The History of Paramount’s Theme Parks


Some might not remember that at one point in time Paramount had a chain of theme parks across North America. The parks offered various rides and attractions that were themed after films and tv shows, as well as, all original attractions that pushed the limits in what you could expect from roller coasters. The parks were in operation for about 13 years as Paramount tired to compete with Disney and Universal. In some ways they did and some ways they didn’t.

Let’s take a dive into the history of the Paramount Parks.

In 1993 Paramount had acquired a series of theme parks from King’s Entertainment Company, or KECO, a branch of Taft Broadcasting (then owner of Hanna-Barbara and Ruby-Spears). These parks consisted of King’s Island in Cincinnati, Ohio, King’s Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, Carowinds in just outside Charlotte, North Carolina along the North Carolina-South Carolina boarder, Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario and Great America in Santa Clara, California. 

Paramount decided to acquire the theme parks to try and follow Disney’s example of  promoting films and television shows through theme parks. Disney of course was well known for this, as was Universal, and Warner Brothers had just recently began a partnership with Six Flags to do the same thing, so why not Paramount?

In the deal Paramount was allowed to keep the various, existing Hanna-Barbara themed attractions. Soon after the acquisition Paramount began adding more roller coaster attractions themed after their films and shows like Top Gun, The Outer Limits and The Italian Job

A year later, in 1994, Paramount was acquired by Viacom and soon after Viacom began adding attractions themed after various Nickelodeon shows such as Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys and SpongeBob SquarePants. The SpongeBob SquarePants attraction was a 4-D attraction.

Video of the SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D Ride

Paramount would continue to add new rides, specifically roller coasters, to compete with Cedar Fair and Six Flags. Rides like: Stealth (Great America), HyperSonic XLC (King’s Dominion) and Volcano: The Blast (King’s Dominion). Not all coasters were successes though, as the infamous Son of Beast coaster at King’s Island was a complete disaster.

One popular ride at both King’s Island and King’s Dominion was a ride themed after the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. This ride that felt like something you’d see at Universal, showing that Paramount was indeed intending to compete with the larger parks.

Side note: This ride was a personal favorite of mine as a kid when visiting King’s Island.

Paramount Parks were doing well with a combined 12 Million guests a year, but all that came to an end in 2006 when Viacom and CBS decided to split off into two separate companies. In the split CBS was awarded the Theme Park Division, but they had no interest in the parks as they wanted to focus on television and radio. They quickly put the parks up for sale and by June of 2006 Cedar Fair stepped in and bought the parks.

At this point in time Cedar Fair already had seven parks, so adding five additional parks nearly doubled their operations. Over the years the Paramount/Nickelodeon/Hanna-Barbera themed attractions were re-themed to not include copyrighted material, and even some rides, such as Tomb Raider, were permanently closed.

Today Cedar fair still owns and operates the five parks and they still see a fair amount of guests each season. Viacom and CBS remerged in 2019 to form ViacomCBS and have since gone into licensing their properties to other international theme parks, such as the upcoming London Resort in the United Kingdom. They may potentially license more of their IPs to Universal Studios Orlando in the upcoming Epic Universe expansion.

It’s kinda funny when you think about it. It’s like if two people got a divorce, one got the car and sold it then they remarried, all you get is a headache and they are now are down a car.

Did you ever visit these parks whenever they were opened by Paramount? What were your favorite experiences?

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.