Could Universal Orlando finally have the green light to build another park?

April 12, 2018, 9:49 AM · Universal Orlando has cleared a legal hurdle that stood in the way of its building another theme park... and it's picked up another big chunk of land for that potential expansion in the process.

The Orlando Business Journal reports that Universal has settled a lawsuit with Georgia developer Stan Thomas, which could have blocked Universal's plans to develop the more than 500 acres it owns near the Orange County Convention Center.

Thomas had claimed that private restrictions against theme park development on the property, placed back when Universal originally owned the land and sold it to Thomas, still remained in force.

Thomas lost some of the land in foreclosure in the early 2000s, but retained control of a considerable chunk of property in the area. However Universal and Thomas settled their dispute, it appears that Universal now has picked up another big chunk of Thomas' land.

Deeds filed today with Orange County show that Universal's SLRC Holdings bought several parcels, as well as usage rights, from Thomas and companies associated with him, the OBJ reported. That could give Universal approximately 1,000 acres of land to work with in the area — more than enough for a new theme park, as well as associated hotels, convention and retail facilities.

News about Universal's plans for future attractions in Orlando has slowed a bit as Universal was bogged down by the dispute over its legal rights to use its property. If Universal is going to build a fourth (or third, if you don't count Volcano Bay) theme park on the land, that affects Universal's decision on where to place new attractions based on Nintendo and Dreamworks Animation, for which Universal owns the U.S. theme park rights.

Do new attractions go into Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure... or into a potential new park? After all, if Universal is building an entire new park, it's going to need IP to fill it. With the legal dispute out of the way, Universal now has one fewer roadblock standing it its way as it looks to promote its vision for an expanded resort in Central Florida.

Replies (53)

April 12, 2018 at 10:20 AM ·

This is great news! I hope they build a third theme park and use it for video game-related attractions, thereby, giving it a loose theme. I always liked the idea of USO = movies, IOA = literature and comics, and third park = video games. Nintendo in particular has so much potential that it is really a shame to group so many different characters and areas into one single 'Nintendo land.'

April 12, 2018 at 10:22 AM ·

The theme would be tricky. Not sure what kind of original theming can be and they've already used Harry Potter for the two main parks. Might be something a bit smaller but Universal does have a great track record for putting out amazing stuff.

April 12, 2018 at 10:26 AM ·

I was surprised to see how far east along Sand Lake Road the property extends. The civil improvements currently being completed on Sand Lake should help with the added traffic heading into that property.

Let's meet up there in 2023.

April 12, 2018 at 10:27 AM ·

A new take on Jaws and Back to the Future would be a must for this new park!

April 12, 2018 at 11:12 AM ·

With 5 movies under its belt and a sixth on the way, I think it would be cool to see a much larger Jurassic Park/World land. The jeep ride could finally become a reality.

April 12, 2018 at 11:19 AM ·

I'd also love to see a 'retro' land, with reimagined rides, based on past Universal attractions. BTTF, Jaws, Terminator, Ghostbusters. Who wouldn't want to see those IP's make a new, state-of-the-art return?!

April 12, 2018 at 11:20 AM ·

Game of Thrones!

A guy can dream, can’t he? :(

April 12, 2018 at 11:27 AM ·


April 12, 2018 at 11:28 AM ·

Universal should consider making less gross horror movies and more family friendly franchises for their theme parks.

April 12, 2018 at 11:44 AM ·

Movies are not made for theme parks Anton, they're made for theaters.

Horror movies are hugely profitable right now, and Universal is one of the leaders in the genre. They would get hammered on Wall Street if they suddenly turned tail and shifted production costs from profitable horror movies to family films that may or may not be popular enough to be put into theme parks.

The decisions of a movie studio should never be made with theme parks in mind.

April 12, 2018 at 11:50 AM ·

Nintendo, Lord of the Rings, Dreamworks, Secret Life of Pets, Fantastic Beasts, Jurassic World. We know that someone signed a contract with Lions Gate years ago and we haven't heard anything since can assume that Universal would be the only one willing to sit on it for so long. Ride tech has come such a long way that contemplating a Ghostbusters ride would be reasonable. There is also the long-standing desire to get the Universal Monsters franchise established in the parks.

