Revenue up in California, down in Florida for Universal parks

January 25, 2024, 10:21 AM · Universal's theme parks posted another record quarter of earnings to close out 2023, parent company Comcast reported today.

NBCUniversal's Theme Parks segment reported $2.371 billion in revenue for the final three months of 2023, up 12.2% over the same period in 2022. Comcast reported revenue gains at both its domestic and international parks, though the domestic increases were driven by Universal Studios Hollywood, which continues to enjoy an attendance and guest spending boosts from the early 2023 opening of Super Nintendo World.

That increase was partially offset by lower revenue at Universal Orlando in the quarter, though Comcast noted that Universal Orlando's revenue continues to be above comparable levels from 2019, before the pandemic.

As for earnings, Comcast reported Adjusted EBITDA of $872 million at its theme parks for the final three months of 2023, up 11.6% from the same period in 2022. That's another quarterly record for the parks, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said.

Comcast owns and operates Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood in California and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. It maintains an ownership interest in Universal Studios Beijing in China and licenses its branding for Universal Studios Singapore to Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. Universal Destinations & Experiences is building a new theme park, Universal Epic Universe, in Orlando, as well as the Universal Horror Unleashed experience in Las Vegas and Universal Kids Resort in Frisco, Texas.

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Replies (33)

January 25, 2024 at 10:35 AM

You have to wonder if the lower revenue in Orlando is a result of guests holding off or reducing trips in anticipation of Epic Universe or an overall cooling of the Florida tourism market. Reported crowds at WDW were lower than what many anticipated (though still stifling), so it's possible that UO is feeling some of that general decline. However, I would probably put it more on Epic Universe which is something that has been a point of discussion here and comparing what Universal did prior to opening IOA to what they're doing right now with EU a little more than a year before it's debut.

If Universal thinks EU is hindering current crowds/revenue, I would expect Universal to continue to keep details of the project under wraps in the hopes that guests planning 2024 trips still don't know about the new park opening in 2025. I haven't seen any "Wait until 2025 to visit Universal Orlando" pieces out there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see popular planning sites to start pushing that narrative in the next few months even if Universal doesn't do any marketing for the new park. It's possible that narrative doesn't gain traction since WDW doesn't have much to offer in 2024 either (maybe SW and BGT can take advantage), so on the whole the Central Florida market might just be stagnant this year.

January 25, 2024 at 10:54 AM

I feel like this is the year when we really feel the effects of parks cancelling so many projects at the beginning of the pandemic. The a lot of stuff that should have entered the development pipeline in 2020 would have been debuting this year. Hollywood likely will ride Nintendo until the Fast and Furious coaster opens next year (that's my guess), but the two-year delay on Epic really left a gap in Orlando that the resort is feeling now.

January 25, 2024 at 1:24 PM

Curious when Universal is going to drop the major resort discounts to get traffic up or just ride out until next spring.

January 25, 2024 at 2:10 PM

Florida is hostile to reasonable people, who wants to go there for any reason? I mean, besides maga wackadoos and people who don't know better.

January 25, 2024 at 4:47 PM

I'm sure the decrease in Florida tourism as a whole is probably the main reason UOR's visitation is down, but I think the fact that their only new offering for this year is a glorified walk-through attraction might also have swayed those visiting for other reasons to give it a miss this time (especially with SWO and WDW both opening headliners). Unless someone is planning a trip specifically for Universal and is waiting until Epic opens to visit Florida, I don't think Epic is really a major consideration on whether or not to do a Florida trip now or wait until the new park opens next year. It's probably far more limited budgets and limited time causing tourists to be more discretionary on what they feel is worth including in their trip.

January 25, 2024 at 6:12 PM

Still no new entertainment at the Fear Factor or Toon Lagoon theaters. The only thing you'll find in Lost Continent is tumbleweeds. Thrill ride heavy parks (coasters) that still have no substantial counter to the Disney's billion dollar princess model.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to assert that UO's clientele skews towards the younger HHN set. Beyond a bar tab and some fried stuff it's not like UO APers drop a lot of cash in the parks.

