The rival theme park companies have steadily pushed each other to keep investing in an attempt to outdo each other.
You can thank Harry Potter for forcing Walt Disney (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report to invest heavily in its theme parks around the world. The addition of “Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2010 made the Mouse House take notice of its Comcast-owned (CMCSA) – Get Comcast Corporation Class A Common Stock Report rival.
Before Universal Studios stepped up its game by not only adding the boy wizard to its park (and later building a second Wizarding World at its original Florida park) Disney largely coasted on reputation. Magic Kingdom focused on its classic rides while Epcot saw its offering shrink as corporate sponsorships went away and Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom were largely viewed as “half-day” parks.
Disney did not have to invest in Disney World (or in any of its parks around the world because Universal Studios was simply not real competition. Potter changed that and led to the current arms race of expansion.
Now, Disney and Universal routinely add new rides each year at multiple parks around the world. That’s something Comcast CEO Briaan Roberts talked about during his company’s third-quarter earnings call.
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Epic Universe Is Designed to Be a Disney Killer
After sharing that the Parks division had generated “the highest quarterly EBITDA on record, driven by growth in each of our geographies including Beijing which hit profitability for the first time since the grand opening last September. We’re seeing clear evidence that the investments we made throughout the pandemic continue to pay off,” he shared.
The CEO also laid out what has already launched and what’s coming soon at Universal Studios parks around the world.
“We launched Super Nintendo World in Japan, the Velocicoaster in Orlando, Secret Life of Pets in Hollywood and our drumbeat of innovation goes on. For example, Super Nintendo World will open in Hollywood early next year. We’re adding another Nintendo-themed area, Donkey Kong to Japan in 2024,” he shared.
The big investment, however, is the company’s planned third theme park in Orlando, Epic Universe. Universal has not shared many details about the new park, but Roberts was blunt about the company’s goal for the project.
“And I’m especially excited for Epic Universe to open in the summer of 2025 which will transform Universal Orlando into a weeklong destination,” he said.
Universal Studios Wants to Take on Disney World
Disney World has four theme parks along with two waterparks, and a major shopping/entertainment area that does not require an admission fee. Since Disney added “Pandora: The World of Avatar” to Animal Kingdom and both “Toy Story Land” and “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” both of those parks have shed the “half-day” label.
Given all that Disney has to offer, you can easily spend a week there and not quite get to everything. Universal, as it currently stands, does not have the same problem.
Comcast’s Florida park offers two theme parks, one water park, and a large shopping area. You can comfortably experience all three parks and the shopping area in 3 days and four would let you take it all in and spend a little time at whatever on-site resort you choose.
That means that many Orlando visitors base their trip around Disney World and sneak over the Universal for a day or two to hit the highlights. Epic Universe, as Roberts shared, is meant to change that perception. By building the first new park either company has added in the U.S. since Harry Potter changed the expectations for theme park attractions could help the company accomplish that.
Epic Universe will have a Super Nintendo World, a land devoted to Universal’s classic monster characters, and almost certainly a third Harry Potter land.