April 12, 2018 at 11:55 AM ·

With DreamWorks Animation portfolio they alone could fill a fun park. How to train your dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Trolls could fill a nice area. Their Illumination movies like Despicable me, Sing and Secret Lives of Dogs also need to be there. Nintendo probably shifts to the new park in a bigger form. Lord of the Rings is now at Amazon so the ip could find a way to Universal. Then there is Fantastical beasts and where to find them and you could have a nice family park with plenty of castles and dark rides to win over new guests.

April 12, 2018 at 12:25 PM ·

I want Universal to do a "haunted house" attraction. I always thought the creepy mansion from the Resident Evil, 1st video game would make a great dark ride.

April 12, 2018 at 12:29 PM ·

Great news! I have to disagree with the theme park purists that want a consistent theme across an entire park. While it's rightly become the industry trend to build immersive lands comprised of a themed ride or two plus themed dining, shops, etc. I see no reason why one theme needs to extend to an entire park. Could Universal build an entire park around Nintendo, Pokemon, and Warcraft? Probably. But a 100% video game park would keep away some potential visitors while not really adding any others. The video game fans will come whether it's 30%, 50%, or 100% video games.

April 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM ·

GOT!!!!! Bend the Knee!!!!

April 12, 2018 at 12:58 PM ·

Both Disney and Universal have figured out that the key to increasing profits is to basically force-upsell tickets to more parks.

I can pretty much guarantee there will be a Harry Potter area in the 3rd Universal park. Why? The same reason they have it in two parks, because it would mean that those that want to see Harry Potter now have to buy a more expensive ticket for three parks.

Same goes for WDW. Avatar at DAK, Guardians at Epcot, Tron at MK, and Star Wars at DHS. Why put big movie franchises in all four parks? Because it forces people that are into that kind of thing to buy the 4 park tickets. A lot of people confused about why they would put Frozen at Epcot but it makes perfect sense. A lot of parents figured they could skip Epcot because there were not many kids attractions. NOPE.

Make no mistake about it, business is business anywhere you go.

April 12, 2018 at 1:07 PM ·

Russell: I read that Universal will be making more theme park attractions from it's own catalog than licensing movie IP from other movie studios. Whether or not you think Universal's movies should be made for theaters and not theme parks, Disney doesn't have the same concerns since all their major box office successes are tailor made for the theme parks and merchandising opportunities. So why can't Universal do the same? Unless they really don't want to and are hamstrung by horror movies, then they can't. It's more imperative now that Universal design attractions around their movies after Disney acquires Fox. Fox already licenses their movie properties to other theme park, thus, even Fox has more exploitable IP than Universal.

April 12, 2018 at 1:09 PM ·

This genre would eat up a gaming industry themed park. I really believe they can find other successful IPs from Capcom or Blizzard. Truly looking forward to what they do with Nintendo. More land to use makes the possibility even more interesting. If they can score Pokemon that'll be a huge win. If they decide to not make this park video game heavy, I'd really love to see a Godzilla type of ride or an immersive Dreamworks land with How to Train your Dragon or Kung Fu panda being put to use. Really exciting to be a theme park fan right now.

April 12, 2018 at 1:18 PM ·

Universal is not "hamstrung" by horror movies. They're good business, and they'd be stupid to shift those resources to other genres.

It's smart for Universal to make more attractions based on their own IP. It's cheaper, easier to control, and there are always the carry-over effects if a franchise can have longevity. However, movie studios don't make decisions about what movies to make with theme parks in mind. They can't...Certainly Universal can try to shift some production resources to more family friendly (thus more theme park friendly) projects, but in the end, the studio is in business to make money, and the theme park business is on its own.

Disney has the luxury of being a fully integrated company with a long history of cooperation between their theme park and film divisions. Universal doesn't have that, and Comcast doesn't appear to be interested in developing that.

April 12, 2018 at 1:22 PM ·

The horror movie debate is kind of a moot point. It's not as though Universal allocates so many resources to making horror flicks that it hamstrings their ability to invest in big budget tentpoles. In fact the profitability of those films probably increases Universal's ability to fund more ambitious projects.

