Will New Harry Potter Park Surpass Disneyland’s Attendance?

When Universal Orlando built their first Harry Potter park in 2010, competition between Universal and Disney heated up faster than a Florida summer. Troves of tourists flocked to Universal Studios, with many wanting to taste the Butterbeer and see the magical towers of Hogwarts in the distance. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Universal Studios Orlando saw a 17 percent spike in attendance last year, with 8.3 million visitors.

Despite this jump in attendance of the sister park, Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure had stagnant attendance rates with 8.1 million visitors. When compared to the big dog, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the combination in attendance of both Universal parks simply doesn’t measure up. Magic Kingdom had 19.3 million visitors in 2014, a 4 percent jump from the previous year, and this doesn’t take into account the other parks like Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

To put things in even more perspective, Disney’s market share of the theme park space in Orlando sits at a whopping 70.9 percent as of last year, with Universal grabbing 22.6 percent. The east coast is one thing, but what about Hollywood in California?

With news of a new Harry Potter expansion opening in Los Angeles in April of 2016, many experts are wondering just how much the new Harry Potter attractions are going to affect the market share of Disneyland.

The LA Times reports that park attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood increased from 4.3 million visitors in 2009 to 6.1 million visitors in 2013. It’s no surprise to report that Disneyland, along with Disney California Adventure, absolutely demolished the numbers that Universal Studios Hollywood posted. Disneyland alone had 16.7 million visitors in 2014, and Disney California Adventure had 8.7 million visitors. It’s going to be a long time before Universal eclipses Disney as the theme park authority in Los Angeles — or is it?

The Orange County Register reports that attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2014 increased by 11 percent, seeing 700,000 more visitors.

“Universal Studios Hollywood enjoyed a banner year with our best attendance ever in 2014,” said Larry Kurzweil, president and COO of Universal Studios Hollywood, in an email.

“This incredible achievement is due in large part to the success and popularity of our adventure ride, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the ongoing success of such break-through attractions as Transformers: The Ride – 3D as part of our continued transformation.”

“There’s more construction going on now than ever before, probably in the history of the park,” said Jon Primrose, editor of the website Studio Tour. “But how will the park cope when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens its gates? It’s already full of people.”

The previously mentioned 2013 attendance rate is dated, and who knows how many new visitors the new Harry Potter expansion will attract? To me, the possibility of Universal Studios Hollywood eclipsing the attendance of Disney California Adventure (8.7 million) seems reasonable, given their past statistics.

In recent years the Universal Studios park in Hollywood has been underwhelming.

“Much of the period could be characterized by a combination of corporate ambivalence, aimlessness and general stagnation — all in an effort to streamline costs,” said Jonathan Fu, an editor at the Inside Universal fan website. “When Universal did choose to invest, attractions were often met with a lukewarm response, attributed mostly to poor execution or limitations stemming from low budgets.”

It seems as if the new Harry Potter expansion is going to change all that; the same Harry Potter attractions that recently sprang up in their sister Orlando parks have impressed tourists so far and it only seems logical that the same thing will happen on the west coast, as well.

It’s not realistic to assume that Universal Studios Hollywood will overtake Disney just because of the Harry Potter expansion, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.

[Photo by Handout/Getty Images]