The real discussion should be focused on whether or not this represents a trend that will have presence until the summer of 2025 -- a year and a half from now. Or, to Russell's point, whether or not the performance lags even worse as people continue to hold off until the new park opens.

I have no doubt UO has a master plan to expand the Orlando model beyond Epic. But when can we expect them to break ground on new stuff? Spring 2025? Early 2026? Those existing parks could get awfully dusty pretty quickly.

January 25, 2024 at 10:30 PM

UO is still above 2019 numbers. The endless growth can't go on forever but lets not pretend the resort is doing great business. Will this year be slow, sure. I remember a time USF could run mainly on HHN and I'm sure they 'll milk the horror cow for what it's worth. In the end Comcast is investing heavily in their theme parks, all over the US and now hopefully Europe while building Epic Universe at a break neck speed.

January 26, 2024 at 5:42 AM

OT on Universal Orlando: "The endless growth can't go on forever ..."

Me: Which is demonstrated by the quantity of dead space at USF and IOA. As I have posted before (ad nauseum) I honestly hope that UC takes action and does something with Lost Continent, or the Toon Lagoon theater, or the Fear Factor theater. Because right now, those parks have nothing on the horizon.

Maybe they could develop a Harry Potter attraction. Or something using screens and a Kuka ride system. Or wait, better yet, something with Minions!


January 26, 2024 at 8:49 AM

The Minions and Harry Potter are billion dollar models. Why not use them?

January 26, 2024 at 9:00 AM

@TH Creative, i used to salivate at the idea that they would re-theme the toon lagoon theater to marvel and make it a super hero show...and then alas, disney scoops up marvel and ruins all the fun.

January 26, 2024 at 8:16 PM

TH - it has been a well circulated rumor that Zelda would be coming to Universal eventually. With the success of Nintendo/Mario in the parks at USH and Tokyo, that time table has sped up. According to Alicia Stella (who broke the Universal UK story and is very connected with all things Universal), Zelda will be taking over Lost Continent at IOA. Pokemon will be taking over Springfield at USF as the contract expires on the Simpsons.

January 27, 2024 at 8:10 AM

Smclaugh99: "According to Alicia Stella ... ."Zelda will be taking over Lost Continent at IOA. Pokemon will be taking over Springfield at USF as the contract expires on the Simpsons."

Me: Great. When? And while you fumble around and find some version of the response "I don't know", please remind everyone of the years when a major, E-ticket, gate-crasher attraction last opened at IOA and USF.

January 27, 2024 at 11:34 AM

Is this theme park stop Alice? I think she also suggested Zelda was many years away and delayed due to concerns about the Simpsons.

I wonder if Kabketown has considered just buying the 20th Century Animations? Have Bob’s Burgers open a location in the New York section of USF.

January 27, 2024 at 10:05 PM

TH - I find it interesting that you are intimating that Zelda and Pokémon are “blue sky” ideas that won’t happen for 5 to 7 years. This is not Disney, my friend. Disney has nothing in the pipeline beyond Tiana‘s Bayou adventure, and anything that does get green lit is going to take 5+ years for us to see in the park. Universal on the other hand is moving at break speed building an entire park with Epic. I think the timetable for Zelda and Pokémon is 2026/27. Apparently Luigi’s mansion and Hogwarts dining experience will commence right after Epic opens.

January 27, 2024 at 11:14 PM

It's the greed of these corporations continuing to raise prices. You can take a family to Europe for 2 weeks for the cost of getting ripped off at Universal and Disney for a week.

January 28, 2024 at 7:56 AM

Smclaugh99: "I find it interesting that you are intimating that Zelda and Pokémon are “blue sky” ideas that won’t happen for 5 to 7 years".

