Halloween Horror Nights, the hugely popular fall event at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort, has been canceled, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The after-hours event is the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the theme park and tourism industries particularly hard.
Halloween Horror Nights is a series of spooky events that takes place every year between late September and early November at the two U.S. resorts. On a handful of nights before and briefly after Halloween, the parks shut down early and allow customers who purchase a special ticket to come in and go through so-called "scare zones." These are haunted-house-like attractions often based on movies to which Universal has the rights. Outside of the scare zones, cast members in gruesome makeup menace attendees.
This year, it's lights out for the after-hours event.
In a news release published on Friday, the company said that the safety protocols required of guests and employees aren't compatible with the special-ticket party.
"Universal Orlando Resort will be focusing exclusively on operating its theme parks for daytime guests, using the enhanced health and safety procedures already in place. We know this decision will disappoint our fans and guests. We are disappointed, too. But we look forward to creating an amazing event in 2021," the statement reads in part.
This would have been the 30th edition of the event.
Duff Mason, co-host of HHN365 podcast, says the cancellation wasn't unexpected, considering the impact the coronavirus has had on the industry.
"I think the majority of fans expected it to happen... it makes a lot of sense to cancel," he said.
He also noted that the event brings in thousands of fans, with long lines at several attractions. He posited that it would be impossible to maintain social distancing in that environment.
Dennis Speigel, president of Ohio-based International Theme Park Services, says that Halloween events at Universal, Walt Disney World, and other theme parks are huge money-makers in the industry.
"I have seen them make or break a park's season based on how well Halloween is attended," he said.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney World has canceled its own Halloween event, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Universal, like its Central Florida competitor, has strict protocols in place to keep their parks safe from the deadly pandemic. Those include requiring masks of both attendees and employees, keeping customers six feet apart, and multiple hand-washing stations, among others.