Attendance continues down at Universal Orlando

October 20, 2009, 11:41 AM · Lots of interesting stuff in Universal Orlando's third-quarter report, released today by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Universal Studios Florida

  • Attendance declined 11 percent in the third quarter (July-September) of 2009 versus the same three-month period in 2008, from 3,262,000 turnstile admissions to 2,958,000. Visitors, on average, paid about 90 cents more per visit to get into the park, but spent about 9 percent less on food, beverages and merchandise per visit than the same time last year.

    Overall, ticket revenue was down 9 percent, food and beverage down 16 percent and merchandise revenue was down almost 19 percent. Universal noted that the attendance decline was greater among international visitors than domestic ones.

    For the first nine months of 2009, attendance is down nearly 13 percent from 2008, from 8,838,000 admissions to 7,705,000.
    Harry Potter can't open soon enough.

    (By the way, I'm hearing from inside sources that Universal is opening the checkbook wide to get Harry Potter open on time. Happy times for some contractors in the Orlando area!)

  • It looks like Universal Orlando is off the hook for buying out Steven Spielberg for another seven years. The film director currently gets a cut off Universal Orlando's gross revenue, a deal that continue forever. But Spielberg has an option for a buy-out, which would pay him a substantial amount (potentially hundreds of millions of dollars) up front, in exchange for terminating the percentage deal. Buried about halfway down the report is the news that Spielberg has agreed to delay that option date from April 2010 to 2017.

    Since exercising the buy-out would "affect the company's liquidity" (in other words, completely screw Universal's bank account), the looming buy-out date was making investors nervous about refinancing the theme parks' debt. Moving that date back will help the company get the refinancing it needs, since investors will know that big hit can't possibly come before 2017. (If it ever comes at all.)

    Please feel free to click to the report and post in the comments if you find anything else of interest.

    Replies (5)

    October 20, 2009 at 12:07 PM · On behalf of the people of Central Florida: "Thank you Mr. Spielberg!"
    October 20, 2009 at 12:12 PM · So E.T gets to live?
    October 20, 2009 at 5:42 PM · It has been almost three long years since me and mine visited Universal Orlando, and with everything being added, Universal is HIGH on my list of places to visit.

    We'll be back in either May or September of 2010, and we simply cannot wait.

    October 21, 2009 at 12:46 AM · Could Universal's free ticket promo during the Super Bowl have anything to do with ticket revenues being down? Just wondering. (My boyfriend, his son and I went there in July, and none of us had to buy a ticket at the gate. My boyfriend and I had won tickets in the Super Bowl promo, and we'd bought a ticket for his son at our local AAA.) I'm not saying this promo would be entirely responsible for a decline, but I'd think it would play some role. Any statistics on how many freebies have been used versus the number distributed?
    October 21, 2009 at 8:33 AM · Zachary and I were at Universal in July, and the crowds were light in the morning and moderate in the afternoon-evening. I had bought us the buy 3 get 7 days deal online. We spent one day at each park, getting multiple rides on the best ones and decided not to use the rest of the ticket. So I guess Universal can count us as a loss in attendance.

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