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Universal Studios Hollywood reveals theme park expansion plan

June 22, 2016, 12:08 PM · Universal Studios Hollywood is preparing to remove and relocate several of its soundstages to clear space to expand the theme park, according to five-year plan provided to Variety.

Universal plans to remove 13 soundstages from six buildings on the front part of its Lower Lot, while building 10 new soundstages on its Back Lot, according to the plan. The stages that will be removed surround the Transformers: The Ride 3D building on the theme park's Lower Lot, where Universal recently demolished Stage 28, the old Phantom of the Opera stage. That now-vacant space is widely expected to be the site of the new The Secret Lives of Pets dark ride that NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke confirmed the company is developing.

The removal of the additional soundstages provides Universal with even more space to expand the theme park, which has enjoyed several years of strong attendance growth, thanks to the addition of new attractions such as Transformers, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Springfield USA and Fast & Furious - Supercharged, all leading up to April's debut of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

But Universal's not giving up on film and television production. By building 10 new soundstages on the backlot, the studio can modernize its facility to accommodate the needs of today's online and television productions. "Most of the studios were designed many, many years ago, and much of it was not in a master plan and it was designed for a different type of production in a different era," Michael Moore, president and general manager of NBCUniversal Studio Operations Group, told Variety.

New USH plan
Map of the proposed Universal Lower Lot changes, as provided to Variety.

Universal will build the new soundstages on land that will fill the current "Creature from the Black Lagoon" lake on the Back Lot, meaning the end of the old "Parting of the Red Sea"/Skull Island miniature encounter currently featured on the Studio Tour. Construction is scheduled to begin next year and will be completed in two phases over 2017 and 2018. Ultimately, Universal will end up with an additional 11,000 feet of soundstage production space, despite the net loss in the number of soundstages.

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Replies (8)

June 22, 2016 at 12:50 PM · Anyone remember when you would take the studio tour and see actual productions being filmed?
June 22, 2016 at 1:04 PM · I get it's adapting to the future but still feels a link to Hollywood's past lost without the real shooting stages around.
June 22, 2016 at 2:18 PM · The real shooting stages will be moved further to the back so you'll see them from the tram. Seeing movie production from the tram was always its plan from the start.

They will remove the Fire Station right below the Jurassic Park ride. Not sure what its removal will bring. The removal of the six blue soundstages next to the Transformers and The Mummy will change the look of the lower lot. The walkways are narrow. They need a way of improving the way the park is laid out. If they decide to remove The Mummy, they should remove the entire building. This is where Diagon Alley should go with a working train station to bring people from the top to the bottom. I always hated the steep escalators.

June 22, 2016 at 6:44 PM · This is what I expected would be announced yesterday instead of just a logo. Based on what I've been hearing, my guess is the following will happen:

-Secret Life of Pets will go into the purple building directly adjacent to Transformers. This would be for 2017.
-The Studio Tour loading area will be relocated to the Lower Lot, replacing the two buildings on the left. This would be for 2019.
-Nintendo Land will be built on the Lower Lot, utilizing the area of the four buildings to the right of Transformers as well as the space currently occupied by Revenge of the Mummy. This would be for 2021.

If the above happens, Harry Potter part two would likely replace Waterworld or the current Studio Tour loading area on the Upper Lot, though it's curious it isn't marked because that was supposed to be a 2020 project.

June 22, 2016 at 9:34 PM · I would hate to see a soundstage of such an iconic movie such as Phantom of the Opera gone. Then again, it didn't sound like they were using it for anything.
June 23, 2016 at 8:37 AM · AJ: Will Nintendo take up that much space? That's a lot.

I'm surprised that you hear Harry Potter will replace Water World or the Tram Loading Platform. There's not enough space there and the lack of separation from Hogsmead makes no sense... unless they don't do Diagon Alley and try a new Harry Potter theme. It might not be as grand, but how about the Ministry of Magic.

Of course, they could do a Diagon Alley without the stores since it'll be redundant to have nearly the same stores as the village of Hogsmead. Just have fake store fronts that lead to the Escape from Gringotts ride.

Will Universal add theming to the lower lot? The mismatch of different attractions so close to each other means there won't be an attempt to make Universal into a more traditional theme park.

June 23, 2016 at 10:26 AM · Exciting news. Universal is making rapid strides. Universal should buy Knott's Berry Farm in order to provide a complete alternative for Disney fans fleeing the Bob Iger and Bob Chapek greed machine.
June 23, 2016 at 12:30 PM · Anon, I've heard Nintendo Land may be as big as 10 acres (for reference, Wizarding World of Harry Potter is 6). The space I described is 7-8 acres I believe. The land will reportedly contain one major attraction and a couple smaller attractions, so I expect it to be a little larger than Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

As for Harry Potter, there's a reason I always call it Harry Potter part two instead of Diagon Alley...from what I've heard, it is most likely not going to be Diagon Alley. Like you mentioned, having many similar shops doesn't really make a lot of sense, and there is just no practical way to do the Hogwarts Express at USH. Additionally, while the current land has been a success it has not been quite as big of a success as hoped, so they are a bit wary about putting another copy in at this time. Therefore, I've heard the likely ideas are either an expansion of Hogsmeade or an area based on Fantastic Beasts (provided that does well).

There is going to be a general theme added to the lower lot over the next few years, but I don't know what it will be. My hunch is that they may go for a New York/general city theme, but I have nothing to back that up.

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