Theme Park Insider

On the Road to the Wizarding World Hollywood... and Orlando, and Japan, and London

January 19, 2016, 4:20 PM · Now that the holidays have passed, we are restarting our weekly look at the new attractions in Universal Studios Hollywood's upcoming version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opens officially on April 7.

But before we resume with a look at Dervish and Banges next week, let us tell you about the contest that Universal announced today to celebrate the grand opening. It's a trip for four to the opening of The Wizarding World in Hollywood, followed by trips to the other Wizarding Worlds — at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Japan, as well as to the "Making of Harry Potter" experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London.

Fans can enter online at tripadvisor.com/wizardingworldhollywood between now and Feb. 24. Entries are limited to one per person, per day. The prize includes roundtrip airfare for four to Los Angeles, Orlando, Osaka, and London, as well as a four-night hotel stay at each destination. The winner also gets four two-day tickets to each of the three Universal resorts, plus four one-day tickets to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, as well as $500 total for ground transportation, and $200 a day for food (up to $3,200).

The winner will be selected at random, in early March.

As for the current status of Hollywood's Wizarding World, as we mentioned in our report from the park last week, the exteriors of the new land appear to be complete, and team members have been said to be training in the land already. Flight of the Hippogriff has been running test trains since last fall, and it's hard to imagine that Universal couldn't soft-open the Wizarding World well in advance of the April 7 debut if it wanted to. In fact, we suspect that the selection of April 7 as an official opening date had more to do with ensuring that other projects around the park were completed in time for the big media event than waiting for the Wizarding World itself to be finished.

Wizarding World Hollywood

Even as fans look forward to the opening of Hollywood's Hogsmeade village, many people have been talking online this week about the possibility of a second Wizarding World in Hollywood — a Diagon Alley expansion, much like the one at Universal Studios Florida.

To repeat what we've said before — the last we heard from insiders about this, Universal's "Evolution" development plans called for Diagon Alley to go on the space currently occupied by the Waterworld stunt show. By also eliminating the Shrek theater, Universal would have the space needed to run a Hogwarts Express ride between the two lands. The trains would have to stop between the two stations to play their shows, as the actual trip between the two lands would take only a fraction of the time it requires in Orlando. But Universal could cram the ride in if it wanted to.

And Universal would need a Hogwarts Express ride as there is simply no space on the Waterworld site to fit an Escape from Gringotts ride. The bank itself would be included in the Hollywood version of the land, but its entry hall would serve only as an expanded version of the Gringotts Money Exchange goblin encounter that's relegated to a storefront down the street from the bank in Orlando. But we've not heard the certainty about this plan to convince us that it is a done deal, leading us to suspect that Universal is waiting to see how Hogsmeade does in Hollywood before it makes a final commitment to the plans.

Previously On the Road to the Wizarding World Hollywood:

Replies (13)

January 19, 2016 at 6:33 PM · Move Diagon Alley and the second train station to the lower lot to save Gringotts. Turn it into a real transportation system by running both directions.
January 19, 2016 at 9:38 PM · Regarding soft openings, I've heard from a very reliable source that soft openings for Wizarding World of Harry Potter will begin in mid February (most likely President's Weekend), and the land will be open daily with possible reduced hours compared to the rest of the park. Reportedly annual pass sales are way below what USH expected (I've heard 30% down from before the restructuring, but I'm not confident on that number) and this is a way to encourage people to visit and buy a new pass. Apparently everything except Forbidden Journey is ready to go, but USH decided it wasn't worth opening the land before its signature attraction was complete.

As for the future, I've heard that there are three plans for Harry Potter, Part 2 and USH is waiting on a few things before they decide which option to choose. According to what I've heard, the three plans are:

1. Build Diagon Alley on the site of Waterworld. This version of the land would not include the Gringotts coaster, but it would include a static motion simulator attraction, the Hogwarts Express, and everything else present in the Florida incarnation. From what I've heard, this was the preferred plan up until about a year ago when the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe started moving forward, which leads to...

2. Remove Revenge of the Mummy and build Diagon Alley in the Lower Lot. This version of the land would be identical to the Florida version, including the full Gringotts coaster. This also goes along with the Lower Lot development plan currently in progress (which will include two other new attractions (Secret Life of Pets dark ride and reportedly a Jurassic World ride) along with the relocation of the Studio Tour station and a complete overhaul of Jurassic Park). In addition, this solves the issue of what to do with Mummy once the reboot premieres next year. According to my sources, this is currently the most popular plan. However, there's another Harry Potter film in development, which leads to...

