Comcast’s New Harry Potter Attraction Could Rival Disney
We’ve long known that Comcast is becoming a leader in the theme park industry, thanks to its ownership of the Universal Studios theme parks. But how big can the business become for the Philadelphia-based cable giant?
We’re about to find out.
Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday opened its latest attraction, “Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” and observers are saying it presents a real challenge to nearby Disneyland.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, part of a $1.6-billion upgrade, presents the first serious challenge to the preeminence of Disneyland, which is undergoing about $1 billion in upgrades of its own — a 14-acre expansion based on the “Star Wars” franchise.
“The product offerings at Universal are such a high quality that they are at the same level as Disney in many aspects,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati.
Strictly by the numbers, Disneyland is packed with more attractions and draws more than twice as many visitors as Universal Studios Hollywood.
But Universal Studios Hollywood’s attendance has been growing faster than Disneyland’s, and the L.A. park has been adding new attractions at a greater pace.
Universal’s LA theme park is riding high after being a mostly forgettable destination during the late 1990s and early 2000s, despite being a short drive from the heart of Hollywood’s tourist zone in the eponymous Universal City neighborhood. Between 2009 and 2013, attendance jumped by nearly one-third. And when Universal opened its Wizarding World attraction at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, attendance soared 30 percent year over year, and revenues and profits at Universal’s theme parks division have also grown by double digits, according to parent Comcast Corp.’s SEC filings.
The moral of the story is that if you invest in ambitious expansion — something that all three of Comcast’s domestic parks have done as well as Disney’s California Adventure and, to a lesser extent, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom with its New Fantasyland push — the public responds. That makes today’s opening a game changer for a company that was already seeing its three stateside gated attractions rolling.
With Comcast recently raising admission prices for Universal Studios Hollywood — hot on the heels of its sister resort in Florida and Disney on both coasts — there’s a lot of money waiting to be made for the theme parks that draw well this summer. Comcast seems to be getting it right, and that’s not bad for what Hogwarts wizards would call mere muggles.
And, yes, it looks like it’s going to be a popular attraction, Fox Business says:
Universal announced that it had to halt online ticket sales for the first time ever after selling out for opening day. VIP Experience and Front of Line ticket options also sold out online through Saturday.
“This incredible consumer demand speaks largely to the arrival of ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,’ and the dramatic 75% transformation of Universal Studios Hollywood into an entirely new destination,” Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood, said in a press release.
As Harry Potter might say: Profits englargem!