Thursday, May 24, 2012

Universal Century Part 2: From Comcast with Love

In 2011, Comcast acquired NBC-Universal.  It was and is a merger of epic proportions and major consequences for the entertainment industry.  In the merger, Comcast acquired the portion of Universal Orlando owned by G.E./NBC, but a share of ownership was not enough for them. Due to the success of the resort since the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Comcast decided to buy out Blackstone completely for full ownership of Universal Orlando.  For the first time in a long time, Universal had stable ownership with deep pockets.

Stephen B. Burke
"very bullish"
With Comcast came Stephen B. Burke, executive vice president and executive in charge of NBC-Universal.  Burke spent a decade with Disney in a theme park management position.  In the New York Times article, he  is quoted as saying he is "very bullish" about the theme parks.  So, not only does Comcast have the money, they have an executive who is excited and passionate about the theme parks.  On paper, every thing about the current management and ownership of Universal Parks and Resorts looks great.

 “There is an incredible sense of energy and forward motion around here, no doubt about it,” said Thomas L. Williams, chief executive of Universal Parks & Resorts.
“We’re really feeling the love,” said Mr. Williams, Universal’s chief.
If you're a theme park fan, you have to be excited.  Universal execs are excited and Comcast is dedicated.  The "Year to be Here" is just the beginning.  Earlier this year, the iconic "JAWS" attraction closed at Universal Studios Florida to make way for the much anticipated expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Insider information has London, Diagon Alley, and the Hogwarts Express all coming to the Orlando resort with an ambitious construction timeline.

Plans for WWoHP2 files with SFWMD

On top of Wizarding World expansion at Universal Orlando, the resort will be receiving an ambitious amount of construction over the next 5 years.  Rumors have Universal building a moderately priced 4th onsite hotel, a possible Transformers attraction at Universal Studios Florida (different from the one at USH), and a Seuss attraction at Islands of Adventure.  Currently, Universal is expanding its City Walk offerings with the forthcoming "City Walk Promenade" addition which was originally supposed to be a part of "Year to be Here."  The Promenade is yet another step to becoming a more well-rounded resort where guests can spend an extended vacation solely at Universal Orlando.

Concept art of City Walk Promenade
©2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved
Harry Potter's magic is spreading to Universal resorts around the world.  In November, news leaked that Universal Studios Hollywood will be getting the popular Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and their own Hogwarts Castle.  On top of Harry Potter, USH is said to be getting other attractions in order to compete in the California market dominated by Disneyland Resort including the soon-to-be rechristened Disney California Adventure.  This month, it was announced that Universal Japan will also be getting a Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Phelps twins helped announce WWoHP at USH and USJ
The future is bright for Universal Parks and Resorts.  After a decade languishing in ownership limbo, they are ready to take on the theme park industry yet again.  Fans and the media (as evidenced by the NYT article) have taken notice.  It is and will continue to be a great time to be a theme park fan in California and Orlando.

“We’re the best, we think, at creating the world’s greatest theme park attractions."-Chick Russell, Universal Creative

Universal Creative continues to set a high bar for itself and with Comcast, they finally have the funds to really flex their muscles.  It will interesting to see what's in store for Wizarding World of Harry Potter Phase 2 and the other host of attractions Universal plans on unleashing on the world in the coming years.  Universal Century is here, welcome.

To be continued with Universal Century Part 3: USF Revival

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

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