily be trash and turn it into fashion and artistic treasure as a way to promote creative recycling.

Analise Barnard and co-designer Amani Grant won first prize in the twelve and under division for their dress entitled “High Energy.” The party dress and headband were created entirely from coffee filters. The over-the-shoulder mini dress model entered the catwalk partially concealing the gown with a cape made of trash bags. The cape was shed and the amazing dress revealed. The two won $100 for their efforts and Ripley’s paid them another $100 to acquire the dress.

Kennedy Trugter, age 15, won the student prize of $100 for her party dress made entirely out of newspaper. The sleeveless top was adorned with newspaper flowers and ruffles, while the skirt was triple-tiered with hundreds of pleated paper sections. Ripley’s also acquired this dress for an additional $100.

The 17 and up category was won by Masha Sardari, who had two entries. The first was a formal, knee length gown made from used paint brushes and paper bags. Her second entry was a cocktail dress made from a used shower curtain. Ultimately, it was her first gown that took the prize. She too won $100 and Ripley’s acquired the dress for display for another $100.

Other entries included dresses made from magazines, bottle caps, grocery bags, paper cups, snack wrappers, trading cards and magazines.

In the art competition, Evan Rachelle won the youth division for his artwork entitled “A Bucket of Crayola” which was created from old, melted crayons on canvas. The sculpture “Full of It” won best overall and was the creation of Stephanie Seivert and Abby Solaun, both 16. “Full of It” was a life sized sculpture of a man created from packing tape, magazines and cardboard.


ABOUT RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! St. Augustine is part of the Ripley Entertainment Inc. (http://www.ripleys.com) family of worldwide attractions, the global leader in location-based entertainment. More than 12 million people visit its 80-plus attractions in 11 countries each year. In addition to its 32 Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, the Orlando, Florida-based company has publishing, licensing and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the syndicated Believe It or Not! television show, best-selling books and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, that still runs daily in 42 countries. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

It's Lights Out in Las Vegas During Earth Hour this Saturday

Las Vegas, NV, USA (March 29, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Las Vegas will once again show support for the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour by shutting off non-essential exterior lighting and marquees from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 31.

Participating in this visual display of support on the Strip will be, from north to south, Circus Circus, Encore Las Vegas, Wynn Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, The Palazzo Las Vegas, The Venetian Las Vegas, The Mirage, Harrah's Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Imperial Palace Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas, Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, Bally's Las Vegas, Bellagio, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Aria, Vdara, Monte Carlo, New York New York, MGM Grand, Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Off the Strip participants include The Orleans Hotel & Casino, Gold Coast, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Suncoast, Sam's Town, LVH, Jokers Wild and Eldorado. On Fremont Street, Main Street Station, the California and Fremont will be participating.

Earth Hour is the largest environmental event in history, created by the World Wildlife Fund where millions of people and businesses turn off their lights for one hour, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. Originally started in 2007 by WWF-Australia, the event has grown to include 135 countries in 2011.

For more information about Earth Hour 2012, visit www.earthhour.org.

ABOUT THE LVCVA

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is charged with marketing Southern Nevada as a tourism and convention destination worldwide, and also with operating the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center. With 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas alone and 10.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space citywide, the LVCVA's mission centers on attracting ever increasing numbers of leisure and business visitors to the area. For more information, go to www.lvcva.com or www.VisitLasVegas.com.

Dinosaurs and WindSeeker Bring New Thrills to Kings Dominion

Doswell, VA, USA (March 29, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Spring has arrived in Central Virginia and there is no better way to celebrate longer days and warmer weather than with Kings Dominion's official opening on Friday, April 6. Plan to soar and roar this season as the park debuts the breathtaking WindSeeker, a 30-story-tall swing ride, and Dinosaurs Alive!, a unique six-acre interactive dinosaur exhibit that features 36 full size dinosaurs.

WindSeeker features a 301-foot-tall tower that will spin riders nearly 30 stories above ground. Seated in two-person swings that will allow their feet to dangle, riders will slowly begin rotating in a circular motion as the swings ascend the tower. At the top, the swings will be reaching speeds between 25-30 mph, flaring out almost 45 degrees from the tower. WindSeeker will be able to accommodate 64 riders (32 swings) at one time. For comparison purposes, WindSeeker will climb just above riders on the park's popular Drop Tower attraction and is located near the park's Xtreme SkyFlyer attraction.

"Soaring and swinging almost 300 feet above Kings Dominion and the adjacent countryside will be an amazing ride experience for our guests," said Pat Jones, vice president and general manager of Kings Dominion. "During the day, or at night when the ride will be illuminated with spectacular LED lighting, WindSeeker will provide riders with unparalleled views of the park and surrounding attractions. I have no doubt it will be one of the more popular rides at Kings Dominion."

Kings Dominion will also invite guests to roar back in time to periods between 245 million and 65 million years ago as they walk through Dinosaurs Alive!, the park's unique new interactive dinosaur attraction. Thirty-six life-sized dinosaurs are on display in Dinosaurs Alive! including numerous animatronic models, in a spectacular outdoor forest setting.

