The BLOGFlume—What’s New?

Busch makes additions, and Sky High flies higher than expected.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: July 31, 2005 at 8:38 PM

More Changes at Busch

In my last column, I reported about Busch’s decision to end the runs of two of its most popular live shows before the end of the season, Imaginque and Irish Thunder. After taking a weekend visit to the park, I was able to find out some more changes to the park, and discover a big change coming to every Busch park in the country. Every Busch park currently has a Budweiser Beer School, and all but one of the parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, has a hospitality house. It appears that every Busch park will also be getting yet another beer-themed attraction. The recently debuted Anheuser-Busch Brewmasters Room, which was first started at Sea World Orlando, takes the idea of a beer tasting to a new level. The A-B Hospitality areas offer guests a chance to sample two 8-oz beverages, which run the gamut of Busch brands. In the Budweiser Beer School, guests sample a predetermined set (4-6) of smaller samples (1-2 ounces) of A-B products always including a fresh Budweiser, a not-so-fresh Budweiser, and Bud Light. This new beer experience is more like a wine tasting than anything else. Guests are asked to select from four different “flights” of beer covering just about every type of beer that is served on tap at Busch Gardens.

Progressive Tasting—this was the one my wife and I tried, and includes the largest number of beers to try. The flight begins with the 3 primary Budweiser beers (Bud Light, Budweiser, and Budweiser Select), continues with Michelob Amber Bock, and concludes with Bare Knuckle Stout.

Gourmet Tasting—my friend went with this one, and features A-B’s European-style beers. The flight begins with the 3 main Michelob beers (Michelob Ultra, Michelob Light, and Michelob) and concludes with World “Lager.” (The “select” has been changed to avoid confusion with the new Budweiser Select)

Family Tasting—This flight includes the entire Budweiser family with Bud Light, Budweiser Select, Budweiser, and B to the E.

Full-Bodied Tasting—This flight had the fewest number of samples, with just Michelob Amber Bock and Bare Knuckle Stout tastes.

Not only does this new beer experience offer guests a wide variety of options, it also had a classiness that one would not expect from a beer tasting. The Brewmasters Room is located in the Festhaus in what used to be the “tap room,” which was only used on high capacity days for speedy beer service. Each group is situated at tables of 3-6 with a cast member assigned to each table. The cast member acts as your “sommelier,” for lack of a better term, as you progress through your flight. Guests are told a little bit about each beer, which is somewhat repetitive from the Beer School script, but are told to treat the beer like a fine wine by swirling, smelling, and tasting. Guests are also offered different foods for pairing with their beers, which are brought to the group on small plates. Each plate included: grapes, strawberries, wheat crackers, rye crackers, dark chocolate, and Swiss and cheddar cheeses. The one-on-one time with the highly trained cast member made the tasting a first-class experience. Our cast member told us that she had to travel to St. Louis for training a pass a comprehensive 200 question test in order to work in the Brewmasters Room. Not only did you receive individual attention, but I also felt like I could ask the cast member any question and get an intelligent response. From what our cast member told us, Sea World Orlando has been offering this high-class experience for a couple of months, and August Busch, after a visit to the park a few months ago, asked the Williamsburg park to add a similar experience. After the boss’s visit on a Monday, the Brewmasters Room was open for guests that Friday. Now that’s what I call a rapid response. It seems that this trend is sweeping the country, as every Busch park will be offering this new experience in the next month. The seating in the Brewmasters Room is extremely limited, about 15-20 per seating, and early reservations are required.

On this visit to Busch Gardens, we also took advantage of some of the new platinum passholder perks. Platinum members are now permitted to enter the park an extra 30 minutes before everyone else at 9:00 AM to ride Loch Ness Monster. There’s not much else to do for those 30 minutes, but it was nice to ride Nessie a few times and grab a nice breakfast at Squires Galley before the other countries opened at 10:00. Platinum passholders are also offered early seating for Imaginique, and enter the theater at the same time as those who purchased the Imaginique Dinner.

We also took our first opportunity to try the LeMans Bistro. This new restaurant is Busch Gardens’ first attempt at a table service restaurant. The menu features a number of appetizers, salads, entrees, sandwiches, and desserts. The food is of slightly higher quality than the normal counter-service restaurants, but the prices are reasonable. Most of the main menu items varied from $7-$10 with our final bill, including an appetizer of onion petals, a chicken salad croissant, and a tomato tortilla chicken Caesar salad wrap, coming in at just under $20. Also, as per the bill, it is their pleasure to serve us, and no tipping is required. The restaurant has an open-air location, which was not very advantageous with today’s rain, but the staff was making the best of it, offering prompt service with a smile. The restaurant seats guests until 4:00 PM, which may change after Imginique is done in August (the restaurant serves as the Imginique Dinner venue in the evenings). While it’s not anywhere close to a table-service restaurant at a Disney park, it does offer a nice experience at reasonable prices. It seems that Busch is trying hard to do the “little things” to give park guests a more personal experience, and we may see some more of these perks and “individual” additions in the near future.

