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Hollywood spills over into thrills at amusement parks Thrills & chills

June 26, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Located in Doswell, Va., 130 miles from Baltimore (a 2 3/4 - to 3-hour drive), at Exit 40 of I-95 South. Admission: $24.95 age 7 and older; $16.95 kids 3 through 6; $19.95 senior citizens (55 and older). Two-day, group and season passes available. Parking, $3 a car. Information: (804) 876-5000.

Opened in 1975 with the Wild Animal Safari as a chief attraction (still in operation), the big park in recent years has aggressively .. gone after thrill riders, but also offers a variety of shows, a nice children's ride area and a water-park area.

"Paramount's purchase has helped us in a lot of ways. Just look at these guys," notes Betsy Reardon, public relations representative, gesturing to a pair of young actors portraying officers of Star Fleet, from Paramount's movie and TV shows "Star Trek." There are Klingons and Romulans, too.

Indeed, you cannot escape the Paramount connection. Throughout the park, kiosk-like information booths direct visitors and show off costumes and other memorabilia from Paramount movies. Each booth also shows scenes on video monitors from such movies as "Crocodile Dundee," "The Untouchables" and "Ghost."

The biggest new attraction is the "Days of Thunder" simulation ride, trading off the 1990 Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman-Robert Duvall movie about NASCAR racing.

It's pretty cool! Visitors file past a half-dozen race cars on display into a pair of 74-seat wide-screen theaters and settle into mock bucket seats with hand-holds. As scenes from the movie flash on the screen, the chairs shake and jerk and otherwise give the illusion of sitting in a race car.

The editing is not perfect and the best effects are, oddly, the most subtle ones -- such as the seat trembling as the car idles, and tilting during an on-screen pit stop as first the right, then the left side tires are changed.

On the whole, however, "Days of Thunder" offers good fun and, at over three minutes, lasts longer than most park rides. (Kings Dominion's great 2-year-old Anaconda coaster, for example, turns you upside down four times in about 80 seconds.)

"Paramount on Ice," a skating show of surprising quality on a tiny rink in what used to be called the Mason Dixon Music Hall exploits the movie theme. A neat black-light effect during a "Star Wars" sequence sends one skater whirling up and over the stage.

And in Hanna-Barbera Land, 16-year-old Lauren Harris of Rodgers Forge, a junior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, plays Pebbles Flintstone in a five-shows-a-day theatrical presentation.

"It's really fun," says the only character in the show who speaks her own lines. (Others in the familiar huge costumes lip-sync to a sound track.)

Lauren took part last December in regional auditions for Kings Dominion held at Towson State University.

Also coming to the park July 10-15 is the traveling exhibition "Star Trek Earth Tour," which will offer a variety of costumes, sets and other artifacts of the late Gene Roddenberry's entertainment extravaganza, from "Star Trek: The Movie," to TV's newest spinoff, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Six Flags Great Adventure

Located in Jackson, N.J., 144 miles from Baltimore (a 3- to 3 1/2 -hour drive), Exit 7A off N.J. Turnpike. Admission in two-tier structure, including a combination for the park and drive-through safari or park-only: $29.95/$29 adults; $20/$19 children 54 inches tall or under (age 3 and younger free); $14.98/$14 senior citizens (55 and older). Safari drive-through only $12, parking $5 a car. Group and season rates available. Information: (908) 928-1821.

Holy G-forces! The new movie-themed attraction at this big park, part of a seven-park national chain, is Batman The Ride, billed as the East Coast's first outside inverted looping coaster. Riders sit in swing-like seats with their legs dangling to barrel through a two-minute ride that includes two vertical loops, two "outside helixes" (don't ask; you don't want to know) and a zero-gravity roll. You go upside-down five times.

The park has also sharpened its connection to parent Time Warner by renaming one of its eateries the HBO Backlot Commissary, and creating an exhibit of rocket artifacts and other displays around the 1983 film "The Right Stuff."

Kids can also watch "Nickelodeon's Wild and Crazy Kids" show, themed on the affiliated Nickelodeon cable network for kids.

Busch Gardens

In Williamsburg, Va., 200 miles from Baltimore (about a 4-hour drive), I-95 South to I-64 East. Admission: $26.50 adults; $21.50 children 3 to 6. Two-day and three-day passes, group rates, season passes and senior discounts also available. Information: (804) 253-3350.

Although not operated by a movie company, the 18-year-old park's biggest new attraction this summer is a movie: "Haunts of the Olde Country."

Visitors view a film tour of Great Britain's ancient haunted castles, billed as offering "4-D" effects: the latest in 3-D film technology enhanced with a variety of simulations, including cold air, fog, raindrops and flashes of light in the theater itself.

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