The multi-sensory and interactive dinosaur park brings inspiration, science and technology together at Kings Dominion where guests also hear the sounds and see the movements of 36 full-sized animatronic creations made to replicate nearly every feature of the dinosaurs. Each of the dinosaurs is hand-carved and covered with skin-like materials.

"Dinosaurs Alive! is a first of a kind attraction for Kings Dominion and reflects our commitment to providing our guests with world-class fun and family entertainment," Jones said. "The sights, sounds and movements of the life-like dinosaurs within their own little mini-park will excite and educate guests of all ages." Jones says the dinosaur park is not included with general park admission or season pass. A separate admission ticket of $5.00 is required for the attraction. The Dinosaur Alive! exhibit entrance will be located next to the park's Grizzly wooden rollercoaster.

In addition to Dinosaurs Alive! Kings Dominion will also debut Dinosaurs, Giants of Patagonia, an exciting and educational real 3D movie experience narrated by Donald Sutherland. The 17-minute movie will be shown in Kings Dominion's Action Theatre and is free with park admission.

Along with the exciting new rides and attractions opening on April 6, Kings Dominion will celebrate the Easter holiday with Kings Dominion's annual Easter Eggstravaganza on April 6-8. Kings Dominion will also be open Spring Break week, April 9-13.

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: "FUN") is a publicly traded partnership headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. The Company, which owns and operates 11 amusement parks, six outdoor water parks, one indoor water park and five hotels, is one of the largest regional amusement park operators in the world. Its parks are located in Ohio, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, and Toronto, Ontario. Cedar Fair also operates the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in Gilroy, California under a management contract.

Six Flags Teams With The Three Stooges for "April Stooge Day" Event

(C) 20th Century Fox
Grand Prairie, TX, USA (March 29, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Six Flags Entertainment Corporation today announced a new partnership with 20th Century Fox in support of the new comedy for the entire family, The Three Stooges: The Movie, in theaters April 13. Six Flags will host April Stooge Day on Sunday, April 1, 2012 at participating domestic Six Flags parks.

To kick-off the program, the Colossus roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles has been renamed "Curly's Colossus." Additionally, the Stooges will promote funnel cakes, hamburgers, and cheese bread via digital menu boards and signage featuring the three characters at park food locations. Movie trailers will be shown on Six Flags TV and brand messaging will be promoted via digital signage, in-park radio, and advertising on sixflags.com.

On April Stooge Day, participating parks will host The Three Stooges look-alike contests providing guests a chance to win various prizes. As a special thrill for guests visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain, the first 500 Stooge look-alikes will be eligible for early ride time on Scream and Curly's Colossus, and each guest will receive a voucher to see the film after its release.

April Stooge Day participating markets and park locations include:
Atlanta – Six Flags Over Georgia
Dallas – Six Flags Over Texas
Los Angeles – Six Flags Magic Mountain
San Antonio – Six Flags Fiesta Texas
San Francisco – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Washington, DC/Baltimore – Six Flags America

A special online discount offer for a package of three general admission tickets for $99 is available and valid only for entry that day. The offer is being promoted on the film's Official Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/TheThreeStooges. Ticket offer is not available for purchase at the parks' front gates.

"Six Flags continues to prove that it is the perfect fit to promote family films," said David McKillips, senior vice president of corporate alliances. "Our ability to develop partnerships like this not only helps create fun and entertaining experiences for our guests, but also gives great brands a unique outlet to reach their target."

For more information about April Stooge Day at Six Flags, visit sixflags.com.

ABOUT SIX FLAGS ENTERTAINMENT CORPORATION
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is the world's largest regional theme park company with $1.0 billion in revenue and 19 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada. For more than 50 years, Six Flags has entertained millions of families with world-class coasters, themed rides, thrilling water parks and unique attractions including up-close animal encounters, Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park. For more information visit sixflags.com.

ABOUT THE THREE STOOGES: THE MOVIE

THE THREE STOOGES: THE MOVIE is directed by Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly, written by Mike Cerrone & Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly and produced by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Bradley Thomas and Charles B. Wessler. It stars Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Sofia Vergara, Craig Bierko, Stephen Collins and Larry David. Left on a nun's doorstep, Larry, Curly and Moe grow up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuking and woo-woo-wooing their way to uncharted levels of knuckleheaded misadventure. Out to save their childhood home, only The Three Stooges could become embroiled in an oddball murder plot…while also stumbling into starring in a phenomenally successful TV reality show. The film will be release by Twentieth Century Fox on April 13, 2012.

Mark Welton Promoted to President of IMAX Theatres, Will Manage Canadian Offices

Toronto, ON, Canada (March 29, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- IMAX Corporation today announced the appointment of Mark Welton as President of IMAX Theatres, reporting directly to IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. Welton most recently served as the Company's Executive Vice President of Corporate and Digital Development & Theatre Operations.

In his new role, Welton will direct IMAX's Theatre Sales and Operations worldwide, developing and executing strategies to further the Company's growth and extend its leadership position in the entertainment technology industry. In addition, he will oversee IMAX's technology efforts in projection technology and serve as the executive in charge of the Company's Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario.