April 12, 2018 at 1:29 PM ·

Seems like a moot point to me. Even if Universal cut back on all their inexpensive horror flicks, how many more big budget tentpole projects could they invest in? One more per year, if even?

April 12, 2018 at 1:58 PM ·

Universal functions more like a distributor than an originator of horror flicks. Where Universal invests in movies, it's a big hit and miss. That's why it's more important to focus on family friendly franchises. I believe Universal relies on horror movies as a hedge on its failing live action movie slate. Of course, movie studios don't consider theme parks when making movies. That would be silly, but it is equally silly to not consider the ancillary benefits from investing in movies more people enjoy watching. This means the G and PG crowd and merchandising with toys and Happy Meals.

April 12, 2018 at 2:13 PM ·

Wondering if Universal might not be better off holding off on the "Nintendo land" and save it for this. Ah, well, again sure they can fit in something else and would love something a bit more original than just based on movies and such as so much potential.

April 12, 2018 at 3:02 PM ·

Anton...we get it. You don't like horror movies and you clearly don't like that Universal is so heavily invested in them. As has been pointed out, they are huge business and it would be completely foolish to turn away from that. Additionally, Universal is heavily invested in horror in its theme parks (hello horror nights) and again makes them a lot of money.

April 12, 2018 at 2:52 PM ·

Anton, it sounds like you're saying the same thing as me yet coming to a different conclusion. If they just act more like a distributor of lower budget films then there's not really much correlation in how much the invest in those horror movies vs. how much they are able to invest in big budget family movies. You can make the argument that they need to do more with family movies, but you can't really connect that to their activities in the horror genre.

April 12, 2018 at 3:12 PM ·

Merely distributing horror and dramatic movies leaves no room for theme park franchises, which I argue they should leave room for a few. Horror nights is exactly one to two months of the year. The Walking Dead is another property they choose to license instead of owning themselves. Even other horror movies they featured in horror nights were not owned by them like Exorcist and The Shining, both owned by Warner Bros. Their biggest horror hit is "Get Out" and "Insidious The Last Key", yet distributor only. Failed movies that they produced is "The Mummy". I suppose Universal can make a nice Valentines Day special with "50 Shades Freed". I guess someone is watching "Pitch Perfect 3".

April 12, 2018 at 3:25 PM ·

I love all the movie/video game Ideas and no doubt that's what Universal will always do. But what I haven't heard and would love to see is Universal go on the offensive too. Meaning that Disney adopted Universals playbook and has done so aggressively starting with DHS and more recently Pandora, Galaxys Edge, Radiator Springs and Toy Story Land.

I would love to see Universal do the opposite, develop themed lands based on themes of Fantasy/adventure such as Fairy Tales, The Wild West (which makes too much sense given movie history) and maybe Pirates.
Or even better go after Epcot territory with replicas of Foreign locations (which they did a little bit with London/Diagon Alley), a Moscow section with a Jason Bourne attraction would be awesome for example. Themed lands based on Europe, Asia, Americas etc. with movies that tie in to the general area and theme. Universals Movie World?

April 12, 2018 at 3:42 PM ·

A 2023 opening is an interesting choice ... That would be the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company.

April 12, 2018 at 3:54 PM ·

Fair enough Anton but still other major IPs in the parks are franchised including the big one HP. They have done just fine creating world class entertainment without necessary ownership rights of the films. I still agree with Russell, no studio executive should be making film decisions based on how they could spin it into the parks.

April 12, 2018 at 4:02 PM ·

All that being said...I would love to see a park dedicated to more of their now owned DreamWorks IP and obviously heavy on Nintendo. Looking at Singapore and what they did with Madagascar and Shrek excites me with what could be in Orlando. That's a small park but lovely.

April 12, 2018 at 4:24 PM ·

Barry: At one time, taking the Universal Studios tour at meant you visited real sets and productions produced by Universal. I suppose that is all history now and means little. They can continue to just be a distributor and produce shows that have little lasting power. Whereas competing studios produce better theme park franchises and seem to have absolutely no problem letting a rival make theme park attractions out of their creations. If only Warner Brothers wanted to be in the theme park industry, they would be well positioned. Won't be long before Disney takes the rest into their wing. The longer Universal resists making good family oriented IP, they will continue to be limited to a shrinking pool of studios willing to prop Universal's theme parks. On the other hand, they can always come up with their own original ideas. They can be creative for once.

