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What will close at Universal Studios Hollywood to make way for Harry Potter?

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Published: April 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM
A little over a year ago, we talked about how we'd fit a Wizarding World of Harry Potter into Universal Studios Hollywood. Now that we know it's going to happen, let's revisit the topic to see what exactly is going to have to make way for this new attraction.

I've heard from enough second-hand sources that I'm pretty well sold that the Hollywood version of the Wizarding World is going in on the east side of the park, around Waterworld. But what will have to be removed to make way for Harry Potter? Here's an aerial view of the Orlando Wizarding World:

Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter

And here, to the same scale, is an aerial view of the east side of Universal Studios Hollywood (images via Google Maps):

Site of the Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In the upper image, that big building to the lower left is the show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Since we've been told that Hogwarts is coming to Hollywood, let's assume that's the same building that's providing the centerpiece of the Hollywood version. So we have to fit that building somewhere into the space shown in the lower photograph.

In the lower image (Hollywood), the large, white semicircle is the Gibson Amphitheatre. The blue area below and to the left of the amphitheatre is the Waterworld show. The grey area to the direct left of the amphitheatre is the Shrek-4D theater.

To my eye, there's no way to make the Hogwarts building and Hogsmeade street fit in the Hollywood site without removing both the amphitheatre and Waterworld. Maybe there might be space to fit in the Flying Hippogriff coaster, too, depending upon how buildings align on the site.

Perhaps Universal could fit the Hogwarts building onto the site of the Waterworld theater, and run an abbreviated Hogsmeade street toward it, which would save the amphitheatre. But Hogsmeade is such a potential cash cow, which all the merchandise, food and Butterbeer revenue it brings to the table, that I think Universal might be better off financially with an expanded Hogsmeade than it would with the amphitheatre.

The Gibson faces competition from long-standing rivals, the Greek Theater and the Hollywood Bowl, in addition to new competition from the Nokia theater downtown and the former Kodak theater in Hollywood, neither of which existed when the Universal Amphitheater was expanded and covered in the 1980s. But the nearest Harry Potter attraction is in Orlando, more than 2,500 miles away.

I haven't see Universal's financials on the amphitheatre, but as a fan, I would gladly trade the loss of one more concert site near downtown LA for the expansion of Hogsmeade and a larger Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

By the way, I tried to look up the building permits for the Wizarding World project, but that portion of Universal Studios Hollywood lies in unincorporated Los Angeles County, which doesn't list building and construction permits online. To see them, I'd have to visit the LA County Department of Public Works Building and Safety office that covers Universal Studios.

Inconveniently enough, that office is located… inside a trailer on the backlot of Universal Studios. Universal has its own County Building and Safety office. It's almost like Reedy Creek!

So let's throw this open for discussion again: What would you like to see Universal do to fit Harry Potter into Hollywood?

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on April 16, 2012 at 12:17 PM
By the way, I love how the anonymous troll in the original post, who was *convinced* that Universal didn't have the rights to Harry Potter outside Orlando, was proven 100% wrong. FWIW.... ;^)
From Manny Barron on April 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I'll miss WaterWorld but that seems the only place to put WWoHP. Now in order to to be a true Wizarding World instead of just Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and a ButterBeer stand than the amphitheatre has got to go. With the amphitheatre and WaterWorld out than there is a sizable track of land to put Hogwarts castle and the shops, along with a simple family ride.

Originally I thought that maybe even the Gringotts coaster, that is rumored to be replacing Jaws in Orlando, would also be in Hollywood. I remember hearing about that somewhere. I don't think there's much land for that unless they decide to take down Shrek 4-D and the Curious George play area for that.

Realistically though with the amphitheate and Water World down there should be ample space for the Forbidden Journey, some shops, a quick-service restaurant, possibly Flight of the Hippogriff, and another family ride(a Dumbo-like spinner with broomsticks instead of elephants, perhaps?).

Question is though when will WaterWorld close and if and when the amphitheater will make way for the Boy Wizard. Comedian, Gabriel Iglesias, has a show scheduled in the amphitheater on December 28, so we know the amphitheater won't close this year.

From Dominick D on April 16, 2012 at 12:40 PM
HP is pretty much replacing Waterworld, since Despicable Me is rumoured to replace either Shrek, Terminator, or Curious George. USH needs some HP magic, but please, PLEASE hide Forbidden Journey's show building this time.
From 97.121.138.4 on April 16, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Theater manager "Why are you tearing down my theater!?" Foreman (bulldozers poised for destruction) "The plans were on display for over three months." Theater manager "They were in a trailer! On the backlot, in a filing cabinet labeled Beware the Leopard!!??"
From Robert Niles on April 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM
+42
From Anon Mouse on April 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM
I would like to offer a contrarian view. USH should become a full day park. To reach that goal, they must add instead of subtract. I know subtracting Gibson Amphitheatre isn't taking away much from a day at USH and the Waterworld show should have been replaced a long time ago, but this is a drain on resources when there is plenty of undeveloped land in the Studios Tour portion of the property. Even the Universal executive alluded to the undeveloped land, some 200 acres.