Welton joined IMAX in 1997 as Director of Business Affairs and has held several senior roles within the Company since, including Senior Vice President of Business Affairs; Senior Vice President, Theatre Operations; and Executive Vice President, Corporate and Digital Development & Theatre Operations. Recently, Welton led the successful development of the IMAX's revenue share business model and digital transition, which has accelerated the Company's network growth. He also played an integral role in solidifying the Company's partnership with its two largest North American exhibitors – AMC and Regal Cinemas.

"Mark has a proven track record of achievement within IMAX," said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. "His in-depth knowledge of our business, coupled with his operational and industry expertise, has helped us expand our business in key markets. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Mark to accelerate our network expansion and build upon our positive marketplace momentum."

Prior to joining the Company, Welton was an associate lawyer at the law firm Stikeman, Elliot and was a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young. He resides in the Toronto area with his wife and two children.

ABOUT IMAX CORPORATION
IMAX Corporation is one of the world's leading entertainment and technology companies, specializing in the creation and delivery of premium, awe-inspiring entertainment experiences. With a growing suite of cutting-edge motion picture and sound technologies, and a globally recognized entertainment brand, IMAX is singularly situated at the convergence of the entertainment industry, innovation and the digital media world. The industry's top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and as such, the IMAX network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe. The Company's new digital projection and sound systems - combined with a growing blockbuster film slate - are fueling the rapid expansion of the IMAX network in established markets such as North America, Western Europe, and Japan, as well as emerging markets such as China and Russia. IMAX delivers the world's best cinematic presentations using proprietary IMAX®, IMAX 3D®, and IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-Mastering) technologies. IMAX DMR enables virtually any motion picture to be transformed into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience®.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. As of December 31, 2011, there were 634 IMAX theatres (497 commercial multiplex, 20 commercial destination and 117 institutional) in 50 countries.

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience® and The IMAX Experience® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at www.imax.com. You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook (www.facebook.com/imax), Twitter (www.twitter.com/imax) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/imaxmovies).

Accela to Provide Operations Software to Reedy Creek Improvement District

Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA (March 28, 2012) /Marketwire/ -- Accela, Inc. today announced that the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) will deploy Accela Automation® web software to streamline key permitting and inspection services to its residents and businesses, and provide 24/7 online permit submission and tracking capability.

As a special taxing district, RCID is responsible for managing utilities, land use regulation and planning, building and construction code enforcement and inspections, and emergency medical services, as well as communicating with local, regional, state and federal regulatory agencies. Though the 39-square mile district spans two counties and encompasses the cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, RCID's jurisdiction contains fewer than 20 permanent residents. The land is primarily owned by subsidiaries of the Walt Disney Co., so that RCID-managed development projects serve an average daily population of 250,000 visitors to local attractions.

Cloud, Mobile and Citizen-Engagement Capabilities Optimize Service
Slated for deployment in early 2013, the new GIS-enriched Accela Automation system will enable RCID's Building & Safety, Fire Prevention and Planning & Engineering departments to more efficiently manage their projects within Walt Disney World and the EPCOT Center, including communicating EPCOT building codes.

Accela Automation's tight GIS integration will make it possible for RCID to create and manage specific parcel numbers within its unique and extensive address system. In addition, RCID will also be able to automate the hundreds of steps involved with issuing a building permit, including application check-in, plan reviews, corrections, fee calculation and collection, inspections and task lists, and much more. Accela Automation will empower RCID to define and manage workflows that are unique to the infrastructure services needed to support a huge transitory population of hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.

RCID will also use the accompanying Accela Mobile Office™ software to enable field personnel and inspectors to file reports and upload GIS and other files to a centralized database while working on-site, using portable touchscreen devices. Meanwhile, Accela Citizen Access™ will web-enable key back-office applications, giving citizens and contractors 24x7 online access to government services from their PCs and mobile devices.

ABOUT ACCELA AUTOMATION

Accela Automation is deployed by hundreds of governments of all sizes as a platform delivering services via the web, and for automating critical tasks associated with permitting, licensing, code enforcement, community development and planning, inspections and investigations, infrastructure asset management, emergency response, and more. Accela Automation -- which can be deployed on-premise or hosted in the Accela Cloud -- utilizes an open architecture and a centralized database, allowing information to be shared across departments and improving communication between agency, field staff, the public, and businesses.

Long-time Accela partner IKC Consulting is assisting with configuration, testing and deployment of RCID's Accela Automation implementation (www.ikcpartners.com).

ABOUT ACCELA
Accela, Inc. is the leading provider of mobile, web- and cloud-based software applications that make government easier, faster and more accessible for local, state and federal agency workers, and the citizens they serve. Accela is headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., with international offices in Melbourne, Australia, and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Additional information is available at www.accela.com.

Accela and Accela Automation are registered trademarks of Accela, Inc. Accela Mobile Inspector and Accela Mobile Office are trademarks of Accela, Inc. Other names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

North Carolina Invites Fans to Visit Hunger Games Filming Locations

Hunger Games scene filmed in Charlotte Convention Center (C) Lionsgate
Charlotte, NC, USA (March 28, 2012) /PRWEB/ -- Visitors looking to experience the 'Hunger Games' frenzy need look no further than North Carolina. The film was largely based in and around Charlotte, which starred as the Capitol of Panem. The city was abuzz during filming with cast sightings and cordoned-off filming areas and is sure to become a shrine for fans feasting on all things 'Hunger Games'. Here’s a look at behind-the-scenes spots in the Queen City.