April 12, 2018 at 4:28 PM ·

I would love to see a Jurassic World Land. They should recreate “Hill Valley,” from Back to the Future. Along with an attraction. Nintendo Land would fit well into a new park. Trolls, Secret Life of Pets, and a new Terminator ride would be cool ideas.

April 12, 2018 at 6:11 PM ·

Whether or not Paramount would franchise or they formed a merger, I would love a StarTrek Enterprise Attraction/Ride/HotelResort at Universal. (Similar to one that was proposed for Las Vegas.). One that would incorporate all the StarTrek incarnations worldwide, from the original to the current.

I know the legal rights aspects are limiting and mind boggling, but if everyone could work together; NBC/Comcast, CBS, CW, Universal, Paramount, WB, DC, SixFlags; imagine what IP’s could become an immersive interactive reality for everyone around the U.S. and the World to enjoy. (I know, I’s a sci-fi “world-peace” wish that can probably never happen. But we all have the right to dream, right?)

I imagine what it would be like to see a GIANT Enterprise Starship in the distance as I drive down an Orlando interstate road. (And maybe a Voyager in California, or a STNG in Japan.)

What if Universal bought/merged with Six Flags, and then had the rights to franchise DC comics across all their parks. (I know, I know...the Disney/Marvel contract thing...but this is a fantasy, so work with me, ok? ANY contract can be renegotiated or canceled if all parties are willing, which would mean more money to be had by all in the end.)

My point? There are tons of IP’s we love. Some that we’ll never get to experience because of contracts, licenses, owners- rights, etc.. But because of a little book, then film, callled Harry Potter, and the franchise and licensing agreements we never dreamed would happen, ANYTHING is possible when great minds, imaginative thinkers, creative management, determined will, and MONEY come together.

When then Universal former parent Vivendi sold almost 2000 acres of Universal property in 2003, I never would have imagined that they would get much of that land back. Yet here we are. ANYTHING is possible.

My wish for everyone is that they get all their ThemePark dreams and wishes fulfilled. ?? And with an average theme park size of 120-ish acres, and Universal now having about 1000+ acres to fulfill those wishes, it’s a reality now more than ever. Plus the world (and the USA) is a BIG place. Who says Universal couldn’t eventually build a park in a backyard near all of us. ??. Hmmm. The thought is interesting.

Our family is hoping for a Universal Sci-Fi Park/Land, with: Star Trek, Dr Who, Back to the Future, etc.. But I sure like the sounds of a Retro Park, that would bring back all the rides we loved and lost. Jaws and BTTF being at the forefront!

Good Luck to ALL your wishes! I hope they all come true!

April 12, 2018 at 6:36 PM ·

The weird thing I'm noticing is that unlike Walt Disney World, with Universal's supposed third park being a bit away from its current property, how will the current property and the new park connect with their audience. With Walt Disney World having so much land for their "World" once you drive through the entrance signs that are at every road entrance that leads into the Walt Disney World property, you instantly feel like you're part of their world. Universal has that right now with it's current property, however it would feel weird if you wanted to go to each park during your vacation, but you feel as though after leaving the main property and going to the third park, it won't feel like you're still within Universal's world as you travel along or by International drive seeing everything not affiliated with Universal Orlando.

April 12, 2018 at 7:43 PM ·

Orlando doesn't need another theme park.

April 12, 2018 at 7:01 PM ·

An entire park based solely on the town with Faber College. You can drive the Deathmobile, eat at the commissary, see the dean's office, throw toilet paper in the trees, etc. If you are going to have a screen based Forbidden Journey attraction, why not one based on Delta House? Toga! Toga! Toga!

April 12, 2018 at 11:09 PM ·

Call it ‘Universal Classics’ and bring back JAWS, BTTF, Earthquake etc

April 13, 2018 at 1:50 AM ·

Can't wait for this in the year 2034 - and no more screens.

April 13, 2018 at 2:45 AM ·

More theme parks please! More!

