Universal parks have been on quite a high over the past few years, with Universal Studios Hollywood breaking attendance records after opening its west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year, and both Universal Studios Florida as well as Islands of Adventure posting attendance gains last year, while neighbor Walt Disney World suffered big losses during the same time period.
With so much good news bring released for domestic Universal parks, parent company Comcast has gone ahead and made some high-profile announcements regarding the future of both Universal Orlando Resort as well as Universal Studios Hollywood. And we’ll actually get this update started with some interesting news from the west coast:
1. So long, Shrek, Hello DreamWorks animation
Shrek 4-D has been on notice for some time, and now Universal has confirmed what many have long suspected: the Universal Studios Hollywood version of this attraction will be closing later this year, and will then transform into a showcase for a series of short films based on DreamWorks animated movie franchises, starting with Kung Fu Panda in 2018.
From there this new DreamWorks Theatre will host a variety of attractions from the animation studio, whose hits include Madagascar, Penguins of Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon and Trolls.
Currently, there are no plans to close Shrek 4-D at Universal Orlando Resort, but considering NBCUniversal shelled out $3.8 billion for DreamWorks in 2016, we’d imagine that a similar development could be in the cards for Universal Studios Florida. And speaking of the Florida resort…
2. Fast and the Furious – Supercharged confirmed to open at Universal Studios Florida next year and use queue-less technology
Over at Universal Studios Florida, it was announced that the new Fast & Furious – Supercharged attraction is now officially scheduled to open in Spring 2018. However, perhaps more interestingly, it was also confirmed that this new attraction will use the Virtual Line experience first pioneered in the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon attraction, which requires guests to reserve a ride time in advance if they want to experience it. There will not be a standby option.
This is certainly an interesting development, as Universal has already made a big gamble on virtual queues with its new Volcano Bay water park, which was built from the ground up without lines, with mixed results so far. However, it looks like Universal Orlando Resort is going full steam ahead with its plan to offer an experience that echoes that of Walt Disney World’s FastPass+, and Fast & Furious – Supercharged will be furthering that goal when it opens early next year.
3. Additional details and rates released for Aventura Hotel
Though we have another year to wait before Universal Orlando Resort’s Aventura Hotel opens in summer 2018, Universal released the 360-degree YouTube video above, which showcases the exterior and interior of the 600-room hotel that will be located near the new Volcano Bay water park.
And if you like what you see, reservations for the hotel are being accepted now for stays beginning August 1, 2018. Room rates start at $97 a night for a seven-night stay or $116 a night for four nights. And for those who want to get a jump on their vacations but don’t want to break the bank, Universal has announced that seven-night stays for Aug. 1-Dec. 20, 2018 if booked by Sept. 30, 2017 will also include a $100 dining credit while four-night stays will include a $50 dining credit.
4. Construction on Volcano Bay’s first expansion rumored to begin this month
Last month, an executive at Universal Creative has revealed that a 5-acre expansion Volcano Bay is in the works, and could actually begin construction sometime this month, if all goes to plan. Of course, when reporters followed up asking about specifics for this plan, Universal was non-committal, with spokesman Tom Schroder saying that the resort was “entirely focused on May 25 and making that great.”
Still, even though the executive might have jumped the gun on the announcement, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that Universal would be planning to expand Volcano Bay already, especially as this project was fast-tracked from announcement to opening, which undoubtedly put some constraints on what Universal could do with the new park. Now that this park is open, Universal has the freedom to expand at their own pace to keep guests coming back to this new park, which has the unique distinction of having been designed from the ground up to be the world’s first park without lines. If this rumor does indeed prove to be true, we’d expect an official announcement sometime this summer regarding this project.
With all of these projects in the pipeline plus Nintendo Land in development, and potentially another theme park in the works, Univeral certainly has a lot going on right now. Do you think they’ll be able to keep up this amazing momentum over the next few years? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
-From Orlando Theme Park News, June 6, 2017 by Amanda Kondolojy
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