3. Instead of Diagon Alley, build a brand new Harry Potter expansion based on Fantastic Beasts in the Lower Lot. This would likely be themed to New York City and would likely feature three attractions (one or two major attractions plus a smaller attraction). Naturally, there would be no Hogwarts Express or equivalent attraction with this concept and it would be completely separate from the Hogsmeade area. I've also heard it is possible that the New York theme could expand to the entire lower lot, with most of the area set in present-day New York City while the Harry Potter area would be 1920s New York City (possibly entered through a time portal or similar).

As I always say, treat these rumors as nothing more than pure speculation for now. However, I've heard USH is looking at a 2020 or 2021 opening date for the expansion, so there should be signs by the end of this year or beginning of next year about what they are up to. If I had to guess, I would say that they'll probably commit to the location by the fall and then decide which of the concepts to build based on the reception of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

January 19, 2016 at 9:26 PM · Please be rumor #3, please be rumor #3. I would like to see transport from the upper to lower lot via something like Hogwarts Express, but I don't want Hollywood to become just a mini version of the Florida parks. I hope we get something completely new.
January 20, 2016 at 2:42 AM · I've also read that the Revenge of the Mummy is on its way out so the rumor about Diagon Alley on the lower lot might have some validity. On the other hand that area might become something else entirely, like say a new King Kong or the return of Back to the Future instead.
January 20, 2016 at 5:14 AM · I agree with Jeff D. The problem with USH is that not only does it have a lot less attractions than USF or USJ, but most of those attractions are clones of something that could be found in the other Universal parks. As a Floridian who visits USF quite often, I would love it if they could add more original stuff to USH so that I won't feel like in seeing all the same stuff again.
January 20, 2016 at 5:53 AM · "In addition, this solves the issue of what to do with Mummy once the reboot premieres next year."

A reboot does not mean The Mummy ride is not needed anymore. It should mean the ride should be overhauled. Nonetheless, replacing it with Diagon Alley is a good idea.

January 20, 2016 at 10:38 AM · Our Mummy ride is way too small to fit Diagon Alley on top of. Way way too small. Persistent rumors say that Diagon alley would be built in a space usually only accessible to guests during horror nights... that is the lower area where they set up Walking Dead and Alien v Predator.
January 20, 2016 at 1:01 PM · Buy the golf course and place Diagon Alley on it. It might not be big enough for a new theme park, but I can see 3-4 new lands on that area, or 2-3 big ones(Diagon Alley, Nintendo, Jurassic World). I just want them to keep the Mummy because that is the only real coaster there.
January 20, 2016 at 1:01 PM · Buy the golf course and place Diagon Alley on it. It might not be big enough for a new theme park, but I can see 3-4 new lands on that area, or 2-3 big ones(Diagon Alley, Nintendo, Jurassic World). I just want them to keep the Mummy because that is the only real coaster there.
January 20, 2016 at 6:00 PM · Just entered the contest! As for the rumored possibilities, I'm trying to avoid spoilers, leaks, rumors, etc. as my New Year's resolution, but I would have to agree that #3 would be the best option. Beyond the Studio Tour and Special Effects Stage, we don't really have much that can't be found at Universal Orlando.
January 20, 2016 at 11:22 PM · Would AJ's option 2 include the Hogwarts Express?
January 21, 2016 at 4:41 PM · Anon, I would like to see Mummy kept, but given the amount of space the ride takes up vs. the popularity of the attraction it makes sense to remove it for Lower Lot expansion. The ride also has capacity issues and will not be able to cope with increased crowds after the expansion and it is very likely the new area will have some type of roller coaster to replace Mummy.

Anonymous Poster 2 (64.60.147.108), my hunch is that the new area would incorporate the Mummy footprint in addition to several surrounding soundstages. Looking at an aerial view, I'm thinking most of the alley would be where Mummy is now with the Gringotts ride building replacing the soundstages to the north/northeast.

Anonymous Poster 3 (174.109.158.156), from what I've heard option 2 would include the Hogwarts Express, but the exact route is unknown. USH is built on the side of a hill so figuring out how to run a train between the two areas is a bit of a challenge.

January 24, 2016 at 12:05 AM · I honestly feel like they should put Diagon Alley in the Lower Lot instead. The Lower Lot needs more theming, but I've also heard rumors that they were planning to knock down four other soundstages behind the NBC Universal Experience area after knocking down Soundstage 28. That would be a better place to put Diagon Alley in my opinion as I'm sure most people would rather take the Hogwarts Express over the Starway. There wouldn't be enough room for the whole Hogwarts Express ride right next to Hogsmeade. Diagon Alley would not be as popular without its Gringotts ride.

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