April 13, 2018 at 4:42 AM ·

Spare a thought for 'us' locals ...... Universal blvd is a great back road to get around the awful I-drive and convention center area. It's a means to an end to swiftly (in Orlando terms) get from north (Universal Studios) to south (Sea World) and now they are thinking of putting in another park. We've already just been blessed (LOL) with the top golf range and Andretti racing. Soon we will have the far from safe looking wave swinger in operation and now another park .... Hmmmmmm .....
Bu then again if it was to be a Cedar Point-type park, my thoughts maybe be swayed .... :)
For anyone visiting us this year be warned (as mentioned in an earlier reply) ..... for whatever reason Orlando has decided that it's a great idea to rip up and replace almost every major road between all the theme parks. If you think the I4-ultimate project would be a pain .... it's nothing compared to what's going on with the surrounding roads. 528, Sand Lake, I-drive, JYP, Kirkman are all a mess right now and from what I see on a daily basis it's going to be that way for some considerable time. I will be so glad when it's all done !!

April 13, 2018 at 7:30 AM ·

Let's face it Anton, family films can be expensive disasters. Aside from releases by Pixar, Disney, and Illumination, there have been very few family films that have hit big at the box office (and the idea of a successful live-action family film that doesn't involve super heroes or that galaxy far far away has been illusive the past couple of years aside from Sony's Jumanji and Disney's Beauty and the Beast). Production companies are tighter than ever in green-lighting costly CG films. With production schedules usually stretching 2-3 years for big budget films, production companies are only willing to invest in sure-fire hits, meaning sequels, known properties, and a rare roll of the dice once or twice a year (Universal's "roll of the dice" this year is probably Mortal Engines). After getting burned with their Mummy reboot last year, which completely derailed their Dark Universe plans, Universal is probably licking its wounds, and even more conservative in funding higher risk productions, so they're going to stick with their known franchises (Jurassic Park, F&F, Illumination, and Dreamworks projects), instead of throwing more money on big budget projects.

Hollywood always goes through cycles, and you have to believe at some point audiences will tire of super hero and Star Wars movies. Universal will continue to succeed with their highly lucrative horror slate and their handful of successful franchises, and be ready to fill the void once audiences start looking for the next big thing. However, if Universal tries to go toe to toe with Marvel and Star Wars right now, they will fail. As the illustrious Randy Jackson would say, "Stay in your box!"

April 13, 2018 at 7:27 AM ·

Troy: "I want Universal to do a "haunted house" attraction. I always thought the creepy mansion from the Resident Evil, 1st video game would make a great dark ride. "

YES YES YES! How do we get this to happen?

timbo: "I would love to see a Jurassic World Land. "

Agreed. Jurassic at IOA is still a pretty cool land, despite Harry Potter next door and the sales people interrupting you with "So where are you from?!"


Agreed. Orlando is growing much faster than the infrastructure allows.

April 13, 2018 at 7:58 AM ·

Family films can also be sleeper hits. Just don’t have outrageous budgets. Not every film needs to be a tentpole blockbuster. Universal isn’t even trying to build up their family film portfolio. They bought Dreamworks Animation, which is a good step, but more needs to happen.

April 13, 2018 at 8:12 AM ·

I'm honestly surprised so few of you are talking about the distance between the potential 4th park and the rest of the resort. The land is a couple miles away. This is like TTA to Epcot distance.... and there isn't a monorail. Are we just going to see a bunch of busses? Will there be a dedicated road down Kirkman or Universal blvd? Will Lockheed (next door to the new land) get contracted to build something awesome?

April 13, 2018 at 8:16 AM ·

This discussion seems to have gotten off topic, but here’s my two cents. Disney and Universal are both doing a good job at pleasing their core audience, and goewing it as well. Universal/Comcast has rounded out their range in demographics by buying Dreamworks Animation and creating Illumination. Disney in the past expanded their audience with Touchstone and Miramax, and now that Miramax is sold and Disney hasn’t made movie with Touchstone, they’re buying Fox. Universal theme parks have already been very successful, so I don’t see the need for them to make more family films just so they can be in the theme parks.