Caught on Film

  • Most fans would never guess that NASCAR could impact the film, but the seats tributes sat in on the journey to the Arena were fashioned by ButlerBuilt Seat Systems in Concord. The unfinished aluminum frames fit just the right futuristic bill. Fully finished frames can be found in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • Take in a Blumenthal Performing Arts show at the Knight Theater in Center City. The stage here was the setting for the memorable tribute interview scene between Katniss Everdeen and Caesar Flickerman. Hundreds of outlandishly dressed Capitol extras were brought in to serve as seat fillers.
  • The Charlotte Convention Center was the scene of a pivotal moment in the film, with the underground loading dock setting the stage where Katniss becomes “the girl on fire.”
  • The abandoned Phillip Morris plant in Concord was used to build most of the sets and stages for filming, which are still housed in storage in Charlotte.
  • The sweets that tempted Haymitch, Effie, Peeta and Katniss in the lavish dining car en route to the Capitol of Panem were created by local favorite Amelie’s French Bakery. Among the mix were tea cakes, petit gateauxs and ├ęclairs. Enjoy their decadent treats at locations in Center City and NoDa.
Life in the Capitol
  • Spend a meal overlooking the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Competition Channel at the River’s Edge Bar & Grill, where Woody “Haymitch” Harrelson was spotted more than once or twice while filming. He also frequented the biking trails and climbing wall.
  • Learn how to brave the Arena elements with a Survival 101 course at the Center where participants learn different knots and lashings, are taught how to build fires, administer first aid and identify plants that could save (or end…think Nightlock) your life.
  • Head to NoDa, a popular destination for Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson, who unwound at favorites like Cabo Fish Taco, Amelie’s French Bakery and The Evening Muse. Jennifer Lawrence even rented a house in this ‘hood during filming. Be sure to wave to the friendly firefighters at Station 7 along North Davidson Street. They made Lenny feel quite at home during one of his first evenings in Charlotte.
  • For home decor direct from District 12, head to The Depot at Gibson Mill, an 85,000-square-foot antique mall where set designers bought more than $50,000 worth of merchandise to set the scene for the coal mining town.
Seen Around Town
  • The EpiCentre, a mixed-use nightlife destination in the heart of Center City Charlotte, played host to the cast and crew wrap party after filming at mod bowling alley StrikeCity.
  • To warm up for his upcoming tour, Lenny Kravitz performed a private concert at Bojangles’ Coliseum for cast and crew. See everyone from The Black Keys to Sesame Street Live at this historic venue.
  • The cast developed a taste for Southern cooking while in town. Lenny Kravitz admits to indulging in Charlotte staple Price’s Chicken Coop for classic fried chicken, while Director Gary Ross ordered the pork belly at the Customshop restaurant on Elizabeth Avenue so often he garnered that nickname.
Find information on Charlotte dining, attractions and more at charlottesgotalot.com, and more 'Hunger Games' details from Charlotte and across North Carolina at visitnc.com/hungergames.

The mission of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority is to leverage our hospitality marketing and management expertise to maximize the impact of the Charlotte region’s economy…creating opportunities and jobs for our community.

Philadelphia Remembers the Titanic with Museum Exhibits Linking the Historic Town and Ship

Courtesy Franklin Institute
Philadelphia, PA, USA (March 28, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- As the world prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking on April 15, Philadelphia museums and attractions are doing their part to honor the storied ship all year long. Visitors can explore the overall story with a tour of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, returning to The Franklin Institute this fall by popular demand, or they can delve into the Philadelphia story specifically thanks to special displays on view at The Rosenbach Museum & Library and the Independence Seaport Museum. Visitors can even view some of the Titanic survivors' graves at Laurel Hill Cemetery. 

