Epic Universe Remains on Hold as Universal Faces Big Losses

July 30, 2020, 11:59 AM · Development of Universal's new Epic Universe theme park remains paused as the company faced a 94 percent decline in theme park revenue during the past quarter, NBCUniversal's CEO said in a conference call with investors today.

NBCUniversal's parent company, Comcast, reported its second quarter results this morning. While the company's broadband business did well, thanks to millions of Americans staying at home during the pandemic, the flip side was a near complete loss of revenue from theme parks and theatrical movies.

Universal's theme parks closed in March, with Orlando and Japan returning in June. Universal Studios Hollywood remains closed, with no sign of a reopening date. Revenue for the three months ending June 30 was $87 million, down from $1.46 billion in the same period a year earlier.

While Universal shut down construction of its two new theme parks in Orlando and Beijing when the parks closed, the company resumed construction in China in April.

"Remarkably we remain on budget and on track to open [Universal Studios Beijing] in mid-2021," NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said. He also expressed optimism about the parks in Orlando and Japan.

"While attendance in both locations is much lower than our typical summer levels, we are still doing better financially than if we were closed. And even more importantly, our guest satisfaction scores are at record highs."

"As is typical in past downturns, the road back will be gradual and bumpy. But I am confident that this business will return to its historical levels of financial performance. In the meantime, we are continually adjusting our cost base and capital spend, including pausing development of our Epic Universe project in Florida, for example, until the future becomes more certain."

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Replies (16)

July 30, 2020 at 12:04 PM

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a LONG time, before this park opens. If indeed it even does.

July 30, 2020 at 12:50 PM

I want Universal Monsters Land sol bad, I hope they can get it back on track soon

July 30, 2020 at 1:09 PM

I vote they put off building a new gate and double-down on the ones they have, especially seeing as many rumored attractions at EU were intended for them. From what we've seen, it doesn't seem the concept's there full a new full-fledged park just yet. And and our financial situation sure suggests the same.

July 30, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Unfortunate news no doubt but as expected due to this year. I just hope they dont scrap the park completely. I believe people will be back from this pandemic with a vengeance in terms of going out and doing the things they cant right now and spending money. I understand people have been financially affected by the pandemic but there is a population out there which when the pandemic subsides, whenever that is, will want to spend money.

Epic Universe must open. It is a way to up the ante in Central Florida. If Wizarding World hadn't opened back in 2010, I'm not sure if galaxys edge, pandora, or new fantasyland wouldve happened at disney world. Disney and sea world for that matter would up their game with a 3rd Universal theme park gate.

July 30, 2020 at 8:14 PM

I'll just sit here under my bridge ... Located just ahead of the curve ... Hey, Bezos! Wanna buy a theme park?

July 30, 2020 at 10:20 PM

The best case scenario I see for Epic Universe at this point is the project gets realized as originally proposed with a 2-4 year delay. The more likely scenario I foresee is Universal reverts to prior plans to replace Kidzone with Nintendo and the rest of the Epic Universe project gets sent back to the drawing board, with a completely revamped design emerging at some point in the future when there is more demand and stability in the industry. Right now, I'm doubtful Florida will return to pre-pandemic visitor levels anytime in the next couple years, and until that happens theme park operators are going to be very careful about how much they invest into new projects. I hate to say it, but if the industry fails to recover the days of highly immersive IP-themed lands are probably over.

July 31, 2020 at 5:46 AM

Congratulations FloriDUH and the USA, you did it! You shot yourself in the foot and did this to yourself. Let freeDUMB ring! It was always going to be bad, seeing how we were caught flat-footed by being completely unprepared for addressing a pandemic. But then we doubled-down on stupid and arguably did everything possible to make the outcome as painful as it could be. And still, the so-called "smart people" are still waxing poetic about how the economy is just going to spring right back to where it was pre-pandemic. Like magic. Give me a break. The economic pain from our bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to resonate for the next decade. I don't think Epic Universe sees the light of day anytime in the 2020's.

July 31, 2020 at 7:13 AM

Jay-Gee writes: "I don't think Epic Universe sees the light of day anytime in the 2020's."

I respond: I absolutely concur with the first three words of the last sentence in your post.

July 31, 2020 at 9:48 AM

Here's three words ... Legendary Years resort

TH Creative - why not give Universal a call and offer to purchase an Ambassador Pass for Epic Universe?

July 31, 2020 at 10:46 AM

Let's look on the bright side of all of this ....

Sand Lake between Kirkman and JYP is now the best bit of road in Orlando :)
And let's not forget the JYP over Sand Lake bridge either .....

Thank You, Universal's Epic Universe idea

July 31, 2020 at 10:53 AM

@Mako, have you experienced that dip at the bottom of the JYP bridge when you're travelling south?

YIKES!

July 31, 2020 at 11:09 AM

Actually TH, I've never driven over the new bridge. My drive to work takes me along Sand Lake and so 5 days a week I drive under it.

I will say though, it's been an interesting couple of years watching that bridge get built and seeing how they handled the construction on Sand Lake, especially with the raising of the road 4-5ft (at a guess)

I'll have to try 'the dip' out. Maybe the closest thing to a roller coaster ride I'll be having for a while ... LOL ... :)

July 31, 2020 at 11:28 AM

jeremygary may be a tad hyperbole but he is correct in how it's astounding certain people still hold to "reopen and things get back to normal," when folks are just not willing to risk their health right now.

In Illinois, they tried to have movie theaters open in early July, a mix of spring films and "comeback classics." That lasted a week before the chains shut down for the simple fact not enough people were coming. Yet some insist "studios open big movies in theaters and folks will come" when it's not happening. The brutal truth is, the majority of Americans realize this is not a "fake" pandemic, that "spikes prove herd immunity working" etc but until a vaccine, the impact is going to be huge.

July 31, 2020 at 1:36 PM

Slowing down the new build clearly makes sense. Here’s to Universal - realizing that a park makes profit at 25% capacity - can apply this experience to technologies that ensure safety protocols for the next pandemic. (With trends like “100 year flooding” now every 1-5-10 years, we will see more issues the likes we are currently experiencing, seems to me.) Building a better theme park simply means rethinking “normal“ to accommodate particular “extremes.” As we’ve seen in other countries, masks may be here to stay; a simple preventative that applies to the common cold as it does to a potentially-lethal virus. Here’s to a pandemic-proof theme park future; I miss my local coaster fix (Knott’s) and hope they, too, adjust and plan accordingly. Stay safe, and thanks for the update and the discussion thread.

July 31, 2020 at 3:06 PM

After seeing all these theme park chains' conference calls, I'm almost terrified to see what Chapek (or Iger) says at Disney's next one.

August 3, 2020 at 10:23 PM

They should shelve their Beijing park, and go full speed ahead with Epic Universe. Why reward the country that was nice enough to export their virus to the rest of the planet?

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