What the studios in general have a problem with is only making big budget tent pole movies. Its a great strategy when they do well, but a terrible one when they disappoint. Disney got into live action because it was quicker and cheaper than animated movies. Special effects and big name stars have eliminated that advantage. Make more movies with lower budgets, and as a result there will be movies geared to different audiences including families. I love Disney and Pixar, and I enjoy some of the Marvel movies, but there needs to be more variety from all the studios, not just Universal.

April 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM ·

Third Park

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Fantastic Beasts

Jurassic World

Super Nintendo World Phase 2 (Metroid, F-Zero Indoor Coaster, Star Fox
Flight Simulator, and Kirby.)

Dreamworks Land (Trolls, How to Train your Dragon, and Kung Fu Panda.)

April 13, 2018 at 8:42 AM ·

"Family films can also be sleeper hits."

Aside from Jumanji and Wonder, there haven't been any. So it's really rare, and difficult to predict.

Let's look at the "family" films that have crossed the $100 million threshold (domestic) over the past few years, a necessary bar to clear to have a broad enough appeal for a theme park (I'm including all super hero movies, Deadpool and Logan aside, even though they teeter on the edge of being family appropriate films, especially GOTG)...

Beauty and the Beast
Wonder Woman
Spiderman: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Despicable Me 3
Justice League
Lego Batman
Boss Baby
POTC: Dead men tell no tales
Cars 3
Transformers the Last Knight

Rogue One
Finding Dory
Captain America Civil War
Secret Life of Pets
Jungle Book
Batman V Superman
Fantastic Beasts
Doctor Strange
Hidden Figures
Star Trek Beyond
X-Men Apocalypse
Kung Foo Panda 3
The Legend of Tarzan
Angry Birds

Jurassic World
Avengers Age of Ultron
Inside Out
Ant Man
Hotel Transylvania 2
Good Dinosaur

So there's a good 3-year cycle of movies there with just 2 live action family movies that are not based on a super hero, Wonder and Jumanji, that Universal doesn't already own. Similarly, of the CG movies, Universal has a pretty good representation with an entry in the top 5 each of these 3 years. Universal is doing just fine. Also, let's not forget some of the live action BOMBS Disney has had recently with Wrinkle in Time, BFG, Pete's Dragon, and Tomorrowland (and don't forget the HUGE John Carter bomb that Disney is probably still amortizing the losses from 6 years later). Universal may have had a big miss with Dark Universe, but Disney has been taking a beating recently in their family book adaptations. If not for entities they've purchased (Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar), Disney would be really hurting right now. Conversely, Universal has sustained its recent success organically.

April 13, 2018 at 8:54 AM ·

I would like to see Universal take a bold move and create a horror park. It would firmly cement Universal as the Sega to Disney’s Nintendo.

April 13, 2018 at 10:41 AM ·

I would go more Fantasy, Sci-Fi/Anime and Magic. So you could have a third Harry Potter Area (Ministry of Magic?) along with the Shrek/Madagascar area/rides from the other parks, and a Distant Plant/Anime area - Galactica, Steampunk settings, Full Metal Alchemist, Naruto. Universal Japan does own some anime IP so that could make for a fun, unique setting.

You could then also then have a Hogwart's style hotel as an immersive experience like the Star Wars Hotel, Shrek/King Julian play area, Japanese-style cafes and an International gifts/trading area.

I also like idea of a Horror area as it really fits Universal- but not sure I would devote more than a section of a park to it except during Halloween Horror Nights.

April 13, 2018 at 10:45 AM ·

I hope they clone the Walking Dead walk-through attraction at USH. And I second the idea of a new Jurassic World land with state of the art AAs.

April 13, 2018 at 11:51 AM ·

Chad H, no one wants to be a SEGA to anyone's Nintendo

April 13, 2018 at 4:32 PM ·

“Universal is doing just fine.” with licensing.

April 15, 2018 at 8:48 AM ·

Definitely a good time to be a theme park fan. Not only does this give them 1000 acres to develop, it also gives them access to Uni Blvd at 2 locations. Near the Orlando Eye and the Convention Center. Rumor is Sand Lake Rd will be back stage buildings, but with land all the way to the turnpike now it makes me wonder how much gets moved around. A Convention Center entrance makes sense, but a Sand Lake Rd entrance seems easier if they plan on bus transport from the existing resort.

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