Harry Potter gets a great deal of credit for helping to make Universal’s theme park holdings across the globe newly resurgent, but the second player in the success story largely goes unmentioned. Comcast purchased NBCUniversal in 2011 – just a year after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade opened – and was so delighted by Universal Orlando’s suddenly-expanding revenue stream, it opted to dive fully into the themed business, despite Comcast’s original intention of spinning Universal Parks and Resorts off into its own company and putting it up for sale.
That decision has had some truly profound, hitherto-unseen consequences for our favorite Orlando resort, specifically, and the entire industry, generally. Originally pledging to devote at least half a billion dollars each and every year on its American parks, which has resulted in the Wizarding World arriving at Universal Studios Hollywood and the Volcano Bay water theme park here in Florida, Comcast has since expanded that mission statement to include buying out all of Universal Studios Japan – no small move.
Now we have word that the unprecedented investments are paying off. The Orlando Sentinel has reported on Comcast’s 2016 earnings update, which is filled to the brim with good news: the parks’ total financial haul was $1.1 billion (which is a 9% gain over last year’s performance), a 60% increase in Hollywood attendance (Hogsmeade opened there exactly one year ago this month), more per-person spending across the board, and an increase in the parent companies’ revenue, with NBCUniversal nabbing $7.9 billion (a 14% gain) and Comcast, $20.5 billion (8.9%).
The news is the best possible outcome for Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Universal Parks and Resorts; the money spigot is in no danger of turning off anytime soon, which means that the total transformation project that has been undertaken in Florida will continue unabated. Already, in the past six years, we’ve seen the number of on-site hotels double, received a steady flow of brand-new restaurants (in CityWalk) and theme park attractions (headlined by 2014’s Diagon Alley), and, of course, will get a whole new water park opening just next month. Over the course of the next several years, we should expect to see a massive seventh hotel, a new Harry Potter ride, the already-impressive-looking Super Nintendo World, and, quite possibly, a third theme park and second CityWalk.
In other words, your yearly jaunt to Universal Orlando Resort will continue to be different each and every time you take it – and which means, in turn, that Disney will continue to feel the pressure to make its upcoming expansions and additions as revolutionary as they possibly can be. What more could a theme park fan ask for?
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