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Waves of Fun Seekers Flood Water Parks, Theaters : Heat wave: Outdoor theme parks report that scorching temperatures haven’t deterred fun seekers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As temperatures soared well above the 100-degree mark this week, so did attendance at Southland water parks and movie theaters. Theme parks reported attendance as usual as determined throngs of fun seekers braved the scorching sun.

Debbie Hutton, director of marketing services for Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine, said the heat wave was a blessing.

“We’re setting attendance records. It’s probably just because of the heat,” she said Thursday. “The way we operate is similar to the way ski resorts operate. When they have good snow, they have good crowds, and when we have good heat, we have good crowds.”

Meanwhile, spokesmen for both Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm reported no appreciable effect on attendance. “I haven’t noticed any significant drop-off,” said publicist Robert Deuel at Knott’s.

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Both Deuel and Disneyland spokesman Bob Roth said that tourists, who make up the majority of the summer crowds, are likely to visit the park no matter the weather conditions.

“They’re here anyway,” said Deuel. “What you typically find is that your local attendance is a little harder to get. You’re competing with the beaches and the pools and things like that.”

One thing that does happen, according to Roth, is that park visitors will go later in the day to take advantage of the cooler evening hours.

But during the day, the water rides were proving the biggest attractions at both parks. “I think the splash on Splash Mountain is more popular than ever,” Roth said. “I saw lots of people coming off the ride and reveling in the fact that they were wet.”

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Not unexpectedly, water parks made a big splash during the week. On Wednesday morning, it was 95 degrees at Raging Waters in San Dimas, according to Lynne Mattalina, the publicity manager for the park. By 5 p.m., the temperature had climbed to 113. A wave of sliders set out to beat the heat wave.

Tuesday and Wednesday attendance at the park totaled 12,000, 20% above normal for Tuesdays and Wednesdays in June, said Mattalina. “A lot of people came here specifically to cool off. People seem to be coming into the wave pool and lounging,” she noted. “And instead of moving quickly down the river raft ride, a lot of people are staying under the waterfalls.”

The park is capitalizing on the hot weather by extending its closing time from 6 to 7 p.m.

But those parks where water isn’t a prime attraction didn’t fare as well.

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Attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood was down slightly “presumably from the heat,” spokeswoman Joan Bullard said Thursday. But Bullard said total attendance was not significantly affected by the heat “because our out-of-state and foreign visitors tend to book through (tour) groups.”

That seemed to be the case Wednesday at Universal Studios, with temperatures soaring well above 100 at 4 p.m. Throngs of people were still bravely trooping through the gates and boarding Universal’s open-air trams for a 2 1/2-hour tour of the park.

Some didn’t seem to find the heat that daunting.

Tom Fox, a 15-year-old student at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, said the tour was fine because of the 30-minute stopover in the air-conditioned Special Effects display.

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But John McClintock, 42, a public works superintendent from Ilwaco, Wash., found the tour uncomfortable. McClintock, who had called home at noon only to hear that it was 59 degrees and raining, said: “I’d never thought I’d hear myself say it, but I couldn’t wait to get back to work.”

At the movies, “business is very good right now,” said Mark McDonald, assistant divisions operations manager for AMC Theatres’ West Division Office in Century City. “But then again, it has been for the last six weeks.”

He explained that summer movies are typically well-attended when they first come out. “It’s very accurate to say that the heat wave has helped attendance, but there are other factors, and if I were to say that the heat wave was the only reason for good attendance, I’d be saying it tongue-in-cheek,” he said.

For one heat-beater, 33-year-old David Hunter of Hollywood, going to the movies was a natural way to fill an unexpected afternoon off. Hunter, a publicist for the American Film Institute, was at work with no air conditioning. “It was in the 90s inside the office, so they let us off early. It was too far to drive to the beach, and the first thing that occurred to me was to go to the movies,” Hunter said.

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Contributing to this report were Phil West and Stephanie Gutmann.


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