Theme Park Insider

The demise of Universal Orlando

Edited: July 22, 2017, 2:51 AM · There is no question that WWoHP in 2010 changed the industry forever. It elevated Universal to a great level, and it made Disney finally wake up.

However, since then, let's be honest, it has all been DISNEY, DISNEY, DISNEY. I am a Universal fanboy, so it hurts me to say it, but I fear for the future of Universal Orlando.

I am not a fan of Studios parks, and IOA used to be so amazing, but now is actually pretty bad when you think about it.

Apart from WWoHP, you have Toon Lagoon and Seuss Landing that are both TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to a modern audience, plus cheap comic book versions of Marvel characters (too tacky these days) and a fairly immersive Jurassic Park area but it hasn't been updated to reflect Jurassic World yet...and don't get me started on the appallingly misplaced Kong attraction there.

Marvel is a problem for Universal. They need to get rid of it now. The time has come. However, they wont do that as if they did Disney would build stuff down the road and effectively kill Universal. I doubt Universal will allow that to happen. So that is a catch 22. Spider-man is my favourite attraction but it needs the movie tie-in (which of course it cant ever have).

After WWoHP, Universal needed to kill Disney. They needed another GOD IP, yet they rested on their laurels and allowed Disney to fight back. Disney purchased the IP for Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar - while all we got from Universal was a pointless Kong attraction based on a film that is 15 years old already (and reboots are already happening) and Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon.

Universal could never have afforded the IP for Star Wars ($4b wasn't it?), but I think Avatar was probably in their price range - Pandora would have looked perfect in either of the Universal Orlando parks, yet we now have it as part of a zoo instead.

Universal need one last killer IP (and no, LOTR is not big enough these days) to completely overhaul their parks. Otherwise I give them 10 years until they end up like Six Flags...

FWIW, Transformers should replace Marvel, Nintendo should replace Toon Lagoon, Diagon Alley should have replaced Lost Continent, and Springfield should have replaced Seuss Landing. But in fact, pretty much all of that went in the Studios park instead.

For a park that promoted IMMERSION in 2010 with Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, I find it actually quite appalling that the same park now just builds screen-based rides in studio lots (Jimmy Fallon, Fast and Furious, Transformers, even Kong).

Is there an end to Universal Orlando's demise?

Replies (34)

July 22, 2017, 10:04 AM · What demise?

For Orlando to do well, both Disney and Universal have to do well. Attempting to revolutionise the water park experience shows they're not resting on their laurels as you suggest.

Any fan of either resort should want them both to succeed. As someone recently said this isn't sports, you can support both - and should.

July 22, 2017, 10:44 AM · Excellent concern trolling.

Universal's attendance is rising at a faster rate than anyone in the industry outside of China. I don't think the company is in any real danger. And Nintendo is going to provide a Potter-level boost to the resort in a few years.

Meanwhile, Fast & Furious remains a wildly popular franchise that is overlooked by the online theme park fan community simply because F&F has much strong appeal among racial minority audiences than the (typically) lily-white online theme park fan community. Minions might be the strongest youth entertainment franchise going today and Dreamworks Animation is woefully underutilized given its enduring appeal.

And if Universal gets Middle Earth now that WB/Tolkien suit is settled... watch out.

Universal is not hurting for IP. With Comcast as owner, Universal is not hurting for cash. (And if you think that an uncertain future for cable TV is a threat to Comcast, might I remind you about Disney and ESPN?) What Universal is hurting for is... space.

Universal in Orlando is facing much the same problem as Disney in Anaheim. It doesn't have the space to expand without taking out something else. Like Disney in Anaheim, Universal is getting creative in allocating space to add attractions without losing capacity, but Universal needs to get things right with Orange County and Orlando to proceed with developing the old Martin Marietta property on Universal Blvd. to open additional development opportunities.

THAT is the real issue facing Universal right now. Not any of this stuff.

July 22, 2017, 8:53 PM · What are the chances Universal will get LOTR? The books have enough material to fill an entire park, but it is likely a few lands and the other half will have something else.
July 23, 2017, 6:18 AM · Universal is not going anywhere. I love Disney, but, and I am sorry if this offends anyone, Universal is much more fun for my family since we can avoid standing in line all day. We stay in a Unlimited Express Pass hotel and can get more done in one day than four days at Disney. Not to say I don't enjoy Disney. I do, but their FP+ has significantly marred our enjoyment. It is great that Disney is making these improvements, and I cannot wait for them, but with FP+ the way it is, our Orlando trip always finishes at Universal. That would not be the case with the old system. To switch gears, as a massive LOTR nerd, is there any insider information (pun intended) on theme parks? All indications I have seen is the Tolkien estate is extremely against that sort of thing, and now just have more control to prevent it. There is a great nerd T shirt that says something like "I left the Shire to join Hogwarts to lean to be a Jedi." Doubt that that could be true in Orlando.
July 23, 2017, 6:38 AM · The last time that we visited WDW was pre-FP+. That's when we made the jump to Universal APs and haven't looked back.
July 23, 2017, 8:18 AM · >>>What are the chances Universal will get LOTR?

