It looks like Universal Studios Orlando is closing the gap on their biggest rival–Walt Disney World. This past weekend, Universal closed out their annual Celebration of Harry Potter event, which takes advantage of the Harry Potter attractions while bringing in special guests from the movies along with other things.
Rick Munarizz at Motley Crew got to talk about the recent dominance of Universal Studios Orlando, writing “Disney is seeing Comcast close the gap in popularity. It’s been happening ever since Comcast opened the first phase of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, raising the bar even higher a few years later with the ambitious Diagon Alley expansion of 2014.”
For the first time ever, Universal has Harry Potter in both parks, and guests can make trips in between parks on the Hogwarts Express–Universal’s version of the Disney monorail.
Since 2006, both of Universal’s parks have seen more growth than any of the other Disney parks. In 2006, Islands of Adventure had 5.3 million visitors, and in 2014 they had 8.1 million visitors, registering a 53.6% increase in visitation. Over the same time span, Magic Kingdom only saw a 16.2% increase. But, comparatively, Magic Kingdom had over 19 million guests in 2014, so it’s presumed that they’re not too worried.
Rick Munarizz continued, “This weekend is just another reminder that Comcast is gaining on Disney. The House of Mouse is working on a response. An Avatar-themed land opens at Animal Kingdom next year. The highly anticipated Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is only in development, but it will take several years before that expansion is complete.”
It’s true that Disney is undergoing massive efforts to combat the rapid expansion of Universal Studios Orlando. They’ve already begun constructing a new “Star Wars Land” addition to Hollywood Studios, a park in need of some massive redesign. L.A. Times reports that Harrison Ford will be there to preview the new addition in Walt Disney World.
“The attractions, the entertainment — everything we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the [‘Star Wars’] mythology,” said Bob Iger, CEO of The Disney Company.
Walt Disney World has responded well to their competitor’s recent expansion. Avatar Land has been in construction for a few years now, and is sure to be a massive attraction when it opens in 2017.
Perhaps one of the major limitations for Universal is the amount of land they have, which Disney has never had a problem with. Despite this issue, Universal has a plan for the future.
“Comcast isn’t stopping there. It recently revealed plans to purchase parcels of land totaling 474 acres about two miles south of Universal Orlando. That gives it enough room to build at least one more theme park and several more hotels in the future. It may not be ideal to have to expand with so many third-party establishments in the way, but this will increase its visibility along the bustling tourist corridor,” writes Rick Munarriz.
For now, Universal Studios Orlando gets to enjoy the spoils of their new attractions, but Disney World has a slew of projects in the pipeline already that are just waiting to see daylight.
[Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images]