They should relocate the current Tour tram boarding station to the lower lot. Add a Hogwarts Train Station there. Create a new Hogmeade Village at a distance away. You take the train to get there. At the far away location, they have plenty of space for future expansion as well as have room for an evening special effects show with the mountain as backdrop.

From N B on April 16, 2012 at 1:35 PM
When I look at the Google map of Universal Hollywood vs Orlando, there is such a huge difference in real estate. Same goes for Disney. It's a shame I will probably never make it to either, but I did stay in Hollywood for a few days back in 2007. Universal was literally right across a couple hills the highway.

I had to drive to San Diego that night, so I could be at a client's house the next morning. The drive on the I-5 took me right through Ananheim, right past Disney, then of course past Sea World.

So close to all of them..... I wish I would have taken a few extra days for some solo visits. It will be interesting to see how Universal squeezes the HP portion of the park in there.

From AJ Hummel on April 16, 2012 at 1:59 PM
My guess is that the amphitheater will be closing for Harry Potter. The area the building currently occupies can be used for the Forbidden Journey ride, and the surrounding area can be Hogsmeade. I still don't think it needs to be as large as Florida's, and I don't think it should be the main focus of USH, so that should clear up enough room for it. If more room is required, they could remove Waterworld but I really hope they don't. USH only has a dozen attractions, and it makes little sense to remove one of their top three (it may be old, but Waterworld is still the best stunt show I've seen anywhere).

I'm hoping that the first phase is only Forbidden Journey and Hogsmeade. Maybe a small ride or show could be squeezed in as well, but I really don't want to see a complete copy of Florida's (aka no coasters). Then, a few years down the road, the park could build a much larger area on the backlot with additional attractions (ideally ones that aren't represented in Florida since there is so much in the Harry Potter universe), and connect the two with a train. I just really hope the area doesn't ever require the removal of a current attraction since USH barely has enough to justify its ticket price as it is (probably why I only go once every 2-3 years) and needs to add instead of replacing.

From 75.79.154.37 on April 16, 2012 at 3:13 PM
They could fit in Hogwarts without having to remove WaterWorld by putting the show building next to Curious George.
From Stevo B on April 16, 2012 at 3:34 PM
I think it would be a mistake to try and cram HP into that spot but I know they have other plans for some of that backlot space (if they get their way).
From Rob Pastor on April 16, 2012 at 3:54 PM
Screamscape is reporting that it is fairly certain that Waterworld will be removed soon to make way for the Potter expansion.
From Stevo B on April 16, 2012 at 5:10 PM
The thing about WW is that it's a people eater, which is why Disneyland is moving Fantasy Faire out of the Fantasyland Theater, into dedicated space and bringing stage shows back. The gridlock that is USH is only to get worse when HP arrives.
From Robert Niles on April 16, 2012 at 6:22 PM
Frankly, I'd rather lose the amphitheater and Shrek than Waterworld. I'd hate to see that show go.
From Mitchell Sentinella on April 16, 2012 at 7:46 PM
I have a strong believe that everything on the west side will become harry potter. If you think about it that is the least attraction filled and the quietest area of the park. Other than terminator 3D there's really no other attractions. I think they would take out the old western show and make that the entrance to hogsmeade and rip out everything between terminator, animal actors show, and house of horrors. Perhaps a back pathway to terminator and create a second entrance/exit to harry potter. That area also would create a great visual icon both from the lower level and the entrance of the park. It would also be a perfect landmark visible from the freeway.
From Dominick D on April 16, 2012 at 8:44 PM
I doubt they would close the west side due to the fact Simpsons opened 4 years ago.
From Manny Barron on April 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Mitchell your idea is perfect. I really don't want to see Water World go. T2:3-D,Coke Soak, the Parisian Courtyard, The Globe theater, the old Wild West stadium and the building next to Animal Actors is just about the same size as the proposed Water World area.

Oh and Dominick, The Simpsons are on the East Side of the park, not west.

From 207.62.144.165 on April 17, 2012 at 1:05 AM
I think they should start hogsmeade where shrek currently is and have it extend towards waterworld, where forbidden journey would be placed. Then have it branch off and put the gringotts ride at the gibson site. The only issue wold be continuity form hogmeade and hogwarts to gringotts.
From Mark Kausch on April 17, 2012 at 1:43 AM
I have no idea where Wizarding World might go. I haven't been to USH for awhile. But I do remember how disappointed most were (including myself and my wife) by the Mummy. It obviously wasn't - and turned out not to be - the attraction everyone was drooling about at USO. Hopefully, HP won't be the same. I hope JK Rowling also has input into this one.
From Rob P on April 17, 2012 at 4:13 AM
I will be bitterly upset if they dismantle the excellent Waterworld show in favour of Harry Potter.