Me: "First of all, I did not intimate about anything being in any phase of development -- "blue sky" or otherwise. Second, I never said anything about specific years -- "5 to 7 years".

Smclaugh99: "I think the timetable for Zelda and Pokémon is 2026/27".

Me: That's a guess based on rumors. You can't call that out as a fact.

Smclaugh99: "Disney has nothing in the pipeline beyond Tiana‘s Bayou adventure ..."

Me: Again, you don't know this to be a fact.

Also Smclaugh99, you avoided my question about the last time USF or IOA opened a gate-crasher, E-ticket attraction. In his post (above) Russell Meyers indirectly sets a standard for that type of expansion -- the circumstance when guests put-off a visit to Orlando until an announced expansion opens. When was the last time something like that opened at Universal? 'Springfield' (The Simpsons) in 2008? Diagon Alley in 2014? If your Pokémon in 2027 theory turns out to be true (and I hope it does) that would mean it took Universal a full 13 years to add another substantial expansion to USF.

In the case of IOA the most recent addition would be VelociCoaster (2021). If your Zelda/2026 estimate comes to pass (fingers-crossed) that would mean it would've taken (ahem) "5+ years for us to see (it) in the park".


Also, as I mentioned and you ignored how the Toon Lagoon and Fear Factor theaters remain empty -- basically dead space.

Look, here's my point. I THINK/BELIEVE both of the major park operators in Orlando are hoping to sustain their existing levels of success until mid to late 2025. I THINK/BELIEVE both are banking on the success of Epic Universe to draw attention and consumers to Orlando.

And I KNOW 100% that both Disney and Universal are faced with the daunting reality that building major attractions has become VERY VERY EXPENSIVE and that there are no guarantees that the return on that investment will be substantial.

To put it another way, Ms. Alicia Stella may provide exciting rumors about the next big thing that MAY be built at the parks. But neither she, nor her informed sources, are the signatories on the checks being written to the contractors in Orlando. Until they are, I suggest the whispers she and others are reporting, be taken with a grain of salt.

January 28, 2024 at 7:59 AM

davehr: "It's the greed of these corporations continuing to raise prices".

Me: If Disney or Comcast were selling insulin I would agree with you. But they are selling products based in escapism that people (hopefully) purchase with disposable income.

Hey ... that "escapism" thing gives me an idea. What if they renamed Walt Disney World? Maybe call it "Disney Escape".

January 28, 2024 at 8:13 AM

Feeling very "posty" today.

Regarding "rumors" and USF, I tripped over this little nugget from five-plus years ago.

Theme Park Insider (11/21/17): "Construction should begin within the next few months on Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Florida, according to permit applications obtained by an Orlando television station."

Just an update: Construction didn't actually begin during those next few months.

January 28, 2024 at 8:14 AM

You are absolutely correct about the costs of expansion being high and the number crunchers often limit what comes to the parks. However, Comcast seems to be taking a more aggressive approach at expansion in their parks. The $8.6 billion from Disney for the Hulu sale certainly helps. (And despite the PR, that sum will be several billion more in the end). Your beef is that nothing has been “E ticket”. That’s fair. But that argument could be made about Disney over the same time period. Right now, Universal has the good will with multiple expansion projects coming this decade. Disney has very little coming and is in a financial rut due to Iger’s Fox purchase, Disney+, and a growing list of box office money losers. The parks division subsidizes all of these losers and suffers from neglect at a time that they should be re-investing in the US parks.
Despite the capital investments, I think we all would love more — re-theme the entire Toon Lagoon, re-do F&F, add shows or new attractions to the unused theaters.

January 28, 2024 at 9:17 AM

Smclaugh99: "Your beef is that nothing has been 'E ticket' (at Universal Orlando's existing parks). That's fair".

Me: It's not a "beef". It's an unqualified observation.

Smclaugh99: "But that argument could be made about Disney over the same time period."