I wouldn't say the chances are unreasonable. For a Warner movie IP to appear at Universal in the US and Warner parks internationally is hardly unprecedented.

The only concern I'd have is whether the IP is a bit stale now. Yes, it is one of those enduring IPs like Narnia or Shakespere, but I'm not sure now it has enough excitement behind it to justify a major attraction; and I can't see any new movies being done to rekindle this.

July 23, 2017, 8:44 AM · Warner does not have the rights. The Tolkien estate has the rights, and they have made statements indicating the intent to be very protective.
July 23, 2017, 9:17 AM · "Universal is much more fun for my family since we can avoid standing in line all day. We stay in a Unlimited Express Pass hotel and can get more done in one day than four days at Disney." - been saying this for 10 years...
July 23, 2017, 8:07 PM · Chances of LOTR..Slim. Tolken made PL Travers look reasonable. He was a very difficult man (and estate).

Universal isn't going anywhere. They have set themselves up as the alternate to Disney. Is Disney in any real danger of losing to Universal? No. Universal has successfully launched itself into second place.

In business, you need to have competition. They help you remain current and you can gather certain trends about guest flow and likes/dislikes. One current example is that Disney Springs has become more like Citywalk and Universal has created its own Typhoon Lagoon. You learn from the completion and make it better! Disney and Universal needs each other.

The irony of it all is that Disneyland and USH really do not compete against each other. At least not in a way they do in FL.

They will keep outdoing each other and we all benefit for quality attractions.

July 23, 2017, 8:14 PM · To create a whole new idea, ESPN is actually the prime example of Disney NOT checking out the competition. On paper, ESPN is still a pretty good acquisition for Disney. It produces a well known product, the documentaries are some of the best sports journalism out there today, and they have set the bar on how sports is actually covered.

Where they ran afoul is that they did not see the competition or changes in the industry. They let local Comcast stations and Versus (now NBC Sports) get an upper hand. They let too much sports outside of Football to outside entities.

One example are my Chicago teams. They all got together and thought "why can't we do all this coverage instead of paying ESPN". This is the creation of Comcast Sportsnet which is owned by Comcast and every sports owner team in Chicago.

ESPN still has good parts, but they need to figure out how to sum up these parts into a better product. That is my frustration with ESPN. The singular parts are fantastic, but together the product doesn't work.

Edited: July 24, 2017, 8:37 AM · Personally we love Universal and only go to 1 Disney park every few years. So where is this demise you speak of?

Attendance is up at Universal every year.. Adding a water park, several new resorts... Yea real demise..

I demise Disney, too many visitors, wait times are terrible, no real thrill rides, child meltdowns, too many kids attractions, over priced hotels...

Pandora has two rides... Actually One and one half...


July 24, 2017, 12:29 PM · LOL, the demise of Universal. I do agree that there are areas in both parks that need to be updated or revamped with a new IP,but to say that IOA and US is going the way of the Dodo is a bit of a stretch.
July 24, 2017, 2:27 PM · ""Universal is much more fun for my family since we can avoid standing in line all day. We stay in a Unlimited Express Pass hotel and can get more done in one day than four days at Disney." - been saying this for 10 years..."

Agree.

We stopped going to Disney a while back, and only pop over occasionally on trips to see new attractions. As "the kids" get older, they have no interest in that stuff. The Happiest Place On Earth for us is Universal Orlando.

July 25, 2017, 4:37 AM · On my last visit to Orlando and I am a huge Disney fan, Universal was much better hands down.
July 25, 2017, 4:55 AM · Yeah, but if Universal becomes more popular, it will have lines too!

BOOM!

July 25, 2017, 8:44 AM · It does have lines, it just has ways to avoid them with planning. Disney used to have this with the old fast pass system. The new system only benefits the company and not the customer.
July 25, 2017, 8:48 AM · Universal is not going anywhere. Right now the 4 best parks in Orlando are definitely MK, AK, IoA, and Universal Studios. 2 Disney and 2 Universal.
July 25, 2017, 11:32 AM · Can we change the title of this tread to:

The demise of Clackers: Internet Troll.

Edited: July 25, 2017, 5:46 PM · I read the title.
I laughed.
"The Demise of Universal Studios". Seriously? No sir.
It's gaining more and more visitors. Its rides are still awesome.
Sure, not gonna lie, Kong is boring, and I can't say anything about Jimmy Fallon yet, but Diagon Alley is impressive, and they may have impressive stuff coming.
Nintendo will be awesome. Fantastic Beasts is alwas a possibility, LoTR is rumored(and I do think it has power today, the Hobbit trilogy being still fresh), Pacific Rim has a sequel coming and could be a fit for Universal... And the best part, they have enough land to maybe create a 3rd gate(or 4th, counting VB), not needing to close anything to open the things mentiond.
Sorry if I sounded rude at some point, but I can't make sense of what you said. Universal is not dying.
July 28, 2017, 6:35 PM · I went to Universal this year and I thought it was great. Wizarding World was very immersive as well as Volcano Bay. Hulk and Mummy provide some of the best coaster experiences in Florida. Universal Studios is stronger than ever before and the can only get better.
July 29, 2017, 3:07 PM · They need to get the rights to DC. Wonder when the contract with Six Flags ends.

