magic/19inches/w/art/mark2nd JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter A year ago, Six Flags Magic Mountain was betting on its new “Superman: The Escape” ride to keep its summer season in the green. But instead the Valencia-based theme park got something else green kryptonite. Technical problems kept Superman grounded during the crucial summer months costing the park untold losses in admissions and aborting an advertising blitz tied to the thrill ride. Now, officials say Superman is in the telephone booth and preparing to make its maiden flight. “We’re going to have a spring opening, and that means a lot to us,” said Palmer Moody, a spokesman for Six Flags, a unit of Time Warner Inc. “We expect, finally, this ride will mean a big boom to our attendance and revenues this summer.” The opening of Superman comes at a time when competition among local parks has become intense. Los Angeles County’s two amusement parks Universal Studios Tour and Magic Mountain have been battling it out each summer season for tourist dollars. Universal Studio’s attendance last year hit about 5.4 million visitors, up from 4.7 million in 1995, according to Amusement Magazine, which tracks theme park attendance records around the nation. The increase was attributed to the opening its new attraction Jurassic Park. Meanwhile, Magic Mountain which had no new attractions in 1995 and 1996 had about 3.4 million visitors each year. In the business of amusement parks, a new attraction can increase attendance by more than 10 percent. That’s a lesson that Universal Studios and Disneyland learned last year. At Universal, the Jurassic Park ride proved a hit despite some operational problems. The park announced that its summer attendance in 1996 was up 35 percent over the previous year, to 2.5 million. “We sympathize with Magic Mountain, that’s a tough position to be in,” said Eliot Sekuler, a spokesman for Universal. “New attractions help revitalize our parks and form the basis to our approach for all of our marketing outreaches. The ride will still bring in people for several years to come, so it’s not just the summer.” Disneyland took a different marketing approach. Instead of touting a new attraction, it promoted one it was putting out of commission the Main Street Electrical Light Parade. A Disneyland spokesman said attendance records during the 1996 season easily beat out the year before, when the theme park was promoting the new Indiana Jones ride. “The way theme parks keep people coming back is by coming up with a new ride each summer,” said Ray Braun, a senior vice president at Economics Research Associates, a West Los Angeles company that advises amusement park executives. The Superman ride is touted as one of the world’s first 100-mph thrill rides. Riders are strapped into one of six cars linked together, which are propelled by large magnets that pass over electromagnetic elements placed along the tracks. The passengers speed along a flat stretch of track, reaching a top speed of 100 mph before shooting up a 415-foot-high tower. At the top, the cars drop back down giving riders a momentary sense of weightlessness. Braun said that, in a way, Magic Mountain might be in luck this summer: It will be the only local amusement park coming out with a major new attraction. “Maybe the buzz from last year created even more anticipation,” Braun said. “Superman will have a lot of attention when it opens they’ve had people waiting a long time to take a ride.” Six Flags will not release how much it spent on marketing efforts to promote Superman, or its estimated dollar losses. Whatever they were, industry analysts believe the park is now positioned to make them up. “It has now become the most famous un-ride in the world,” said Tim O’Brien, an editor with Nashville-based Amusement Business magazine. “They’ve built up a lot of anticipation for this ride a lot more publicity that is going to erupt when it opens.” “This ride is going to blow the doors off the place,” he said.