Me: You're kidding, right? The time period in discussion is between July 2014 (Diagon Alley) and today. Between 2017 and 2023 Walt Disney World opened 'Pandora: The World of Avatar' (multiple attractions), 'Star Wars Galaxy's Edge' (multiple attractions), 'Toy Story Land' (multiple attractions) 'TRON: Lightcycle Run' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind'.

Smclaugh99: "Right now, Universal has the good will with multiple expansion projects coming this decade".

Me: Nothing has been announced and no opening dates are available related to attractions going into the existing UO parks.

Smclaugh99: "Disney has very little coming ..."

Me: Meaning nothing has been announced and no opening dates are available related to attractions going into the existing WDW parks? Yeah, there's a lot of that going around.

January 28, 2024 at 10:02 AM

TH - Disney has D23 and regularly announces things coming in the future to help build the hype. Universal doesn’t acknowledge the pregnancy until the baby is crowning. Different strategies. Pandora’s FOP, Galaxy Edge ROR, and Epcot’s Cosmic Rewind are definitely E-ticket attractions. I would put Hagrid’s and Velocicoaster in that same category. Nothing else moves the needle. Bottom line is what comes next? That’s the billion dollar question for Iger and the Disney board. Universal is expanding. Meanwhile, Disney is content to stand pat and expect nostalgia to keep the machine moving.

January 28, 2024 at 12:30 PM

Smclaugh99: "Nothing else moves the needle"?

Me: (Chuckle) When it comes to Disney theme park fans (who have been called "drones" -- not by me) what "moves the needle" might surprise you. Consider the Figment popcorn bucket. This from Foor & Wine: "Depending on which news outlet or social media feed you read, people waited anywhere between two and seven hours in line to get their hands on one of the buckets which were first teased on the Disney Parks TikTok account earlier this month."

Smclaugh99 can place his chips on the school-of-thought that says Universal Orlando has big, albeit unannounced plans for its existing parks. It's hard to argue with someone who gets their information from imaginary friends. However, absent permit requests, GC contracts and invitations to bid, it's difficult for me to see any e-ticket welcome guest number one at USF or IOA before 2027. And that assumes the wheels get in motion some time in the next five or six months.

In the meantime welcome Epic Universe and welcome 'Tiana's Bayou Adventure'. These additions to the themed entertainment capitol of the world will assure largess upon all of the major park operators.

January 28, 2024 at 5:01 PM

To answer TH's question, let's take a look at Universal's additions since 2015 (since anyone reasonable can agree Diagon Alley was absolutely a gate crasher):

2016: Skull Island: Reign of Kong & Incredible Hulk
2017: Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon
2018: Fast & Furious - Supercharged & Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration
2019: Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
2020: The Bourne Stuntacular
2021: VelociCoaster
2023: Villain-Con Minion Blast

So I'd say 2021 is the last year UOR opened an E-ticket level attraction (which park is irrelevant as a vast majority of guests treat both parks as one). I'd also say in that time period Universal opened nine total attractions, three of which were E-tickets (all at IOA, interestingly).

Let's compare that with Disney:

2016: Frozen Ever After & Soarin' Around the World
2017: Mission: Space Update (Earth Mission Added), Pandora: The World of Avatar and Rivers of Light
2018: Toy Story Land
2019: Star Wars Galaxy's Edge
2020: Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway
2021: Harmonious, Space 220, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure
2022: Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind & Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond
2023: Tron Lightcycle/Run, Journey of Water & Luminous - The Symphony of Us

This list gives us seventeen attractions for Walt Disney World, of which I'd probably consider seven to be E-Ticket level. However, I also think it's fair to consider that Guardians and Tron are not truly open due to the virtual queue restrictions placed on them, so that places WDW's last E-Ticket at 2021 as well. Also, that means MK hasn't gotten an E-Ticket in longer than USF if that logic is applied, as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (their 2014 addition) is hardly something most would call an E.

