Thursday, May 24, 2012

Universal Century Part 1: Expecto Patronum!

Throughout the Harry Potter series, we are told that magic cannot bring people back from the dead.   However, magic can apparently resurrect dying theme park divisions.  For all intents and purposes, the magic of Harry Potter has resurrected Universal Parks and Resorts in spite of a poor economy and Disney’s stranglehold on the theme park industry.

©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved

 Since the opening of Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando experienced little expansion, minimum maintenance, and dwindling attendance.  This was due, in part, to 9/11, recessions, and lack of stable ownership.  General Electric and Blackstone only saw the parks as a way to make a quick buck.  As a result, neither invested much capital into the parks.  They invested the bare minimum and were always looking to dump the parks to the highest bidder.

Early Concept Art for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 In 2007, Universal shocked the world by acquiring the theme park rights to the Harry Potter franchise.  Universal gave complete creative control to Warner Bros and JK Rowling and hired the designers of the films to help design every aspect of the land.  This gamble was pretty much Universal Orlando’s last stand.  It paid off.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in June 2010 to great success and critical acclaim.  It was the exact shot in the arm Universal needed.

Credit: Theme Park Review
Now, it is 2012, Universal’s “Year to be Here.”   Universal is seeing unprecedented merchandise sales, increased attendance, and experiencing growth it has not seen since 1999 when the resort gained City Walk, Islands of Adventure, and its resort hotels.  This is all thanks to Harry Potter.  So far this year, Universal has upgraded the popular Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, opened two well-themed mini golf courses, and debuted a parade and nighttime spectacular.  This summer, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem (which is looking to be a vast improvement over Jimmy Neutron) will open at Universal Studios Florida.  The “Year to be Here” additions are Universal Orlando’s steps toward becoming a well-rounded resort for guests of all ages.  Universal has lacked the little extras like a parade and nightly fireworks show.  These things keep guests coming back and staying later.  And the “Year to be Here” is just the beginning.

"Universal Century Part 2: From Comcast with Love" coming soon!

"Universal Century" was inspired by an article published by "The New York Times" on May 21, 2012.

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