3 Important Things We’ve Learned About the Future of Universal Theme Parks

Universal Orlando Resort’s parent company Comcast released their most recent quarterly financial results earlier this week, and while the theme parks may not be the entire focus of their report, Comcast’s press release did contain some interesting information for fans of the Universal theme parks both in Orlando and California. From rising revenue to a sputtering start for a new attraction at Universal Orlando Resort, here’s everything we learned about the present (and future!) for Universal parks from parent company Comcast’s financial results:

1. Guest spending is on the rise, but attendance numbers for 2016 may not be that great at Universal Orlando Resort

According to the official press release, Comcast’s parks and resorts division saw a sizable bump during the most recent financial period, with revenue increasing 32.1% to $1.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016. This is largely due to the higher attendance and per guest spending, primarily at Universal Studios Hollywood’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is continuing to break records for this park, despite having been open for several months now.

However, though it looks like the money is still coming in at a healthy clip, one thing that was not disclosed in the financial report was any information about attendance, beyond the fact that it is up across the board, worldwide. And while that may initially sound like a good thing, that average could be inflated by continued interest in the aforementioned west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Image: Universal

While it is pretty common for these financial reports to omit specific, hard figures about how many guests are entering Universal theme parks during a given period, they do often include some statistics about growth year-over-year. However, Comcast’s earnings do not include any such information, which seems to imply that guest levels are either stagnant or perhaps even down in 2016, particularly at Universal Orlando Resort, which is not mentioned at all. Of course, such a development would not be too surprising, as we saw slower attendance at Walt Disney World in 2016 as well. Which begs another question specific to the Florida parks..

2. Reign of Kong: Skull Island might have been a flop at Islands of Adventure

Image: Universal

While there was plenty of excitement at Universal Studios Hollywood for the opening of the west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort also opened a new attraction in 2016: Islands of Adventure’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

While this attraction was a bit controversial at first due to the presence of live actors in the queue, it also didn’t exactly draw huge crowds during its first few days of operation, and suffered from technical issues during its initial weeks in operation. However, even though there were some problems with this ride at first, this attraction was running smoothly by the time summer rolled around, and wait times seemed to indicate that this attraction was at least moderately popular.


Image: Universal

However, with Universal failing to mention this new attraction in its quarterly results (even as it is continuing to tout the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood), the implication here is that Skull Island: Reign of Kong has failed to move the needle for attendance in 2016 at Islands of Adventure, which would be a disappointing development indeed, as this attraction was certainly different from anything else at the park, not only because of its technologically advanced ride system, but also because of its “mature” PG-13 content as well.

Even though Skull Island: Reign of Kong may not have been the blockbuster success that parent company Comcast was hoping for, that’s not really cause for concern, as the future is looking very bright…

3. Comcast is expecting big things from Universal Orlando Resort in 2017

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Even though we don’t have concrete attendance numbers yet for 2016 (we’ll know more this spring when the official TEA/AECOM report is released), Universal is already putting 2016 in the rear-view mirror, and is hoping to make 2017 a banner year for Universal Orlando Resort. Not only will the coming year bring the expansion of the Mardi Gras event to more nights than ever, and the opening of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, but it will also see the grand opening of Volcano Bay (which Universal is still calling its third theme park) in May. There will certainly be a lot going on at the resort this year, and Universal is likely banking on Universal Orlando Resort to perform well in the new year. And luckily, the good news seems to be that things are already looking up for Universal Orlando Resort in 2017.

During a conference call discussing the company’s earnings, Steve Burke, chief executive officer of Comcast’s NBCUniversal division said, “All the bookings and advanced indications for Florida and for California remain strong, quite strong,” adding that he “think[s] we’re going to have a very big year in Orlando.” While Universal has already been on quite a growth streak over the past several years, if these comments are anything to go by, it looks like we could see even more impressive trends in the coming year.

 Image: Universal

Though it has not been officially confirmed, it certainly  looks like Universal Orlando Resort fell victim to the overall slowdown in tourism in central Florida in 2016. However, with the opening of the Volcano Bay water park as well as the new Jimmy Fallon Race Through New York ride happening later this year, hopefully Universal’s flagship resort will be able to turn things around in a big way in the very near future.

What do you think? Will 2017 be a banner year for Universal Orlando Resort? Let us know what you think the future holds for this resort in the comments below!

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist by , Saturday, January 28, 2017 06:43

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