Let's play 'Connect the Dots'*
Written by Robert Niles
Here's a huge thank you to several Theme Park Insider readers, who shall not be named but who have helped me play "connect the dots" between several recent developments affecting the theme park industry.
Wait a minute - Am I going to Disney World?
In case you missed it, Hollywood gossip says that new NBCUniversal owner Comcast is ready to make some changes at the top of Universal Studios. In the proposed shakeup, Universal Parks & Recreation CEO Tom Williams will move up the organizational chart, becoming a direct report to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That's great news for theme park fans, as it would represent a strong statement by NBCUniversal about the value it's placing on theme parks within its business.
But the move that should get your attention is the one that would see current Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer move on to other duties in the company, clearing the way for DreamWorks CEO Stacy Snider to come back to run Universal. She'd be bringing her partner (and longtime Universal theme parks consultant) Steven Spielberg with her, of course.
But there's a snag.
You see, a few years ago, Snider and Spielberg signed a distribution deal with… the Walt Disney Studios. So Snider and Spielberg allegedly can't decamp for Universal without being released from that Disney contract first.
Now, if you're running Disney, what might Universal have that you'd really, really want, in exchange for letting Snider and Spielberg walk?
(Yeah, this would be a much bigger deal than Al Michaels for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - the last time Disney and Universal swapped assets.)
If Disney were to get this property it covets, it would of course want to make sure it had assigned a top Imagineer to Orlando to oversee its introduction into the parks and resorts there, right?
And if Universal were to give up this asset to Disney, it would want to rush construction of a new thrill ride similar to a highly-popular one themed to this soon-to-be-lost asset, right?
And if you were Universal, you would want to hold back officially announcing this new ride, as well as the other major new development under construction in the same park, until you needed those announcements to "soften the blow" of giving up this prized asset, right?
Fascinating hypothetical, isn't it?
*Update: And now (Tuesday), Deadline New York is reporting that the Snider/Spielberg deal is dead, and the two are staying with DreamWorks and Disney. That blows up the picture, doesn't it?
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