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Something epic is coming!
Universal is upping the ante in the Orlando area. Challenging Disney’s clear dominance in the theme park industry, specifically in the central Florida area.
Is it a coincidence that this theme park has been announced mere weeks before D23, the massive Disney convention, where The Walt Disney Company elaborates on projects that in in-progress and announces new projects for theme parks all over the world? Nope. Not a coincidence.
Universal’s parent company, Comcast, has announced that it is opening a brand new theme park, a whole new gate as park of Universal theme parks. This announcement marks the single largest financial investment Comcast is putting into its theme park ventures.
The new park, called Universal’s Epic Universe will be located on a 750-acre plot of land owned by the company, located less than three miles from the current parks in existence. This is the first brand new gate for Universal since the opening of Islands of Adventure in 1999.
Universal CEO Ted Williams joked, in a clear jab to the most magical place on earth, that “a Universe is bigger than a world.” Technically, he isn’t wrong. Animal Kingdom park, part of the Disney big four in Orlando, is currently the largest theme park in the world at 580 acres. If the new Epic Universe encompasses the entire 750-acre plot, that will make the it largest theme park in the world.
The Walt Disney Company has not built an entirely new gate in Florida since Animal Kingdom in 1998. Could this be setting the stage for such an announcement at D23? We will speculate more on that in an upcoming blog post all about what to expect from D23. Be on the lookout for that.
In The Washington Post’s article, Universal is building a new theme park to challenge Disney’s dominance, According to Dennis Speigel, president of the consulting firm, International Theme Park Services, “This is a major competitive program with Disney, there’s no question about it. They’re coming on strong.”
Disney is set to open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios later this month, previews for castmembers have already begun for that new and highly anticipated land for one of the most beloved franchises in cinematic history. To put it bluntly, Universal has no choice but to go big at this point to make a play against the number one power player in the game.
According to the Themed Entertainment Association and the global management firm AECOM, in 2018, Disney brought in an estimated 157 million people to its Orlando theme parks while Universal brought in around 50 million. An entirely new gate in what could be the largest theme park in the world, right in Disney’s backyard is sure to affect that spread.
During the official announcement for the park, Tom Williams, said the park will add 14,000 jobs to Orange County and that the base pay for these positions would be starting at $15 an hour.
Disney, most obviously, knew about this new addition to the Universal family prior to the official announcement and it is much needed for Universal with the Marvel exclusive theme park rights sunsetting for them in four years time and the addition of Fox to the Walt Disney company earlier this year, decreasing Universal’s intellectual property and the worth of their current parks significantly. The biggest draw for the parks remains Harry Potter World which just saw the addition of what some are calling, the best ride in all of Orlando.
While we do not believe that this new land will upend Disney’s domination to the Central Florida area, we do believe that it increases the pressure for Disney to announce that long-awaited fifth gate possibly sooner rather than later.
We expect big announcements to come from the leader of the theme park world later this month at D23 regarding Walt Disney World and Disney’s other parks around the world but can they eclipse this massive announcement by their biggest competitor? Our money is on a resounding “yes!” but we will be waiting with baited breath to find out for sure.
D23 begins in Anaheim, California on August 23, 2019.
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(Source: The Washington Post, Universal, Disney, Tampa Times, Orlando Sentinal, CNBC)