Here's a look at how Philadelphia is marking this historic occasion:
  • Titanic: The Rise of Rosenbach, on view at The Rosenbach Museum & Library, tells a personal story of loss and professional success spurred by the Titanic's epic failure. The exhibition follows the story of book dealer Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach as he hears about the sinking of the Titanic and realizes that his friend and protege, young Philadelphia bibliophile Harry Elkins Widener, has gone down with the ship. Visitors learn the details of the tragic event and how Dr. Rosenbach's personal loss led to professional success as he undertook a project to honor his fallen friend through the creation of Harvard's Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library. Items in the exhibit include a telegram alerting a friend to Widener's death, a Joseph Conrad manuscript that went down with the ship and thoughts from poet Marianne Moore about the tragedy. Through June 24, 2012. 2008-2010 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600 , rosenbach.org
  • Titanic Philadelphians spotlights the personal lives of the city residents directly impacted by the ship disaster. The intimate exhibit, on display at the Independence Seaport Museum, is told through the accounts of 40-plus Philadelphians who sailed on the Titanic during her maiden voyage. Visitors see one of the rare existing copies of the Titanic first-class passenger list, unwittingly carried in her coat pocket onto Lifeboat 4 by local survivor Marian Longstreth Thayer. Every Saturday through Memorial Day, museum-goers can take a Titanic-themed tour of the Olympia, outfitted with triple expansion steam engines similar to the engines on the Titanic, one of the finest remaining examples of the technology of the day. April 13-December 31, 2012. Penn's Landing, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard at Walnut Street, (215) 413-8655 , phillyseaport.org
  • Making its second appearance at The Franklin Institute, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition unveils a startling collection of 212 artifacts—china, candlesticks, tie pins, silver dollars and more—recovered from the wreck site that tell stories of drama and tragedy, humanity and heroism. The display documents the ship's construction and launch, life onboard the doomed vessel, the tale of the sinking and dramatic rescue of some 700 people, the discovery of the buried ship 73 years after it was lost and the conservation efforts made over the past 15 years. November 10, 2012-April 7, 2013. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200 , fi.edu
  • As much a historic repository and cultural site as a lush, tree-filled garden graveyard, Laurel Hill Cemetery's 78 acres have welcomed the famous and infamous of Philadelphia to eternal rest since 1836. Notable for its towering sculptures and graves adorned with Tiffany-designed stained-glass windows, Laurel Hill is also the final resting place for six victims of the Titanic disaster, including book seller Harry Elkins Widener and attorney and horse breeder William Crothers Dulles. A map of notable graves is available at the main office, and it also guides visitors to see monuments to famed Civil War generals, industrialists and others. 3822 Ridge Avenue, (215) 228-8200 , thelaurelhillcemetery.org
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region's vitality.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit visitphilly.com or uwishunu.com, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676 .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Western Destinations Opens Dinner Theater Near Grand Canyon

Williams, AZ, USA (March 28, 2012) /PRNewswire/ -- Offering a combination of world-class western entertainment and authentic cowboy grub in a rustic, yet upscale, Old-West-themed atmosphere, Winchester Ranch Dinner Theater will open to the public for lunch and dinner on March 30, 2012. Winchester Ranch, under ownership of Western Destinations, is located at 301 N. 7th Street in Williams, Arizona, across the street from Grand Canyon Railway. For more information, www.westerndestinations.com or call 602-759-5772 .

As folks enter the Winchester-rifle-handled, large wooden doors, they are immediately transported from a spacious patio into a natural setting of an Old-West environment adorned with extravagant use of rich woods, river rock and wagon-wheel light fixtures. The spacious dining room boasts a running waterfall, inviting stone fireplace, a large bar and handcrafted tables and chairs all surrounding a massive grand staircase, which leads up to the theater. In front of a red velvet curtain, a variety of western entertainment from musical acts to hoop dancers and gun twirlers (appropriate for all ages) will take the stage. Guests can enjoy beverages from the bar, as well, and will be amused by playful vignettes of the Old-West, such as a schoolhouse, post office and jailhouse that surround the theater.

Winchester Ranch Dinner Theater is open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. with live entertainment. Reservations are not required for lunch. Dinner seatings are at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. with reservations required. The menu features items such as grilled steaks, chicken and fish, chili, stews, vegetables, bread and dessert plus all the fixin's. Winchester Ranch can accommodate individual diners, families, large groups and special events such as weddings, family reunions and group tours.

"As the owners of Winchester Ranch, we are thrilled to open this incredible property for the town of Williams, Arizona, and to offer an outstanding dinner theater attraction to travelers from around the world," said Tim Snyder, president of Western Destinations. "The opening of the dinner theater marks the first milestone in our plans for development of this property including a 30-lane shooting range, western-themed town and hotel."

Billings Productions' Dinosaurs Take Up Residence at North Carolina Zoo Starting this Weekend

Asheboro, NC, USA -- The North Carolina Zoo will begin its 9 a.m.-5 p.m. summer hours Saturday, March 31, when the park's ride and entertainment locations officially open to the public. These include: the zoo's 36-foot Endangered Species Carousel; the Acacia Station Giraffe Deck, where visitors can get eye-to-eye with giraffes; and the Simex-Iwerks Dino 4-D theater, an exciting 4-D adventure that takes visitors to Dino Island to save the T-Rex.

Saturday will also mark the opening of the park's new Dinosaurs exhibit, fifteen, life-like, animatronic creatures from Billings Productions representing more than a dozen dinosaur species in a deep-forest exhibit created just for this first-time, temporary attraction at the zoo.

The park's Africa entrance and the Africa parking lot will also reopen Saturday, with shuttle bus service between the parking lots from 11 a.m. until 30 minutes after closing.

For general zoo information, go to http://www.nczoo.org/. For a full list of the zoo's upcoming events, go to their web page at http://www.nczoo.org/events/calendar.html. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Merlin Entertainments Announces Full Year 2011 Financial Highlights

Poole, UK (March 28, 2012) -- Merlin Entertainments, Europe’s leading and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, today announces its financial results for the year to December 31st 2011.

FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS



OPERATIONAL AND DEVELOPMENT OVERVIEW


  • Strong and resilient growth in turnover and profitability, delivered against a tough economic backdrop
  • Performance driven by increasing visitor numbers, continued international expansion, successful roll-out of Midway attractions and ongoing investment in existing estate
  • Capital investment of £174.1m during the year (2010: £119.4m), £76m on our existing estate and nearly £100m on new developments, all funded from operating cash flow
  • Performance through the year underlines Merlin’s continued development as an international, high-growth, family entertainment business with iconic brands
  • Good performance across all three Operating Groups: Midway Attractions,LEGOLAND Parks and Resort Theme Parks
  • Establishment of Merlin’s biggest ever new attraction with successful opening of LEGOLAND Florida in October – marking Merlin’s move into the world’s largest family tourist market
  • Record-breaking number of Midway openings with seven attractions launched, across 4 countries, including two within the iconic Blackpool Tower Complex
  • Resort Theme Parks strengthened with investment in new roller coasters in Heide Park in Germany and Gardaland in Italy
  • Successful first year of operations in Australia with revenues and profits ahead of expectations, following the acquisition of the Sydney Attractions Group; further move into the Asia Pacific market with announcement of plans to acquire Living & Leisure Australia with businesses in Australia, South Korea, Thailand and China
  • Strong schedule of new attractions planned through 2012 including the opening of LEGOLAND Malaysia and the LEGOLAND Windsor Hotel; six new Midway attractions in four countries and new rides at Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and LEGOLAND Billund
  • By the end of the year, Merlin will have 94 attractions across four continents
  • Current trading in line with expectations
Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments, said:

“Last year was the most exciting in the history of Merlin Entertainments as we delivered a further step-change in the performance of the business, while significantly extending our international profile. The highlights have included the hugely successful opening of LEGOLAND Florida, the addition of a whole new leg of the business as we bedded in our new Australian businesses and identified a second acquisition to add to them, and our most ambitious ever opening plans with seven new Midway attractions added across our five brands. At the same time, we continued to invest in our existing estate with thrilling rides like Raptor in Italy and Krake in Germany. Our determination to deliver unforgettable experiences for our customers worldwide led to a 13.2% increase in visitor numbers – meaning we welcomed over 5 million visitors more than ever before, even against the backdrop of the tough economy.

“Merlin now operates 88 attractions in 19 countries across four continents, and in the year ahead we will develop the business further. This year we will open our sixth LEGOLAND Park in Malaysia, further strengthening our rapidly growing business in the Asia Pacific region; we have opened a hotel at LEGOLAND Windsor; and we will add six new Midway Attractions – three in the US, one in Japan, one in Australia and one in the UK. Our theme park fans in the UK will be thrilled by new rides with The Swarm at Thorpe Park and Nemesis Sub-Terra at Alton Towers while visitors to LEGOLAND Billund will enjoy the new Polar Land.

“Against this backdrop we approach the start of our key trading period in confident mood. While the outlook for the consumer economy remains uncertain we believe our strong brands and our relentless focus on customer satisfaction mean we will continue to provide thrilling days out for our millions of customers. We will continue to invest for growth under our proven strategy of growing our strong brands in a portfolio of attractions balanced by geography, product and demographics and we are therefore confident that Merlin will again make good progress.”


MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS
is Europe’s leading and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator. Merlin delivers memorable and rewarding experiences to tens of millions of visitors each year through its portfolio of iconic global and national brands. It has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in its sector and now operates 88 attractions across four continents. This international expansion has been driven both through acquisition and by significant and sustained investment in its estate.

Merlin operates through three Operating Groups: LEGOLAND Parks, Resort Theme Parks and Midway Attractions, using a number of international brands including SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, the Dungeons, LEGOLAND and the Eye. In addition, Merlin also operates a number of leading national brands such as Thorpe Park and Alton Towers in the UK, Gardaland in Italy and Heide Park in Germany. Merlin is a privatelyowned company whose primary shareholders are the Blackstone Group, KIRKBI A/S, CVC Capital Partners, and members of the management team.
 

MERLIN SHAREHOLDERS: 
Blackstone (NYSE: BX) is one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms. Blackstone’s alternative asset management businesses include the management of private equity funds, real estate funds, funds of hedge funds, credit-oriented funds, collateralized loan obligation vehicles, separately managed accounts and publiclytraded closed-end mutual funds. Blackstone also provides a wide range of financial advisory services, including financial and strategic advisory, restructuring and reorganization and fund placement services. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com.

KIRKBI A/S is a privately held, family-owned investment and holding company based in Billund, Denmark. Its holdings include a 75% ownership share in the LEGO Group, the remaining 25% being held by a family foundation. The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 10,000 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries. LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group.

CVC Capital Partners (‘CVC’) is one of the world’s leading Private Equity and investment advisory firms. Founded in 1981, CVC now has a network of 20 offices and some 250 employees throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. CVC funds, raised from pension funds, financial institutions and various other partners, seek to identify attractive investments and then develop sustainable, long-term value in close partnership with management teams. Today, CVC manages in total over US$38 billion in funds, and is currently investing from funds with an aggregate of US$18 billion in available equity capital. In total, CVC has completed over 250 investments across a wide range of industries and countries. Today, CVC funds own 55 companies worldwide, employing approximately 400,000 people in numerous countries. Together these companies have combined annual sales of over US$127 billion. Further information is available at www.cvc.com

Accenture Creates Mobile App For Exhibition of Rare Vatican Artifacts

Rome, Italy (March 28, 2012) /BUSINESS WIRE/--Accenture (NYSE: ACN) announced today that it has developed a free mobile app that delivers rich multimedia content to the fingertips of visitors to an unprecedented exhibition featuring documents held in the Secret Vatican Archive that have never before been seen by the public and now can be admired at the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

The exhibition “Lux in Arcana – The Vatican Secret Archives Reveals Itself” features, among other things, documents such as ciphered letters, manuscripts, codices, and ancient parchments. The materials date from the eighth to the 20th century and the exhibition marks the first time they have ever been shown away from Vatican City. The items were unveiled at the Capitoline Museums in Rome on Feb. 29 and will remain on exhibit thru Sept. 9 of this year.

