In a bizarre guest column written by conservative activist C. Britt Beemer for the Orlando Sentinel, the America’s Research Group founder offers a reason for why Disney attractions in Florida are seeing a drop in attendance: They’re too gay-friendly.
By doing things like hoisting rainbow flags and showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community, Beemer says, Disney is making it known that they oppose traditional Christian beliefs, and evangelicals are now searching for new vacation destinations.
… what I do find is genuine concern about how children might be influenced by the pro-gay/lesbian movement in Orlando.
“United Orlando” or “Love Orlando,” with the gay flag in the background, might make some feel good. For evangelical Christians planning family vacations, however, that image is a real turn-off.
Beemer adds that he knows what he’s talking about. His organization is in the business of understanding these trends. He even cites his success at predicting the Creation Museum’s first-year attendance numbers to remarkable accuracy.
For 30 years, as a consumer trends and research expert, I have surveyed more than 12 million Americans. I’ve helped more than a thousand businesses achieve their goals and overcome financial challenges.
In the past five years, I’ve surveyed nearly half a million Christians for more than a dozen clients, among them the Creation Museum in the Cincinnati area and The Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky.
I forecast 400,000 Americans would visit the Creation Museum in its first year. I was on target: The final number was 404,000. I would say a 1 percent differential is extraordinary.
If he’s that accurate, he implies, then you should trust him when he says he knows why Disney is struggling to bring in more people. He also knows where those families are going instead of Orlando:
Since the Pulse nightclub shootings a year ago in Orlando, I’ve observed a significant number of evangelical Christians shift their vacations plans: They will see the Ark instead of visiting Disney in their own backyard…
The Ark Encounter will have 2 million visitors within the next three years. It will become a viable alternative for family-vacation dollars.
If the image of Orlando continues to cause consternation among evangelical Christians, then Disney World attendance will continue its slide.
The entire article reads less like of an analysis of any problems at Disney and more like an advertisement for All Things Ken Ham.
There’s a reason for that.
While there are a number of problems with Beemer’s analysis, perhaps the most glaring is that the Orlando Sentinel never tells us that he’s one of Ken Ham’s buddies.
Beemer wasn’t just an objective outsider who did attendance analysis for the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. He wrote a book with Ham, as Americans United for Separation of Church and State noted in 2015.
“The president of America’s Research Group is Britt Beemer, who is also a co-author with Ken Ham on the book Already Gone,” [real estate consulting group Hunden Strategic Partners] said in its report. “Furthermore, research by Beemer and America’s Research Group is featured in Already Compromised, another book authored by Ken Ham.”
Hunden Strategic Partners was hired by the state of Kentucky to provide (actual) objective analysis about attendance predictions for Ark Encounter.
No wonder Beemer’s article doubles as an ad for Ham’s attractions. It’s journalistic malpractice for the Sentinel to not inform readers of that conflict of interest.
Beemer’s also wildly optimistic when he says there will be a shift from Disney to HamWorld.
… Once the Ark Encounter is built out in six more phases — which will include roller coasters and rides — the attraction will rival Disney and Universal for guests who seek family-friendly entertainment.
I’m going to make a bold prediction: No child will ever say, “Mommy! Daddy! Don’t take me to Disney World! Let’s go to Kentucky instead, so I can ride a zip line, go on a watered-down roller coaster, and learn why abortion is evil.”
Just to put the numbers in perspective, Ark Encounter cost $100 million to build and manage. We don’t know what it’s first year profits are just yet. Meanwhile, Disney’s theme parks (in total) bring in revenue of approximately $15 billion (With a “b”) each year. Even if it’s not a direct comparison, it’s safe to say Ark Encounter isn’t a substitute for Disney. It’s just another crappy Christian knock-off of secular culture.
Disney’s attendance is a little lower this past year for a number of reasons, including higher ticket prices. There’s no evidence whatsoever, though, that a significant number of people are refusing to go there because the company is openly showing support for LGBTQ people in the wake of the Pulse massacre.
Beemer’s bigotry isn’t a substitute for real analysis. His article is a joke.
Which means Ham will probably promote it on his own social media accounts soon enough.