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Universal Hollywood: New Restaurants and New No-Blackout Annual Pass

March 19, 2016, 11:33 AM · Universal Studios Hollywood has introduced a new annual pass level, one that provides admission every day of the year, and limited free parking at the complex.

The new Platinum Annual Pass costs $589 — more than half the cost of Disneyland's $1,049 two-park Signature Plus annual pass. (That's the only AP at Disneyland that also provides admission every day of the year.) Universal's new pass also includes one admission to Halloween Horror Nights, as well as priority boarding on the Studio Tour and a 15% discount on food and merchandise. Disneyland's pass includes 15% off food and 20% off merchandise and free PhotoPass downloads, but no FastPasses or special event admissions. Universal's pass includes free parking before 5pm (it's $10 after), while Disneyland's includes free parking at any time. But the biggest difference might be... there doesn't appear to be a monthly payment plan option for Universal's passes, as there is for those at Disneyland.

The new Universal Studios Hollywood Platinum pass is comparable to USH's old Premium Star Pass, which also provided 365 days of admission and free parking before 5pm — for $179. But that was before Universal added The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and completed its current transformation of the Upper Lot.

If you are curious about how the price of annual passes at USH and Disneyland compare with their siblings in Orlando, well, here's the TL;DR — they cost a lot more and cover half the number of parks. But that's the result of having nearly nine times as many people living in Southern California than in the Orlando metro area. More locals = more demand for APs = higher prices.

In other news at Universal, signs have appeared on the old Jillian's bowling alley, advertising that location will become a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. That's a popular restaurant at Universal Orlando's CityWalk and should help draw more crowds to the eastern end of Hollywood's CityWalk, which also should be helped by increased use of the nearby new E.T. parking garage.

Inside the park, the expanded Studio store and new Starbucks location are open on Universal Boulevard, Mel's Drive-In has reopened after a long refurbishment just up the street from that, and the grab-and-go Studio Cafe has replaced the Universal Experience on the Lower Lot.

Finally, Universal is completing its new entry plaza, which now features a semi-circle of covered metal detectors establishing a security perimeter around the iconic Universal globe. The park also has added dozens of self-service ticketing kiosks on the entry plaza, for visitors who don't need personal assistance and who didn't do the smart thing and buy their tickets in advance, and usually for a discount, online.

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Replies (18)

March 19, 2016 at 11:53 AM · There's another big difference between USH and Disneyland: the USH Platinum Pass is for one park. Disneyland passes give you access to two parks.
March 20, 2016 at 2:05 PM · Ouch, for that price I think I'll just do a VIP experience once a year.
March 19, 2016 at 12:35 PM · What Universal Hollywood opincluding Harry Potter, Disneyland is the better pass because it has parks with more attractions and more repeat value. I thought Universal would not offer this option, and I sttill expect it to happen at Disney. Disney needs to do everything they can to control the holiday crowd, and I though Universal had the right idea getting rid of a pass that works every single day of the year. But for what it costs, I doubt many will buy Universal's pass anywhere. Up I just don't see it as a good value for many people.
March 19, 2016 at 2:48 PM · I think a large part of the appeal of Disneyland to locals is that it's a nice place to just hang out, and maybe catch the Paint the Night parade and a few attractions. I think the success of Universal's AP will depend similarly on the hangout appeal of Hogsmeade, Springfield, CityWalk and the park in general.
March 19, 2016 at 3:01 PM · I agree with Randy. I doubt they'll sell many of them. Too high priced for the value. But I'm sure there is a segment of people that want it, so it's worth having the option.
March 19, 2016 at 3:12 PM · All my Harry Potter loving friends will be thrilled.
March 19, 2016 at 3:46 PM · I picked up an entry level USH Annual Pass like a month ago for somewhere between $120 and $140 - I forget exactly, it was some temporary SoCal resident deal thingie. I'm schlepping down there again tomorrow for some sort of free AP event concerning WWOHP (granting me entry on a blackout date!).

Maybe it's a timeshare-style sales pitch for this Platinum Pass. I ain't gonna get it - the low-level AP satisfies all my USH needs for the year. I'll just nod, listen to their pitch, take my free golf clubs, and go ride Forbidden Journey another 11 times.