In another bit of BGW news, the new park maps are advertising Howl-O-Scream as running from September 16 through October 30 this year.

Sky High
USAToday 7/31/05

While it didn’t debut at number one at the box office this weekend, Disney’s newest movie, Sky High, did exceed analysts expectation by earning $14.6 million. I’ve read some great reviews of this movie, and I’m still kicking myself for sitting through a screening of the pitiful Must Love Dogs in lieu of the kiddie super hero flick. The Disney movie was topped this weekend by the surprising and hilarious Wedding Crashers and the just-plain-weird Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but performed admirably as the highest-ranking new release. While Disney will probably not have another Pacifier on their hands, Sky High is giving Disney a legitimate theater presence in a month where just about every film performs lower than expected (Stealth joins The Island as yet another $100+ million action flop). Sky High is probably not going to be Disney’s box office savior, but it does make up for some disappointment from Herbie: Fully Loaded. It looks like Disney will probably not increase its revenues over last year, especially without a Pixar release on the schedule, but its movie revenues should outpace losses for the year.

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Jackson on July 31, 2005 at 10:15 PM
I loved the Brewmaster's Room as well. I just wanted to sit in the luxurious leather chairs for ever! The apparently spent a lot of money in putting this showcase room together in a week. With the warm wood, soft lighting, candles and leather chairs...what more could you ask for (besides free beer and snacks!) It is ashame that BGW losts its Hospitality Center to a brewery expansion a few years back. It was always fun to ride the monorail to the brewery hospitality center and go through the Brewery.
From Kevin Baxter on July 31, 2005 at 11:56 PM
There's a typo in your column, Russell. In describing Wedding Crashers you typed "hilarious" when the correct spelling is "wretched". Clearly Vince Vaughn thought it was "hilarious" as you could tell he was enjoying every mediocre adlib far more than any of us in the audience ever could.

As for Disney finishing off the year well... we'll see. Except for The Pacifier so far everything Disney has released this year has either lost money, or broken somewhere in the area of even. This summer sure hasn't helped a fairly poor spring - Herbie got $60M which is almost exactly its production and marketing budget; Dark Water has limped to $23M; Cinderella Man made $60M on an $88M budget (which was split with Universal); and Shark Boy and Lava Girl flopped all over the place at $38M. And Sky High's opening weekend and middling reviews mean it will probably make back its money, but not much beyond that.

So Disney is relying on Chicken Little and Narnia to make some money this year (I'd include Valiant but Ben's review doesn't seem promising). Both should easily cross the $100M mark, but that would probably just cover their budgets. These two need to both be huge to make Disney's year. If one collapses, there is no way the other can ever make up enough to cover it. I don't expect major writeoffs from Disney this year, but there aren't going to be a lot of dollars for the Xmas office parties at the various Disney studio branches.

From Russell Meyer on August 1, 2005 at 7:32 AM
Wedding Crashers does appear to be a "love it or hate it" kind of movie, and unlike you, I couldn't stop laughing at Vince Vaughn. I've never been a big Owen Wilson fan, I cannot stop wanting to pay for him to get a nose job, and while his character is nothing new, it doesn't detract from Vaughn's craziness. Very few films have debuted out of the top spot to eventually lead the box office two weeks after its original release, one other huge comedy comes to mind, There's Something About Mary.
From Jason Lester on August 1, 2005 at 10:25 AM
I thought Wedding Crashers was the funniest movie this year. Better then other crap comedies like Guess Who and A Lot Like Love. At least this one has some raunchiness and nudity, the things I expect from a comedy like WC. I loved it frankly.

I'm suprised at Sky High. I knew the top two would be WC and Charlie although I thought Charlie would be in top spot. I'm happily suprised about Crashers taking first. But I though Stealth would open above Sky High. Sky High had an awful trailer and Stealth seems more summer movie. I haven't seen either yet, but plan to out of curiosity.

Still, 14 million is kind of a bomb for a summer movie.

