Universal Orlando’s new Epic Universe theme park will open by summer 2025, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said today. Shell was speaking during parent company Comcast’s year-end earnings call.
"Epic is full steam ahead," Shell said in response to an analyst's question about the park. "I was down there a couple of weeks ago and the construction is going really well. And you know, I think we've said this in the past, but we expect that part to open in 2025, and certainly in time for the summer of 2025. We'll be back to you and everybody when we get more granular on the date."
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts added, "If I look back over Covid, one of the things I wish we could redo was slowing down Epic, because I agree... this is a business that if you build wonderful attractions, there is pent-up demand. We're going to make a fabulous park at Epic, and we're full steam. We're going as fast as we can now to make up for lost time."
NBCUniversal's theme parks division reported $5.051 billion in revenue for 2021, up from $2.094 billion in 2020, when all of its parks were closed for at least part of the year. For the fourth quarter of 2021, Universal's theme parks reported $1.887 billion in revenue, up from $648 million in the same period in 2020.
Universal opened its Universal Beijing Resort in September 2021, following the reopening of Universal Studios Hollywood in April and the debut of Super Nintendo World in Japan at the beginning of the year.
For the year, Universal reported an adjusted earnings of $1.267 billion, up sharply from a loss of $477 million for 2020. Fourth quarter Adjusted EBITDA was $674 million. That made it the parks' most profitable fourth quarter on record, according to company officials.
"It's impossible not just to be excited about our theme park business," Shell said. "We haven't seen any impact of Omicron in Florida, for example, and very limited impacts, which we seem to be past, in Hollywood and Japan. So everything's kind of going in the right direction."
"I think part of that, by the way, is because we continued to invest in our attractions during the pandemic, with the VelociCoaster in Orlando and Pets in Hollywood and Nintendo which is doing really well in Japan and has led that park to rebound really, really quickly. So, all signs are pointed up in our theme park business and I agree we have a lot of growth ahead.
"Our international visitation is not returned to what it was historically. In Florida, we generally are in the low 30s. Right now we're just above 20, with most of that visitation now coming from the UK and Europe. Latin America hasn't returned yet. So we have upside there as people continue to increase travel. Also I should mention very happy with Beijing. People love the park, and when travel opens up in China after the Olympics, we are really optimistic about that park, long term, so everything is going well and trending in the right direction."
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