2020 has, of course, been an exceptionally brutal year for the themed industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing theme parks across the country – along with huge scores of other businesses, we should note – to close for an extended period of time. It is against this backdrop that today’s surprising development is, perhaps, not that surprising, after all: Halloween Horror Nights has been canceled, both in Orlando and in Hollywood.
Here’s the official press release from Universal:
Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood have made the difficult decision to not hold Halloween Horror Nights events this year. Universal Orlando Resort will be focusing exclusively on operating its theme parks for daytime guests, using the enhanced health and safety procedures already in place. Universal Studios Hollywood continues to face ongoing business restrictions and uncertainty around its opening timeframe.
We know this decision will disappoint our fans and guests. We are disappointed, too. But we look forward to creating an amazing event in 2021.
Even with all that said, the news still comes as a heavy blow. Having Universal’s biggest and most culturally influential event return would’ve been a welcome development to fans – particularly on the West Coast, where Universal Studios Hollywood remains shuttered since March 14 (though its version of CityWalk welcomed visitors back on June 10). And here in Florida, HHN fanatics have been watching every development, no matter how slight, with bated breath; although no haunted-house, scare-zone, or live-show announcements were ever made, Universal extended its buy-one-ticket-get-one-free offer up through July 22, and management was telling guests that the visibly-under-construction Tribute Store was going to open to the public on July 24. All of which isn’t to mention that Horror Nights was intended to celebrate its milestone 30th anniversary this year, or that the hallowed event had never seen a cancellation in all that time.
That’s for the East Coast, that is – California is all too familiar with the reality of “off years.” After originally pioneering Horror Nights in 1986 – an experiment that ended in tragedy, unfortunately, with the accidental death of a scareactor – Universal Studios Hollywood wouldn’t have the Halloween celebration return until six years later, after it had been transplanted to Universal Studios Florida in 1991 and proven to be a big hit there. Even still, Hollywood’s ’92 outing would turn out to be yet another single-year affair; the West Coast just couldn’t replicate the same level of success that the East had quickly cultivated.
This next HHN drought would end in ’97, at which point the event’s handlers believed it had gotten the Halloween recipe down pat – they had quickly landed on the strategy of recruiting some of filmdom’s biggest horror names to help design original, headlining haunted houses, including Clive Barker and, more (in)famously, Rob Zombie. This stint, unfortunately, wound up coming to yet another premature end, as well, stopping after the 2000 season. It wasn’t until 2006, then, that Halloween Horror Nights would return to its Western birthplace and remain there for good, coming out each and every year with a brand-new – and ever-growing – showing of mazes, scare zones, and live shows.
(Yes, it’s true that Universal Studios Hollywood’s version of the annual event has never gotten as big as Universal Orlando Resort’s, either in terms of size or resources at its disposal, but it has still made strides to resembling something far closer to equity in recent years – it’s now quite common for an intellectual property that will pop up in Florida to also do the same in California, whether that be The Shining or, more notably, Stranger Things. This, in turn, has helped to attract even more guests every season, which, naturally, helps Horror Nights to accrue a bigger budget.)
Here’s to hoping that the planned 30th celebrations will be put on ice for a year and brought out for 2021’s event.
What if I already bought tickets to HHN 2020?
If you’ve already picked up a ticket or tour reservation for Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – say, using that aforementioned buy-one-get-one deal – you have two options on your hands: apply them towards 2021’s event or get a refund. (You can always call 877-801-9720 for assistance.)
Finally, if you’ve purchased a vacation package, you have one extra possibility available to you: still use the theme-park and hotel aspects of the booking this fall (and get a refund on all the HHN-specific components).
Find out everything you ever wanted to know about HHN – plus more! – in our insider’s guide.