Lack of attractions based on Universal films

February 15, 2017, 3:53 PM

When you go through the lineup of Universal Orlando attractions, you may notice that a decent amount of the rides aren't based on Universal films: Simpsons, the new Kong, Marvel, Potter, Seuss and only up until recently, Shrek. Why doesn't UO promote more of their own films in the parks?

Replies (11)

Edited: February 15, 2017, 5:32 PM

I would suggest reading "JayBangs" to get an idea about the philosophy. They don't see the park as a way to promote their products per se (unlike Disney, where the park began as a Saturday night informercial... sorry, treasured TV series), they look for stories and experiences that they can create around an IP - even if it is someone else's IP.

February 15, 2017, 6:30 PM

Here's why Disney did not make deals with other studios until long after Walt's death. Walt did not want to work with other studios because of what happened to him at Universal with Oswald. He created his own studio so he could have control of his characters. Disney continued this after Walt's death, until Star Tours.

Universal was more concerned about the best attractions, no matter what studio owned them. They did not have as strong of a library for theme park attractions despite being the older, and until recently,the bigger studio. Universal used other studios because they had to. Walt developed a library that easily lent itself to them park attraction, Universal did not.

Edited: February 15, 2017, 10:19 PM

Just look up "Universal Movies" on Google and you'll see why.

Universal has already made rides based on the majority of their most popular films and the movies they haven't made attractions for yet wouldn't be able to translate well into theme parks (these include Pyscho, the Lorax, the Bourne movies and Pitch Perfect).

February 17, 2017, 7:21 AM

Frankly it's all about marketing.

Major Hollywood Studios nowadays work less on a system where they use to produce their own films as products of their studio and what they could accomplish (MGM was known for musicals, WB for crime noir, Universal for horror, etc.) That system has relatively faded away and major studios make more deals with smaller companies, acting as a distributor. Of course there are exceptions such as the upcoming universal monster universe and WB's DC cinematic universe.

In the case of Harry Potter, WB has a traditional theme park relationship with six flags however one would assume they could see the potential in marketing through that particular theme park chain would be severely limited as opposed to what Universal could accomplish in theme park design. Deals were struck. As long as somebody in a nice suit is making money, we will always have the chance to become part of those movies we know and love regardless of park and studio :)

February 17, 2017, 8:41 AM

I'm not sure whether it was Warner's call on Harry Potter. My understanding is that the Theme Park Rights were JK Rowling's to sell, as I know she placed conditions on it such as drinks with High Fructose corn syrup (ie - Coke) being unavailable in the Wizarding world.

February 17, 2017, 9:31 AM

Is this why Paramount got out of the theme park business? When they were running Kings Dominion, they seemed to be focus solely on their films... which didn't end up creating the most exciting rides... and in many cases, the cultural importance of those movies severely declined over the years... so something like "The Italian Job" didn't mean anything to most people after a while... and of course, now its simply "Backlot Stunt Coaster". "Wayne's World" probably had a little longer cultural play... but still not something necessarily associated with the Hurler roller coaster (who knows where that one will end up).

Edited: February 20, 2017, 8:26 AM

Studios, especially major ones, don't work the same way they did 100 years ago. Most of the major studios are not actually producing films. They are distributing the movies and/or financing the production of the film, and by doing so get a small cut of the gross revenue. Big studios do still wholly finance productions, but it's growing increasingly rare, especially as many Middle Eastern and Asian financiers have gotten into the game (H-Brothers, Ali Baba, etc...). It's gotten to the point now that we're seeing 5 and 6 studios all putting money at stake on films, so there are very few these days that movies are produced and distributed by a single studio. Disney is one of the few studios that is still producing films the old way, but as we're seeing with Star Wars and some of the Marvel franchises (like Spiderman, Deadpool, and X-Men/Wolverine), there is still some level of sharing the risk/reward.

The movie business these days is kinda like a gambler walking into a casino and spreading their chips across 20 or more numbers on a roulette wheel instead of putting all their chips on 2 or 3 numbers. It lowers the risk, but in doing so, it also reduces the studios' control of productions and freedom to license the titles and make money after a film is successful. Because Disney has leveraged their investment on some of the most recognizable franchises in movie history (right now), they are able to maintain the old way of financing movies. However, Hollywood, just like everything else, goes through cycles, and at some point the gravy train will end, and Disney will eventually have to spend more capital to buy more IPs or will adapt to the new way of doing business by spreading their investments across more projects.