From Russell Meyer on August 1, 2005 at 10:45 AM
Not really for Late July/August though. August is typically the "throw-away" month for Hollywood studios. The hot summer movies are still raking it in, and most people are tired of sitting in theaters by the end of July. Kids are getting ready to go back to school, and most families are trying to get in one last summer vacation before school starts. Most studios have stuff on the shelf that's been sitting for months for a month like August (late January and February are also "throw-away" months for studios), and just throw it out there in August hoping to recoup some of their investment. 90% of August movies are loosers. I wouldn't expect much from the upcoming Dukes of Hazard either. I'm probably going to see that tonight.
From Jason Lester on August 1, 2005 at 10:23 PM
True, but I would still expect more then $14 million. The reviews weren't to hot for both, but a lot of people don't pay attention to reviews. I do pay attention to reviews and gross. A $100 million dollar movie like Stealth making only $14 mil is a flop. If it cost around 30 then it could be forgiven, but not when it cost $100 million.
From Kevin Baxter on August 1, 2005 at 11:32 PM
"Funniest movie of the year" is like saying "Best tasting dog poop of the day!" Has there been a funny movie this year? NOT ONE. And this is definitely a "love it or hate it" movie. Metacritic's average critic grade is 64 with most being in the middle area. The non-critics are very much into love-it-or-hate-it mode. But take that with a grain of salt, because there are a lot of 10s on that list. Is this a 10 movie? Does it compare to true 10 comedies, like Mary? Hells no! Even if you thought it was funny, the clunky romantic comedy elements would make me think anyone that rated this above a 7 or so as a movie novice.

I think the divide is one that has been in this country ever since Robin Williams became famous. How many people LUUUUUV him and how many HAAAATE him? Wackiness is often funny to some people, torture to others. Like Meet the Parents. Which is why I laughed WAY more during Mr and Mrs Smith than I did during this. (Then again, I saw that right after this, so I would've laughed at a funeral.) I'm waiting for Virgin for some real humor... .

From Cameron Rust on August 2, 2005 at 4:04 PM
The BrewMaster's room holds holds in excess of 40 patrons. The room capacity has been increasing since opening. The whole room wasn't completed in those 3 days. The wood floor and some of the furniture were added later. The LeMans Bistro was open until one hour before park closing before Imaginique, so it will probably be open later after Imaginique is finished, though they might put in a new dinner show for the Howl-O-Scream show in the Palace this fall.
From Jason Lester on August 2, 2005 at 6:18 PM
Okay, there haven't been many good comedies this year, but that doesn't mean this didn't rise above most comedies. It did. What's is going to top something like Mary. It was brilliant. I'm not going to compare it to that. I'm comparing it to other comedies.

And just because you don't like it doesn't mean I don't. Everyone's entitled to an opinion.

P.S. I'm not a movie novice. My whole family's in entertainment. My dad's a director, mom's a producer, uncle's a set driver, grandfather's an actor. My parents also own American World Pictures, a succesful film company. And I write screenplays. That enough credibility for you?

From Robert Niles on August 2, 2005 at 6:19 PM
As a critic? Dude, that background utterly DQ's you as a movie critic. Since when have people wanted *informed* opinions? Sheesh!

Get thee some Cheetos and a Netflix account instead, and we'll talk... ;-)

(BTW, I'm being sarcastic, people. Really.)

From TH Creative on August 3, 2005 at 4:46 AM
A Hong Kong newspaper is reporting that the Walt Disney Co. will open a theme park in Shanghai in 2012. The newspaper story does not identify its source, and, so far, Disney has not commented on the claim.
From Jason Lester on August 3, 2005 at 10:56 AM
Saracasm aside, I may have a film background, but I'm still a huge movie buff and love myself a good popcorn flick once in a while. I also love art films. So WC is a popcorn film. That's fine with me, not every film needs to be Oscar-caliber. I also love to watch classics and films like Raging Bull, The Godfather, etc.

I appreciate and value the classics, but also love to be entertained. What's wrong with that?

From Russell Meyer on August 3, 2005 at 11:39 AM
I think it's hard to argue since the movie is sitting at 75% at rotten tomatoes, and it's already topped the $100 million, pretty darn good for a goofy comedy. Like it or not, Wedding Crashers has become one of the few surprises this summer.

BTW, there's not a whole lot of buzz around Steve Carell's 40 Year Old Virgin, so I wouldn't be holding my breath for that one. His schtick may be getting old, especially after his ho-hum performance in Bewitched. Sad, since he was a such riot in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. It still has a few weeks to build though, so things could change.

Also, unless you can get some cheap matinee tickets, avoid the Dukes of Hazzard. It is a disgrace to the original TV show, and the acting is about as bad as it gets.

From Jason Lester on August 3, 2005 at 4:29 PM
Really, I was planning to see Dukes just out of curiosity. Maybe I'll pass.

Just got back from Stealth. It deserved to bomb. What an awful movie. Don't bother with this one. I don't have one good thing to say about Stealth.