The Transformers is an option, but a broader licensing deal with Hasbro could be good as well (My Little Pony, etc.)

July 29, 2017, 6:33 PM · Arthur -- they already have Transformers.
July 30, 2017, 10:47 AM · Are My Little Pony even big these days?

Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit, Wizard of Oz, The Hunger Games, Star Trek, DreamWorks Animation... I cannot think of anything else Universal can add to their parks to halt the slide.

July 31, 2017, 2:50 PM · There's a My little Pony movie coming out on October 6th and they had a large presence at San Diego Comic Con. I think with the success of Transformers The Ride 3D, it's only right to follow up with My Little Pony and G.I. Joe based rides. In fact they should just acquire theme park rights to all Hasbro's original properties. I always felt Sci Fi is a good theme for Universal Star Trek and Alien would be good properties to base a ride on. I think a Willy Wonka ride would be great at Universal too.
August 1, 2017, 11:47 AM · The problem with Transformers is the ride video is literally the best part of the franchise. The movies are HORRIBLE, and the box office numbers are starting to reflect that, thank goodness.
Edited: August 1, 2017, 1:05 PM · "The movies are HORRIBLE, and the box office numbers are starting to reflect that, thank goodness."

Don't tell Paramount that, because they just gave the green light to another sequel, supposedly a spin-off about Bumblebee starring John Cena (of WWE fame).

BTW, while US box office receipts have been falling after successive sequels, international demand for the franchise has been on fire...

Transformers - $319 million (domestic) $390 million (international) on $150 million budget
Revenge of the Fallen - $402 million (domestic) $434 million (international) on $200 million budget
Dark of the Moon - $352 million (domestic) $771 million (international) on $195 million budget
Age of Extinction - $245 million (domestic) $858 million (international) on $210 million budget
The Last Knight - $128 million (domestic) $441 million (international - with more territories still to open including Japan) on $217 million budget

For as much as American are clearly growing tired of this franchise, if producers still getting 3X multipliers on the investment, they're going to keep making them.

August 1, 2017, 4:13 PM · (Bumblebee started production on Mon, & is scheduled for a 2018 Dec. release against Aquaman).

Transformers, as a franchise, is still pretty strong.

While the movies, from a critical (and a % of mainstream audiences) standpoint are considered terrible, the Transformers franchise itself is popular.

The toys, comics, animated series, & yes.....even the movies have a large dedicated fanbase. This IP has been around since the 80's & is still going strong.

All of the movies have, for the most part, the same team (Michael Bay & co.) Under a different creative team, they could bring an entirely new version of the Transformers universe.

While the ride is based on these specific set of movies, the Transformers IP could easily support another version.

Edited: August 1, 2017, 5:03 PM · Universal is not going to crumble. It will continue to expand, and grow stronger. Yes, Disney is adding new attractions in the future. However, so will Universal. Harry Potter is very popular, and offers some of the best theme park attractions in the world. Transformers is an excellent ride as well. The minions are very popular. Maybe they'll build a Despicacle Me themed land?

The Fast and the Furious is an extremely popular franchise. Their movies make billions of dollars. The ride is very good, and popular as well. Maybe they'll expand the Fast and the Furious franchise in the parks? Jurassic Park, though still good, is a little outdated. Maybe they'll look to expand to Jurrasic World for the ride?

Perhaps Universal includes a Secret Life of Pets, Sing, or Trolls attraction to the parks? Nintendo Land will be very popular. I'm sure they will include state or the art technology. Plus, they could always expand with Harry Potter. Perhaps another attraction? Don't worry, Universal will be just fine.

August 1, 2017, 6:37 PM · What will actually happen:

- Disney will have a few years of updates as outlined, then slip back into their normal pattern of near nothingness

- Universal will continue to do yearly additions and upgrades with relevant and interesting IP's.

:-D

August 2, 2017, 9:52 AM · DBCOOPER, relevant franchises such as what? Jimmy Fallon? Seuss?
August 2, 2017, 11:17 AM · I am not Clackers.
August 2, 2017, 12:07 PM · @Clackers - Transformers, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Nintendo, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Despicable Me, Fast and the Furious, Marvel, to name a few. Also classics like King Kong, E.T., Dr. Seuss, and Men in Black.
August 2, 2017, 1:37 PM · Stop feeding the troll!!
August 2, 2017, 2:01 PM · Russell — you are right. Temporary troll lapse.

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