Universal Orlando Delays its New Epic Universe Theme Park

April 30, 2020, 11:20 AM · Universal has "paused" the development of its Epic Universe theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort, according to parent company Comcast's first quarter earnings call this morning.

Meanwhile, Orange County (Florida) Mayor Jerry Demings said during a press briefing that senior officials at Universal told him that the overall expansion project at Universal Orlando, which includes Epic Universe, would be "delayed by a year."

"However, they’re going to continue with $300-plus million in construction that is really underway at this time," Demings said.

On the earnings call, Comcast reported that revenue for NBCUniversal's theme parks division was down 31.9 percent, from 1.276 billion in the first quarter of 2019 to 869 million in the same quarter this year. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation) was down 84.7 percent, to $76 million. The company stands to lose $500 million if the parks remain closed for the entire second quarter, which would be through June, Comcast officials said.

Universal Parks Chairman Tom Williams had told team members earlier that the development of the Epic Universe theme park remained on schedule for its announced 2023 opening, despite the parks' closure in response to the pandemic. Universal Creative staff have remained on the job, though working remotely, as design and construction had been proceeding on the park.

No one at Comcast or Universal, or local government officials, has said today when the new theme park is now expected to open.

Site prep work is underway for Universal's Epic Universe, which will be located on Universal Orlando's new "south campus" across Universal Boulevard from the Orange County Convention Center. The new park is expected to include four immersive, single-IP lands branching from a central dining and shopping plaza that rings a series of pools and fountains. Comcast and state officials announced the new park in August 2019.

Replies (5)

April 30, 2020 at 11:48 AM

I guess Universal wants to see more of the overall fallout of tourism post-pandemic to adjust how they build this.

This is just the start, watch Disney, Six Flags and other places suddenly pulling back on huge projects/expansions not just for costs but to see how soon (or not) folks are eager to return to park life.

April 30, 2020 at 12:59 PM

I don't think it is because they want to reassess the market after this crisis passes, it's more about conserving resources now to better whether the storm. It should be noted that Universal isn't stopping the construction of Epic Universe, just that they will be slowing down the timeline so that costs that haven't already been committed are available for other expenses if needed. There are likely hundreds of millions of dollars already fully committed to pre-construction, infrastructure, and basic park services that cannot be pulled back without taking serious losses, so those efforts will continue. It's possible that as part of this slowdown that UC will change some aspects of the park and some bells and whistles hit the cutting room floor because of a lack of resources (cash) down the road and inevitable increases in construction costs due to inflation and increases in overall industry prices. This is just a prudent move by Comcast to conserve over the short term in exchange for a longer construction timeline.

The fact of the matter is that Comcast/Universal probably has billions earmarked for this project, and lengthening the timeline by a year gives them the short term financial flexibility to address current obligations without affecting the overall project too significantly.

April 30, 2020 at 1:42 PM

Looks like its just delaying things until the extra capacity will be needed. Slowing down rather than stopping seems to be the right call. On the international front BA has signalled it might pull out of one of London's airports completely (Gatwick, not Heathrow), and make huge numbers of pilots and other staff redundant as they simply don't see demand picking up for some time.

Recovery will not be swift for tourism, but let's not forget the parks were incredibly profitable, and fundamentally people have not changed. We're still going to want these experiences, and as soon as people can afford it, and get there, they will be profitable again.

April 30, 2020 at 3:40 PM

More theme park bummer news. It is the norm nowadays. Eventually things will normalize a bit more and Epic Universe will open sometime this decade. It was unreasonable to expect it to be on schedule because of this pandemic. Anyway I have been feeling nostalgic and just thought of neat idea for a land in this new park... 90's land! It would have 3 rides. Kongfrontation, Jaws, and Back to the Future. All branded drinks and snacks will have 90's branded logos. 90's hits like Gangsta's Paradise and Don't Speak will add atmospheric music... and well, I apologize my imagination ran wild for a bit there. 0 percent chance this happens but I miss Back to the Future.

Looking forward to the new park big time. I have been visiting theme parks since I was a really young lad in '93. I enjoyed them always but I truly didn't become a big time fan until 2004. A few years after the last major theme park opened, so Epic Universe will be the first theme park's opening I will follow.

April 30, 2020 at 4:00 PM

I would expect all theme park projects to be put on hold until the pandemic subsides. This may affect Disney’s ongoing projects planned for the 50th anniversary next year, too.

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