The mobile app developed by Accenture, which is the official technology partner of the exhibition, significantly enhances the experience of users by delivering supplemental details about the historical items to their smartphones and tablets for both Apple and Android. For example, the app displays technical data, photos and images, provides detailed background information, and features rich, multimedia content. The app allows users to see the documents by alphabetical or chronological order, by the typology (letter, agreement, papal document, etc.) and by the location in the Capitoline Museums halls. Visitors can also follow the path of the exhibition listening to the audio guide feature available through the app.

“Accenture has been an outstanding technology partner and we’re very pleased with the unique user experience that their mobile app delivers”, said Luca Carboni, General Secretary of the Secret Vatican Archive. “We believe the people expected to visit the exhibition will benefit tremendously from the rich content they can access through their devices as they tour the various exhibits.”

The app also features an “augmented reality” capability that can be used outside of the museum at some historical sites in Rome. One example is the statue of Giordano Bruno in the piazza Campo de’ Fiori. Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar and philosopher, was burned at the stake in 1600’s after being judged a heretic by the Tribunal of the Roman Inquisition. The app allows visitors to focus their smartphone or tablet on the statue and see Bruno’s pyre burst into flames on the device’s display. It also allows visitors to open special contents related to Giordano Bruno’s trial and to call up videos with more information on his life and his ideas. Augmented reality is available also for the angels of the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge, carved by the Bernini, and for the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, close to the place where Galileo Galilei abjured.

“We’re delighted to be the official technology sponsor of this extraordinary and unprecedented exhibition from the Secret Vatican Archive,” said Fabio Benasso, country managing director, Accenture Italy. “Our country possesses a treasure trove of culture and art that reflects many of the world’s most historical events and should be shared by as many people as possible. As an integral and longstanding member of the Italian business community, Accenture is proud to support this important initiative celebrating this part of Italy’s cultural heritage.”

The app is available in Italian and English, and is compatible with almost all mobile devices. It can be downloaded from the Apple store or Google Play for free.

The exhibition “Lux in Arcana – The Vatican Secret Archive Reveals Itself” was conceived for the occasion of the fourth centenary of the Secret Vatican Archives foundation, in collaboration with Roma Capitale, Assessorato alle Politiche Culturali e Centro Storico - Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Roma and Z├Ętema Progetto Cultura.
 

ABOUT ACCENTURE
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 246,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$25.5 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

MOBOTIX Cameras Used For More than Public Safety at Birmingham Zoo

Birmingham, AL, USA (March 27, 2012) /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- MOBOTIX, an industry-leading provider of high-resolution, network-based security solutions, today announced the Birmingham Zoo has deployed MOBOTIX high-resolution cameras throughout its facility, including high-traffic areas and point-of-sale locations. The zoo, which partnered with Advanced Integration Systems for the project, installed a comprehensive MOBOTIX surveillance system to investigate incidents of theft, locate lost children and deter crime while also serving as a platform for enhanced data collection on the social behavior of specific animals.

More than 30 MOBOTIX cameras now cover critical areas including the parking lot and the facility’s primary exits and entrances. A dozen of the cameras, which are a mixture of M12, M24 and Q24 cameras managed by MxControlCenter, also cover the zoo’s new Trails of Africa exhibit to allow animal researchers to gather and preserve information on the social behavior of the zoo’s African Bull Elephants. The exhibit is one of the largest elephant exhibits in the nation and is the first time African Bull Elephants have lived together in a controlled environment, without females.

“Animal behavior happens 24 hours per day, seven days a week and 365 days per year, but we do not have the staff resources available to devote to animal behavior at all times,” said Dan Trausch, Director of Zoo Operations, Birmingham Zoo. “We want to have a record of the elephants‘ introduction to each other and their overall behavior, and want to use the footage for scientific research. Using video as a way to preserve the activity of the animals allows our team to gather the data needed to be most effective and increase overall situational awareness.”

The MOBOTIX megapixel surveillance cameras provide Birmingham Zoo with the best image clarity available. One MOBOTIX camera with 3.1 megapixels records 30 times more detail than traditional CCTV cameras. As a result, larger image areas of up to 360-degree views are possible. This reduces the number of cameras required and therefore, upfront and long-term costs. Unlike other systems, the decentralized MOBOTIX concept incorporates a high-speed computer into every camera to reduce network bandwidth because video is processed on the camera itself and images do not have to be transferred continuously.

“By incorporating their security system with their quest to better understand animal behavior in addition to enhancing security, Birmingham Zoo has further enhanced the cost-efficiencies of their MOBOTIX solutions,” said Steve Gorski, General Manager, Americas, MOBOTIX. “We are delighted to see MOBOTIX solutions used creatively and for a scientific purpose. The entire system will provide a rich database and superb image quality for the researchers.”