If they do indeed bring up the Platinum Pass, I'll come back here to kvetch about it.

March 19, 2016 at 3:52 PM · Meanwhile I pay $69.99... Get free parking... Can visit 13 parks... And some free events... And can bring my friends for $15.99... At Six Flags.
March 19, 2016 at 3:55 PM · It seems like they're preparing for the crush of Potter fever, and giving a high price option for people who really want it. Disneyland could learn a lesson here.
March 20, 2016 at 5:11 AM · Universal Hollywood has limited space and capacity. For those diehard Potter fans, this pass may be an option. Raising prices will definitely help this park control crowds.
March 20, 2016 at 9:18 AM · Still waiting for them to sell a 2 and 3 day pass. The ticket options are ridiculous. I may wait until the fall to see Harry Potter.
March 20, 2016 at 10:39 AM · This is quite possibly the biggest rip-off I've ever head of in the amusement park industry. So USH's platinum AP is 56% of the cost of DLR's Signature Plus AP, but yet USH only has about 20% of the attractions that DLR has. Plus parking's only free before 5 PM?!?!? What the heck even DL's signature plus gives you free parking throughout the whole day. Plus, the signature plus gives you unlimited photo pass downloads. Wow USH is really overestimating their demand. The only way I can justify paying this much for an USH pass is if it included free parking throughout the whole day, more priorities, and unlimited admission to Halloween Horror Nights with a one time FOL pass included. Oh and they'd have to throw in a personal meet and greet with John Murdy... Then I might finally cave in and pay $580 for an USH pass.
March 20, 2016 at 12:30 PM · Serious question. Is this the most expensive single park AP in the entire world? Tokyo Disney charges 59,000 yen (USD529) for their single park passes. The top level Universal Japan pass is only 28,800 yen (USD258).
March 20, 2016 at 5:09 PM · This is a ridiculously overpriced AP, at nearly 70% the DL Signature (not plus) that gets you in all but 2 weeks of the year (who wants to go during the crazy crowded Christmas weeks anyway) to 2 parks. USH is at best a one day park, maybe 1.5 with HP compared to DLR's 2 parks that takes at a minimum of 3 days to see everything. I LOVE HP and have been waiting for it to come to CA after seeing it in Orlando, but no way in the world is it worth over $500.
March 21, 2016 at 6:32 AM · Disney should just send them a bottle of champagne because this move by universal will just give Disney a convenient excuse to raise tge prices on their Annual passes to maybe $900+. Disney annual passes won't crack the $1000 threshold just yet. But they will, just a matter of time not if.
March 21, 2016 at 11:52 AM · Old Premium star pass, with parking $179, Annual pass year long photo downloads $35, Halloween Horror Nights ticket, $40-$80. This math does not add up to $589. You have one park USH, and very few attractions. You need to slow down.
March 21, 2016 at 12:21 PM · Yeowser, did you not read the article carefully? Disneyland's Signature Plus pass is already over $1000.

March 21, 2016 at 11:55 PM · I've said it before and I still stand by it: USH is preparing for the worst case scenario and will make adjustments as necessary. It's obvious that there is demand for an unrestricted pass with parking and other benefits, but USH knows what happened at the park down south and is going to make guests who want the top pass pay top dollar for it. Once crowds begin to diminish after Harry Potter mania subsides, I wouldn't be surprised to see discounts or perhaps a payment plan on the pass.

The other question is value: Is it worth spending $589 to buy a Platinum Pass to USH? That depends 100% on the individual and is not a yes or no question. The next level pass (Gold) has 52 blackout dates, does not include parking, and does not include a Halloween Horror Nights Ticket. All the other benefits are the same. Therefore, assuming my rough math is correct, you need to visit USH on at least three of the blackout dates (or two with a Halloween Horror Nights visit), or visit at least 15 times in a year (or 12 plus Halloween Horror Nights) to justify the Platinum Pass. If you will not be doing the above, there is no need to purchase the Platinum Pass and you are free to pretend it doesn't exist.

With the rise of multi-tiered annual passes and the current prices theme parks charge, it has become necessary to analyze your needs before buying. Far too many people look only at the highest tier option instead of what they actually should be looking at.

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