OK I have to admit that HP as a franchise boasts a huge fan base. It's a current draw and moneyspinner but only time will tell us if it's something that can sustain it's popularity for years to come in the way that Waterworld has. I also admit that I'm not a big fan of the Potter movies but then again I don't hate them either. I'm , shall we say, ambivalent to them. The HP themed attractions in Orlando are a different kettle of fish.
I can't comment on those because I haven't experienced them yet .

What I do find absurd is talk of removing an attraction that is possibly the best of it's genre to make way for something which only has potential. They must surely examine any attraction where interest is waning. Cut out the dead wood to allow something new to replace it. Not simply hack out something healthy and still a big draw.

The problem in Hollywood is the same one that faces Disney in Anaheim : A lack of space and affordable land to expand. So something has to make way. Let's hope it's a wise choice or it could alienate a lot of visitors.

From Dominick D on April 17, 2012 at 7:39 AM
Oops, I was looking at Google Earth the wrong way :P
From 65.203.150.126 on April 17, 2012 at 9:06 AM
Having missed half of two different concerts at the Universal Ampitheatre because of traffic, I won't miss it. In fact, I may help them tear it down.
From Aaron McMahon on April 17, 2012 at 1:39 PM
Hogwarts would have to be placed where Gibson is so that it would be facing the entire park as well as City Walk.

If it is placed in Water World's location, guests entering the park will see the back

From Mike Seary on April 18, 2012 at 6:38 AM
Having never visited USH (but being a regular visitor of USO), the size disparity between the two properties blows my mind. I do understand that the CA location was originally conceived as a functioning studio first (whereas Orlando was primarily a tourist attraction with studio operations an afterthought)... I also understand that the CA location is working within a far more urbanized area... but man, do they have their work cut out for them, squeezing new attractions in. I don't understand why USH hasn't purchased more property for expansion purposes in the past... but again, my ignorance of the park - there very well may be good reason.
From Brandon Mendoza on April 18, 2012 at 3:50 PM
I would be sad to see Water World go. It's the only positive thing that came out of that movie. Plus how often do you see live stunt shows not named "Cirque du Soleil"? Besides I don't consider Cirque a stunt show. WW is a true stunt show that eclipses the Indiana Jones one in Orlando. And this is coming from a Disney fan!

I would hope that they trash the lackluster Shrek show before they get rid of Water World.

As others have said, WW is a people eater that is very much needed to regulate crowds.

From Sylvain Comeau on April 19, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Bringing Potter to Universal Hollywood is a mistake. As an Orlando exclusive, Wizarding World has proven to be a powerful draw for people from around the world, and the strongest competition yet for WDW. Once it opens in Hollywood, they will be diluting that effect. Universal Orlando is a much bigger resort, competing with a tourist magnet across town. They have a lot more invested in that resort.
From 75.101.118.70 on April 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
@Sylvain Comeau

Hmm...that's quite a negative stance to take on the subject...

The same can be said of Disneyland...if you recall, it was once a Southern California exclusive as well. Then Orlando went ahead and built their own version sometime later, slowly exapnding WDW into what it is today.
But just beacuse Orlando built a replica of what once was an exclusive facet of the SoCal area, doesn't mean that it took everything to the east coast. The Anaheim version of the popular park is still a big draw for tourists from all over the world (Heck, in many cases maybe even more so...as a resident of the area I've frequently been witness to the insane ammount of crowds that force the park to close down and turn people away. Just this last year alone it occured at least three times!).

So, to drive the point home...your fears of a Hollywood version of Wizarding World drawing away crowds from the Orlando-based original are unfounded.

P.S, besides, Orlando already has everything else that's freaken awesome in regards to the theme park scene...give us SoCal residents a chance to revel in some of that in our OWN backyards for a change!

From 76.93.74.18 on April 21, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Well, the cold hard fact (or should I say cold hard CASH) of the matter is, while Waterworld has a very strong following it is cult at best. Meaning, people who see it love it, but only a certain amount of people actually come to the park FOR Waterworld. Hundreds of Thousands (or Millions?) of people will be coming to the park for Harry Potter, it has worldwide appeal.

From the videos Ive seen its more than just a single show, its an experience. There will be people coming to park Just to hang out in Hogsmead, to eat there, shop there, heck even send their mail off from there. And Ive herd rumors that they might even expand down into the back lot in the 6 Points Texas area.

As beloved as Waterworld is HP, being the major cash cow that it will be, trumps WW on all fronts. It will be a MAJOR source of revenue for the park AND a major source of Jobs for LA (Over 1000 Ive heard).

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