After Comcast’s CEO made it clear yesterday that Universal plans to challenge Disney for a larger slice of the Orlando travel market, it makes sense to check in on the progress of Universal Orlando’s next salvo in the theme park wars – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion.
It’s 2014. At some point this year, Universal plans to open Diagon Alley to teems of Harry Potter fans young and old. They’re definitely making progress.
The London facade that faces into the park is absolutely huge. You can’t even see much of the Diagon Alley area beind those walls, but it’s big too. But the real giant of the bunch is the show building for the Gringott’s bank attraction. That will disappear behind theming, I hope, although you can see a little bit of it poking through right now.
While the rest of the world focused on Comcast Chair and CEO Brian Roberts statement regarding a return to growth in subscribers to their legacy cable network business, the Orlando Sentinel picked up on quotes from Roberts that signal the theme parks wars in Orlando are well and truly on.
Okay, no one is actually declaring a theme park war, but when Roberts spoke today in Las Vegas at a Citigroup event and said, “We’re doubling down on theme parks. We think that there is a lot of ‘there’ there in the theme-park business for many years to come and that we have a low market share — and only one way to go,” that’s a sign that in Comcast and Universal’s mind, it’s game on.
When Comcast bought NBC/Universal, they took on the theme parks with an eye to selling them at some point in the future. But after some small investments in the parks paid off with an sizable increase in cash flow, they were convinced to invest in the larger Harry Potter land, which has been an unqualified success for the resort. Since that point, Universal has been going full speed ahead with other expansions including: The Simpsons, Transformers, a huge new resort, and more. Read More »Universal Studios Parent Company Declares Orlando Theme Park War
There’s one thing Universal Orlando wants you to know. It is not content playing second fiddle to Disney’s Orlando theme parks. They want to challenge for the lead, well, they at least want to close the gap between them and Disney’s least attended park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom attracted 9.9 million last year and Islands of Adventure just 8.0 million. Universal Studios Florida did not experience the same boost as IOA did with the addition of Harry Potter, but they’re making up for it in 2013 with a better parade, Transformers 3D, and soon more Harry Potter with Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley.
But even if you add in all that additional ride capacity it won’t be enough to match the people eaters that are Disney’s parks. So Universal has committed to spending $500 million more on its domestic theme parks. We know that Universal Studios Hollywood will get a Harry Potter attraction or two (construction walls are going up now). But what does that mean for Orlando? How about two new rides for Islands of Adventure.Read More »Universal Orlando Plans to Hold Disney’s Feet to The Fire