Sunday, November 6, 2022

Universal Orlando Rumor Status Update - 2023 & Beyond

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic threw the themed entertainment industry into a turbulent year of closures, downsizing, delays, and cancellations. As we continue to adapt to a new normal, deploy vaccinations, and continue on a path toward an endemic disease the theme parks have resumed many projects and announced new opening timeframes. In this article, we will cover the currently rumored and in-progress projects at Universal Orlando and peek into its future.

All right, let's go.


The Groove & Red Coconut Club Replacements

First up are the old Groove and Red Coconut Club locations which are closing permanently per Orlando Entertainment News. Red Coconut has turned into a seasonal location with the Dead Coconut Club for Halloween Horror Nights and Green & Red Coconut Club for Christmas. At this time Red Coconut Club does not appear to be reopening permanently but instead will continue to receive these seasonal overlays (Mardi Gras? Summer?).

Universal's Great Movie Escape is now official and will open sometime in 2023. The escape rooms are based on the Back to the Future and Jurassic World movies. Pricing and length of experience is to be announced, but I'm expecting it will cost $40-70 per person based on surge pricing. The experience will likely be 45-60 minutes long. For those wondering how the house could work read this post from an escape room builder on Inside Universal for some ideas.

Blue Man Group Replacement

In February 2021 came the news Blue Man Group Orlando was closed for good having never reopened after the March 2020 pandemic shutdown. After the news drop, several people wondered if the old theater would be turned over to park operations for a new attraction. At this time it does not appear to be happening with the theater used for renting. Currently, Grinchmas performs in the theater and it's likely the park and 3rd parties will use the theater in the future.

Universal Legacy Store

One of 2020's surprise additions is the Universal Legacy Store, a sort of expanded Studio Store with a focus on the history of the parks. While many like the Legacy Store it was on borrowed time the day it opened. Rumors have circulated about a Legacy Store/Hot Dog Hall of Fame revamp that will combine the two into one larger counter service location. One plan is for a beer hall-type location serving pub favorites with a large beer selection. Another rumor is for the Epic Universe Preview Center/Store possibly featuring food and merchandise from the new park in addition to videos, photos, models, and more.

There are no active plans we are aware of at this time to replace the Legacy Store, but keep in mind that it is earmarked for future changes.

Universal Studios Florida

Shrek 4D Replacement / Minions Attraction

Shrek's closed. Good riddance.

A new Minions attraction will replace Shrek 4D. The old Shrek 4D building will be split into two - one side will house a moving walkway-based attraction based on the Minion's movie VillainsCon. Guests will use interactive shooters in this attraction, similar to Men in Black Alien Attack. Our speculation is that it will combine the projection-mapping scenes from Secret Life of Pets and the projection-mapped paint effects from Tokyo's Goofy's House into the ultimate interactive ride. We expect guests will test evil gadgets in different "booths", allowing for varied gameplay. The new Minions attraction is expected to open in 2023.

The other side of the building will be something less interesting at first glance - a flex-use space for entertainment and operations. What this DOES mean is Halloween Horror Nights has a new house space that isn't encumbered by the limits of the Shrek 4D theater. This new space even opens up the door for moving the Tribute Store or an Epic Universe preview center (this is speculation on my part, of course).

Fear Factor Live / Potter VR Attraction

We infamously predicted with confidence that a Potter VR attraction was coming to replace the Fear Factor Live theater. Then something funny happened - executive leadership changed. Tom Williams and Bill Davis were out, and Mark Woodbury and Karen Irwin are in along with a new head of Universal Creative. Potter VR, both in USF and EU, is dead.

At this moment there are not any substantial rumors of a Fear Factor Live replacement.

Fast & Furious Supercharged Retheme / Replacement

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, rumors popped up about Supercharged replacement due to its low guest satisfaction scores. Since then all has been quiet, but word has leaked out about a new USH F&F coaster at that park. Maybe Universal will transform this attraction into a new outdoor coaster to replace HRRR. There are no solid rumors of a replacement at this time.

KidZone Update

The beast has been slain. The famously untouchable KidZone area will receive a huge refresh starting in early 2023.

Replacing KidZone has been on the cards since the 2000s with IPs like Spongebob, DreamWorks, Nintendo, and Pokemon all rumored to go here. The last time KidZone was close to death was 2018 before Super Nintendo World was punted to Epic Universe.

ET and Animal Actors are saved in the current plan, with work walls going up immediately after the two attractions. Fievel, Curious George, and much of the pavement will be going. The current home of DreamWorks theater is staying, but at this time we haven't heard if it will receive any modifications or updates. But if we were betting we'd say that outside modifications are probably likely.

This leaves the Nuthouse coaster to receive a new IP and at least new two play areas based on new properties. I'll take a guess and assume these play areas will be much drier than the two current water play areas. Other left-field possibilities are some interactive elements like we've seen in Super Nintendo World.

Tribute Stores 

Reportedly Mummy would like their queue pack plz. Williams of Hollywood and the photography spot have closed and the Brown Derby is being refurbished. Schwab's Pharmacy (ice cream) and the UOAP lounge remain, but it's possible one or both will close which would open up three or four rooms for a Tribute Store relocation.

Islands of Adventure

Lost Continent

Rumors abound of replacing the remains of Lost Continent after Hogsmeade opened in 2010. At first, the rumors centered around More Potter but after the Nintendo license was acquired rumors of Zelda started popping up. Alicia Stella at OPS has reported on several concepts for Zelda going into the land, all of which involve demolishing most of the land and retheming Mythos. Current rumors say there are no concrete plans to replace Lost Continent at this time but it is likely this will be one of the big projects after Epic Universe opens.

Toon Lagoon

Nothing of note here, Dudley is currently under a long refurbishment and will reopen once Universal gets a handle on the scope of repairs.

Epic Universe

All right, the big one! Epic Universe is on track for an opening by the summer of 2025. Feels like a great way to celebrate the resort's 35th anniversary on June 7th, don't you think?

Anyway, things are progressing rapidly at the new park with new buildings and foundations going in weekly. Fans have noticed that the area previously housing an indoor theater in the Monsters land is now replaced with a ride. More specifically, a family coaster. Rumors point to Universal reacting to VelociCoaster and Hagrid's positive reception and pivoting the theater to a family coaster. We believe the coaster will be in scope to Hippogryph in Hogsmeade, but with spinning seats. We are expecting the overall area to be less cramped than Hippogryph and fit better into the land.

Meanwhile some people are already discussing expansion to EU. Solid rumors point to a Gillman/Creature From the Black Lagoon ride as the first phase 2 attraction. While it's entirely possible, it's also just as likely it becomes the JP Jeep Ride of EU. Lord of the Rings remains a perpetual addition too, but while I think Universal has several concepts for a great land it really comes down to the license holder if they'd grant it. Finally, Pokemon keeps popping up as a new land/attraction, but that seems to be a better addition in USF or IOA than EU.

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