Also, Virgin looks funny so I hope it does good and Carrell is very good at physical comedy, so we'll see. I for one am going to see it, but you're right, I haven't heard any buzz surrounding it.

From Jason Moore on August 4, 2005 at 8:44 AM
I started encouraging people to avoid the Dukes movie the moment the details started coming out about it last year, and I stand by that. My curiosity may get the better of me, and force me to catch it on cable down the road or something, but I refuse to see it in theaters. You want Dukes, whatch the syndicated eps on CMT. (or tune in to Smallville this season to see a Duke reunion of sorts. Tom Wopat will be guest starring as a childhood friend of John Schneider's Jonathon Kent)

I've seen a limited amount of buzz on Virgin also, but the studio seems to be pretty happy with it (not that this is worth much). His name has just been added to the list of rumored contenders for the role of Joker in the next Batman film. Not sure i see him in the role myself, and he has some stiff competition.

From Kevin Baxter on August 6, 2005 at 5:06 PM
I must apologize for saying there have been no good comedies this year. I totally forgot about Kung Fu Hustle, which was not only HILARIOUS, but is currently sitting atop the critics' roundup on Metacritic and received a whopping 8.5 from the unwashed masses. It also got a 90% on RottenTomatoes, meaning everyone likes it more than Wedding Crashers. (And don't get me started on how irrelevant box office is regarding a movie's quality!) So this "Best comedy of the year!" crap isn't washing. See some movies, people!

As for being in a family with a film background, that does disqualify you. If movie people had any taste, wouldn't ALL of our movies be good? Instead of having well over half sucking something severe? Look at Drew Barrymore's lineage. Has she had good taste when it comes to movies? Look at how long Stanley Kubrick was in film, and how many classics he created, yet his final film was the embarrassing Eyes Wide Shut. Even Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of our time, not only "admires" Michael Bay, but handed him the script to The Island!

The only thing that impresses me is someone who has seen hundreds and hundreds of movies. All kinds, all genres, all languages.

From Jason Lester on August 6, 2005 at 6:01 PM
Hey Kevin. I saw Kung Fu Hustle and loved it, but must say that it was very dfferent from Crashers. Very different. It's not a good idea to compare such different movies.

And in regards to Dukes, it wasn't as bad as everyone says. Granted, it was pretty bad, but nowhere near Stealth level. At least I didn't want to go to sleep in DOH.

From Robert OGrosky on August 10, 2005 at 4:22 PM
I thought Wedding Crashers was very funny and its obvious the public feels so or the movie wouldnt have made the amount of money it has.
I care little wha critics say about any movie, i will go see it and make my own decision if the movie is good or bad.
And while the movei may be no Blazing Saddles, it is a very funny movie that is getting excellant word of mouth from people who are seeing it and doing extremely welll for a r-rated movie at the box office.
From Jason Lester on August 10, 2005 at 5:22 PM
Robert, I couldn't have put it better. That's my point exactly.
From Kevin Baxter on August 11, 2005 at 10:04 PM
Yes, because the public has NEVER embraced a crappy movie! EVER! (Did we not just finish with the subpar-but-moneymaking Star Wars trilogy?) The American public is much easier to please when it comes to comedies than any other genre. If not, then it's nipping at the heels of action flicks. In fact, comedy is usually such a crappy genre that people flock to anything that's even halfway tolerable, like Meet the Fockers, Hitch, The Longest Yard, Monster-in-Law and The Pacifier. Hell, even Are We There Yet? made over $80M (but only $15M internationally, which further proves my point!)!!! Which might also explain why utter crap like Yes, Dear and According to Jim get better ratings than actual comedies Scrubs and Arrested Development. If anything, the flukes are when good comedies, like Tootsie and There's Something about Mary become big hits.
From Jason Lester on August 11, 2005 at 10:51 PM
You state that the public has never embraced a crappy movie, but than go on to point out huge money makers. Half of which are barely watchable. So doesn't that kind of disprove your point. You point out that bad comedies usually perform worse overseas. Maybe it'd be better to say that the foreign public has never embraced a crappy movie, while the American public does it all the time. No offense to Americans, I am one, but I feel that the bar had been severly lovwered in the past few years. Culture now has become incredibly trashy. I'm all for a raunchy time, that's why I loved WC, but I want my raunchy times to at least have some smarts in them.

On a different note, I saw Sky High earlier this morning. It was better then I expected, actually halfway decent, but had a bad script. The only reason to go is for the adults, mainly Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, and Bruce "Ash" Campbell, who I've always loved. If you haven't seen Evil Dead you must see it. Any fan of horror will love it.

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