So, if we look at the rates, UOR has been averaging 1 attraction per year, with an E-Ticket level attraction approximately every three years. WDW, on the other hand, has been averaging 1.67 to 1.89 attractions per year, with an E-ticket level attraction every 1.29 to 1.8 years (depending on how you count Guardians and Tron). However, scaling for number of parks, UOR had 4.5 projects per park while WDW had 3.75 to 4.25 projects per park in that same time period (and, if Tron is excluded, has gone a decade without a new permanent attraction for Magic Kingdom). Thus, WDW is building more than UOR overall, though not at the rate one would expect them to be building given the larger size of the resort.

As for the future, there's enough going on to confidently indicate that UOR's next project after Epic Universe will be a replacement of Lost Continent. It is heavily speculated to be Legend of Zelda, which should be ready by 2027 given the historical patterns of the resort, and which will certainly qualify as an E-Ticket level attraction (yes, USF continues to get excluded). Anything beyond that is too far out to consider more than rumors at this point. As for WDW, there are several projects currently in development that will likely come in the remainder of the decade (Encanto, Indiana Jones, Rethemed RnRC, Test Track 3.0), but Disney has been so unwilling to share details that it's reasonable to assume all of these are at minimum three years out (aka after UOR's next big project).

January 28, 2024 at 4:24 PM

@ AJ: 'Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway'

January 28, 2024 at 4:34 PM

And by the way AJ, my identifying the attractions added by Disney was absolutely not a claim that Disney has done more than Universal. Not by a long shot.

Smclaugh99 claimed "Your beef is that nothing has been 'E ticket'. That’s fair. But that argument could be made about Disney over the same time period". I responded that was nonsense -- because it was.

If you want to call Fallon and F&F "E-tickets" ... I mean ... Really?

January 28, 2024 at 4:59 PM

Darn it, I felt like I was missing something but couldn't figure out what. Time to correct everything...

And no, TH, I didn't read your comment as "Disney's doing tons while Universal is slacking," I just thought it was fun to look at the numbers and see what was actually going on.

January 28, 2024 at 8:57 PM

TH - I really appreciate the responses dripping with condescension. You seem to have a vested interest in all things Disney and have always been quick to defend them. Perhaps they should put you on their board as you could direct Bob Iger in a more favorable direction. Maybe we can send a quick memo to Nelson Peltz to put you on his proposed slate. Have a great day!

January 29, 2024 at 7:59 AM

@Smclaugh99, I'm not sure where I defended Disney anywhere on this thread. And if there's anyone showing bias in our back-and-forth it would be you. After all, you're giving UO the benefit of the doubt when it comes to whether or not they have unannounced plans to open new, substantial attractions at their existing parks by "2026/2027". I have no reason to believe there will be dramatic expansion at either the existing UO or WDW parks.

And who's Nelson Peltz?

January 29, 2024 at 12:05 PM

TH - I’ve been lurking and reading at this site for at least seven or eight years and you have been Disney’s biggest cheerleader and pixie duster. No harm in that. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts and generally appreciate the sarcasm. It just seemed a little more pointed than usual. I’ll catch you in the next thread. Have a good week.

January 29, 2024 at 7:38 PM

MM railroad is an amazing attraction; one of the best new attractions I've been on last few years, and sadly, blows away Mario Kart (and Im a Nintendo fan). Nintendo World is saved by the immersive details of the land, but Mario Kart is underwhelming imo. I'm hoping that the DK mine cart is better.

January 30, 2024 at 4:48 AM

"Pixie duster"? Is that an original label? Did you make that up?

January 30, 2024 at 6:27 PM

Disneys new attractions include many replacement shows/space, and already re-work of the replacements, plus a new ghost at the haunted mansion haha

January 31, 2024 at 9:14 PM

TH, your posts in this thread have more total words than The Goblet of Fire.

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