Published: August 7, 2009 at 12:34 PM

I noticed a few differences in Universal Orlando last weekend... 1st and foremost was the drop in employees, there were fewer staff members at all of the rides than I noticed in April. 2nd - the lines did not exist on a Sunny Sunday at 1PM - Simpsons was a back to back ride with less than 20 minutes combined. The Mummy - Ditto - Spiderman and Men in Black - all quicker than normal - only the coasters were busy and seldom more than a 40 minute wait posted. The Rip Ride Rocket - was going through empty seat weight testing all afternoon. The security guard at the Hard Rock side park entrance said that they were talking about fall before they would again reopen to the public. I was surprised - last year summer was a waiting nightmare - this year ...both parks - multiple rides per attraction - in and out in 6 hours...
Anthony Murphy

Published: August 7, 2009 at 1:00 PM

I think the difference is that Disney (mostly WDW) is not building some big stuff like Universal down the street. In the CA arena, Disney is building like crazy while Universal is building some attractions too.

Disney went conservative in 2009 and likely 2010 with rolling out new rides all over the place. Universal is giving the people new lands and ride at all of its parks. However, in the long run, I think Universal needs to stay fresh and to date.

Still, both looking very good for the times we are in!

Published: August 7, 2009 at 3:40 PM

I think Universal did the right thing this year. This summer has been like few others when it comes to simple economics. People are not spending a lot of money and aren't going on long vacations. We are in a recession, and it's foolish for a company to keep operating like we aren't. Everybody is great when economic times are good, but it's the bad times that separate the men from the boys. Universal has had a rough year, but so has everyone else in the industry. 2009 isn't about attendance and profit for the Orlando parks, it's about riding out the economic storm and keeping your eyes on the future. Disney chose to maintain it's operation and heavily discount, and it brought them flat attendance and economic pain. Universal temporarily cut it's budget and offered smaller discounts. That brought them fewer guests, but more money. I'm sure that Disney would rather have Universal's result than their own.

Now Universal is in a stable financial position for the future. Not only that, they also have some huge attractions opening up soon. When the economy picks back up, those going to Orlando will see the new coaster and Harry Potter land, and all of the sudden Universal will look pretty appealing. Disney will be left recovering from the previous year with nothing new to speak of. Time will tell how they deal with it.

Published: August 7, 2009 at 3:46 PM

theme parks are no differant than any other business and must stay alive by cutting back on servises until the climate changes and it will. i have worked at silver dollar city for four seasons and it is not fun here for anybody but we must all keep trying to give our guests the best servise possible. being friedly and keeping a clean park does not cost a thing and that will bring more in and most important bring them back.

Published: August 8, 2009 at 5:46 AM

Well, as others have mentioned and predicted, the regionals are taking up the slack. My experience here in the Midwest leads me to believe a lot of travelers are opting for the staycation, or at least, the next state over. Both Kings Island and Cedar Point appear to be having good seasons, with long waits for signature rides and healthy crowds buying food and drink even at the airport-level prices they charge in the parks. So it's easy to see how the giants like Disney and Universal would have to run the numbers and decide whether to pay for the advertising, or to rely on those locals with annuals (and spill-over from the other destinations, like in LA and Orlando...).

Published: August 8, 2009 at 7:34 AM

not really commenting on the situation regarding disney or universal.
i stay in the uk, and through e-mails with a cousin of mine, who stays in the USA and without attempting to identify him, we were talking about my trip to orlando, and how he is due down there next week, as the company that are operating Rip Ride Rocket (german im told) have major issues with wiring and technical difficulties on this ride, as well as it was forecast it could run seven trains, but more likely no more than four. he told me that his company have a hand in this project, and they ran the trains for 700 cycles last weekend, and on inspection found cracks in the steel on the trains! he also informed me that they have a meeting with the top top management of universal next week, where i am led to believe they will take over the project, the germans will be removed, they will face possible legal action, and also have had payment held (so i am led to believe.) he also informed me that this ride may not be open to the public till ocotber. he also promised to keep me informed. maybe this issue has not helped universal's year, although i am no expert. hope this may clear up some issues with the RRR.
Anthony J

Published: August 8, 2009 at 11:15 AM

I'm not surprised by the fact that Universal's had to do so many cutbacks.. My close friend is a former employee of Universal who lost his job as part of the cutbacks. But I have to say, these cutbacks had zero effect on my experience as a guest in the parks this summer. Well, other than a few closed food stands too many, there was nothing that glaringly said "cutbacks" other than what we've seen for months or years, like the fire in Jaws and the water vortex in Poseidon's Fury. So for the most part, they're doing it right.
TH Creative

Published: August 8, 2009 at 7:16 PM

To the anonymous poster who wrote: "Now Universal is in a stable financial position for the future."

I Respond: You're kidding, right?

The Orlando Sentinel: "Orlando's No. 2 theme-park resort is warning that it could face a cash crunch by next spring, as turmoil in the credit markets -- and an obscure clause in its long-standing contract with famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg -- complicate its efforts to restructure nearly $1 billion of debt. If Universal Orlando is unable to rework the loans in coming months, it could be forced to slash spending on new attractions, seek more money from its owners or even put a piece of the resort up for sale."

All balance sheets aside there is one fundamental reason I believe Universal will persevere: They build better rides than Disney. PERIOD!

Derek Potter

Published: August 8, 2009 at 8:20 PM

I think Universal will be fine. Obviously they would have liked to had more attendance so far, but the fact that they have turned profit in a down year kinda means they've kept things stable for the time being. There's always something looming with a park company. Several chains have released that same warning the past year or two about debt restructuring and how it may not happen. If Cedar Fair can get it's line of credit increased and extended for a couple of years like it recently did, than surely Universal's deep pockets will get them through these tough economic times, and surely they can figure out a way to pay the bills.

It would seem to me that Universal chose not to gamble with the money they had and profited, while Disney placed their bets and lost profit. This is still a business, and the object of the game is two-fold. Entertain the heck out of people and make money doing it. Would you rather have Universal be like Six Flags a few years ago...ignore the bottom line and spend themselves into oblivion? I didn't think you would, so good for Universal for being wise with their money and recognizing their position and the 2009 Orlando summer for what it is....which is to say a time to hold on.

The economy will eventually get on the right track. The issues with the new coaster will be fixed and the Harry Potter attractions will be open by next year. Disney will likely have made cuts and will be charging for things they didn't used to charge for...wait they already started that one.