Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Universal Century Part 3: USF Revival

As invited media members were enjoying Disneyland Resort’s Media Day for Cars Land, Universal Creative was flying sight-balloons above Soundstage 44 at Universal Studios Florida.  Later that night, Back to the Future props were removed from the area.  The next day, a demolition permit was fast-tracked through the City of Orlando.  Apparently, there is yet another new attraction coming to the Studios.  Universal Orlando and Comcast mean serious business, and they are in the midst of their own Disney California Adventure remodel for Universal Studios Florida.

© 2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved.

One could make an argument that the revival of Universal Studios Florida began in 2008 with the opening of Simpsons.  Another argument could be made for 2009 and the opening of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  However, there is no doubt that the Studios' own extreme makeover is now underway.  So far, this year has seen the addition of Cinematic Spectacular, Superstar Parade, new character dining experiences, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.  This year has also seen the closure and demolition of Amity and Jaws.  And starting this week, Soundstage 44, the former home of Hercules and Angela Lansberry, is being demolished to make way for another new attraction.

Soundstage 44 has not been used in many years, and it was last used as a Haunted House for Halloween Horror Nights.  On May 17th, permits were filed to prepare the building for this years Halloween Horror Nights.  On June 11th, a mysterious Notice of Commencement was filed for a building at the Studios for demolition and partial build-out.  We at Parkscope suspected it may be for Soundstage 44, but there was not enough information available at the time.  Then, things quickly got more interesting as the week went on, and on Friday,a demolition permit clearly designated for Soundstage 44 was filed and approved.  Sources were caught off guard, but after having some time to get their bearings straight, they have heard that Soundstage 44 project is on a very aggressive timetable.

© 2012 LA Times. All Rights Reserved.

Since June 15th, the Internet has been abuzz with the news of Soundstage 44's impending demise.  Everyone wants to know it will be.  Much of the speculation centers around the recently opened Transformers: The Ride 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood and Singapore.  The attraction has gotten rave reviews and was recently described as "better than Spider-Man."  Many have held that Transformers is unlikely because it is too similar to Spider-Man, and that is a valid point.  Transformers' main distinguishing features are the elevators that enable the showbuilding to have a smaller footprint which makes it a prime candidate for the Soundstage 44 plot.

What is clear, is that something new is coming to Universal Studios Florida, and it is coming very, very fast.  If Universal really does have an aggressive construction schedule, we could possibly see the Soundstage 44 replacement before Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in the former Amity area.  On top of Potter and Soundstage 44,  there have been rumblings that Kidzone is due for a complete redo, Fear Factor Live is due for a replacement after its current contract runs out, and the plot between Men in Black & Simpsons is in play.  Earlier this month, there was talk of future expansion at the Studios taking place behind Disaster and Diagon Alley.

© 2012 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved.

The additions that Universal Studios Florida has received this year are just the beginning if insiders are to be believed. Think back to where the park was last year, and look ahead to what it will be like in 2015.  In 2010, Universal Studios Florida was very similar to the California Adventure of 2007, but in five years, the former could match or even better the latter after its makeover.  Diagon Alley is the Studios' Cars Land; Cinematic Spectacular is its World of Color; Despicable Me is its Midway Mania; etc. Universal Studios is getting the California Adventure treatment without the fanfare.

The next five years should be very exciting for fans of Universal Studios Florida.  Comcast has seen what quality can do with the success of Potter at Islands of Adventure.  Investment and quality additions eventually increase the bottom line.  Add exciting things, and guests will come.  The Studios has already seen attendance bumps from its new entertainment offerings.  This summer, hours have been extended to accommodate the increased interest in the park.  Barring any surprise announcements by Disney, Universal Studios Florida should be poised to overtake Disney's Hollywood Studios when its revival is complete.

This article is Part 3 of Parkscope's Universal Century series.  Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

Follow @Parkscope and @CaptMichael87 for future updates on #USFrevival

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