ABOUT MOBOTIX:
MOBOTIX is a software company with in-house hardware development in the area of digital, high-resolution and network-based video security solutions. The company focuses on the development of user-friendly complete system solutions from a single source. The publicly-traded company with headquarters in Langmeil, Germany, is known as the leading pioneer in network camera technology since its foundation in 1999 and its decentralized concept has also made high-resolution video systems cost-efficient. From 2010 onwards, MOBOTIX will extend its product range to include intelligent home automation products that are developed in-house. Whether in embassies, airports, railway stations, ports, gas stations, hotels or highways, over one hundred thousand MOBOTIX video systems have been in operation on every continent for years.

Wild Eagle Now Soaring Above Dollywood

Pigeon Forge, TN, USA (March 27, 2012) /BUSINESS WIRE/ --Dollywood and Dolly Parton made history on Friday, March 23, as the Tennessee-based theme park launched its new $20 million Wild Eagle, the first steel wing coaster in the U.S.  

“Wild Eagle was a long time in the makin’ but truly worth every minute as that incredible bird took flight over Dollywood,” Parton said. “From everything folks are telling me, Wild Eagle is somethin’ else, and I hope folks from around the world come to Dollywood to earn their wings. Or as I like to say, be an eagle not a chicken!”

Hosting approximately 1,000 invited guests and dignitaries, Parton presided over Dollywood’s Wild Eagle grand opening festivities, complete with confetti cannons and a special flight by the American Eagle Foundation’s (AEF) specially trained bald eagle Challenger.

The 52 first official rides on Wild Eagle were offered on ebay in March and generated $37,000 for the AEF, which is headquartered at Dollywood. Auction winners were on hand for the inaugural ride. Auction proceeds benefitted the not-for-profit AEF which rehabilitates and breeds birds of prey under permits from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Dollywood is home to Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, a 1.5-million-cubic-foot natural outdoor aviary which is maintained by the AEF and houses the country’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles.

Coaster enthusiasts from around the world, many of whom had tagged Wild Eagle as the year’s most anticipated coaster opening, were in attendance for the event and gave Wild Eagle high marks.

“Wild Eagle is an exhilarating roller coaster that delivers a powerful yet graceful ride experience with breathtaking views. This exceptionally unique coaster is flat-out fun and should be a phenomenal success for Dollywood,” David Lipnicky, American Coaster Enthusiasts, said.

“Wild Eagle was by far my most anticipated coaster of the year,” Coaster Crew’s Clint Novak added. “It gives you a true feeling of what it’s like to glide over the Smoky Mountain tree tops, just like a wild eagle.”

Wild Eagle’s innovative floorless design allows riders to experience the sensation of flight. Riders sit four abreast in a forward-facing position, with two riders seated on the “wings” along either side of the coaster’s track with nothing but air above and below them.

Perched on the park’s highest peak, Wild Eagle rises 21 stories into the sky. Taking off from the Wilderness Pass area, riders travel the coaster’s massive 3,127-foot track as it dives, drops, twists and turns. Traversing the mountainous terrain, Wild Eagle reaches a top speed of 61 miles per hour and maneuvers four inversions including a giant loop, a “zero-G” roll, and a giant flat spin.

Wild Eagle’s nearly two-and-a-half minute journey includes a plummeting 135-foot first drop. Located 210 feet above the coaster’s loading station, the ride provides spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains terrain below. Each coaster train consists of seven cars which carry four passengers for a total of 28 people per train. Each vehicle features an imposing bald eagle with piercing eyes and broad wings outstretched for flight.

Wild Eagle is the largest single capital investment in Dollywood’s 26-year history. The park’s development team collaborated with Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M), the world’s premier coaster manufacturer. Pioneers in ride technology, B&M has built 11 of the 20 highest-ranking steel coasters in the world, according to Amusement Today magazine.

The ride’s name celebrates the bald eagle, a raptor whose population has increased in recent years due largely to the efforts of the AEF.

Wild Eagle joins Dollywood’s award-winning lineup of coasters. Thunderhead, twice named the world’s best wooden coaster, consistently ranks among the world’s top five. It was built in 2004. Mystery Mine, a 1,811-foot-long steel coaster, opened in 2007 and was named Theme Park Insider’s best new theme park attraction the same year. In addition, Dollywood is a two-time Golden Ticket Award winner for Best Shows and three-time winner for Best Christmas Event.

Dollywood was recognized in 2010 with the theme park industry’s most prestigious honor, the Applause Award. The Applause Award honors a park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with its foresight, originality and sound business development.

Based in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a 150-acre family adventure park which operates nine months a year (late March through December) and offers more than 40 rides and attractions; award-winning live entertainment featuring country, bluegrass, gospel and mountain music; and a dozen crafters authentic to the East Tennessee region. A family-friendly vacation destination, Dollywood also includes the 35-acre Dollywood’s Splash Country, voted America’s “Must-See Waterpark.” Dollywood offers all-inclusive vacation planning with a variety of overnight lodging options. For more information, call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD or visit dollywood.com.