February 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Seems clear to me that Universal's films are not ready made for theme park cross promotion unlike Disney's movies that focus on kids and families as their primary audience with films that are clearly franchises with a solid merchandising line. It is certainly possible for Disney to mess things up too. Look at what they did to The Muppets television series. A show that has a ready made family audience decides to skew adult and thus, lose their audience and damage their theme park prospects. It doesn't help that Disney hasn't updated The Muppets 3-D movie at DHS for over 20 years and the movie hasn't returned to DCA.

The Secret Life of Pets will get a sequel, but the attraction coming to Universal Studios Hollywood seems dead. Not going to happen.

February 20, 2017, 1:28 PM

Russell Meyer, Marvel sold the film rights to X-Men Spiderman and Deadpool years before Disney bought Marvel, and before Marvel started making their own films. Disney owns Marvel and Lucasfilm, so they're not sharing the risk or the reward, it's all on them. Disney does distribute films from other studios, most notably Dreamworks live action, but they're the least involved with such deals of the major studios. After Eisner failed to come up with a new deal with Pixar, Disney decided they would rather own the studios and the films they distribute, and not have to worry about negotiations ending.

Edited: February 20, 2017, 3:05 PM

Disney/Lucasfilm is splitting production costs with JJ Abrams' Bad Robot, but you've made my point that Disney is on the hook with almost everything they release, feast or famine (John Carter From Mars or Lone Ranger anyone???)

Disney/Marvel has since repurchased producing rights for Spiderman from Sony, giving the studio greater creative control. I would expect a similar deal in the near future for X-Men (and Fantastic 4, since those rights would probably be really cheap to acquire right now) from 20th Century Fox. Even without a deal, Marvel (owned now by Disney) still has a stake in the X-Men/Deadpool property, and shares some production costs with Fox on those films that based on the success of Logan, may get reacquired under a different banner that would allow Disney to release the successful R-rated movies without tarnishing the Disney family-friendly brand.

None of that change the fact that Disney is still operating in an old-school way here by sole-producing just about everything they release (mostly through acquisition, or what in the business world is called "inorganic growth"). Certainly they've found tons of success recently from their purchases, but as has happened historically, what's popular today is not necessarily what will be popular tomorrow. By owning sole-production rights to most of their movies, they do maintain creative control and future licensing rights, but they're taking on the inevitable risk of failure. It may not happen in the next 5 years, but at some point, people will grow tired of Marvel and Star Wars, leaving Disney with a cupboard full of content nobody wants.

All of the other major studios have learned from the past, and instead of sole-producing films, they're co-producing with other studios to not only leverage their assets across a broader set of releases, but to have easy access to a much larger library of films that could be used in the future for licensing or other ventures.

The old school approach is definitely working for Disney right now (they've been the highest grossing studio in the world for 2 years in a row and owned 26.9% market share), but one day the gravy train will end, and Disney will need to adapt to the new way of producing film, or be left to history like MGM, RKO, and United Artists.

February 21, 2017, 11:01 AM

My guess once the MCU is finished, we will probably see only one or two Disney/Marvel movies a year. At some point, people will get tired of superhero movies, like they did with westerns in the late 70s and early 80s. Disney will keep profiting off of Marvel Marvel with TV shows, comic books, and merchandise, but movies will become much more scarce.

As for Star Wars, every movie so far has been widely profitable at the box office, but there's no way that can continue if a Star Wars movie comes out every single year. Eventually Star Wars fans will realize Disney is pandering to them, and they won't see every movie in the same universe as Star Wars 10 times. Make a movie every 5 years, and fans will be happy but won't be tired. There's only so many stories that can be told in one universe, and a new movie every single year is not sustainable.

Back to theme parks, Disney has been much smarter than Universal. There's no guarantees Universal and Rowling will always be in agreement, and the deal could someday end, meaning Universal would have to start over. At least if Disney and James Cameron would fail, it's only one land in one park. Universal has Harry Potter as a significant draw at almost every single park. Who knows is Universal, Warner Brothers, and Rowling will always be in agreement. I wouldn't be surprised if Universal someday bought the films and film rights from Warner Brothers, and the rights to the books and the characters from Rowling. It would cost Universal a fortune, but it would be worth it to make sure Harry Potter could be not yanked out of their parks.

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