Universal Studios has big plans to take on regional amusement park chains in the United States and around the globe with a pair of smaller scale and lower cost theme park concepts aimed at families with young kids and horror movie fans.
Universal Parks & Resorts is already planning a global expansion of its recently announced concepts for a kids-focused theme park near Dallas and a Halloween Horror Nights experience in Las Vegas, according to a Comcast quarterly earnings call last week.
“So we’re definitely having an eye towards expanding internationally, not just domestically, and they won’t all be places for a big giant primary theme park,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeffrey Shell said on the earnings call. “We will look at different concepts for different markets.”
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In early January, Universal Parks & Resorts unveiled plans to open a new theme park aimed at families with young children in the North Texas city of Frisco and a new permanent horror-themed experience at the Area15 entertainment district near the Las Vegas Strip. Opening dates have not yet been announced for the as-yet-unnamed theme park concepts, but work is set to begin in 2023 on both projects.
Universal’s new regional theme park concepts take aim at Legoland’s core demographic of young children as well industry players like Six Flags and Cedar Fair in the U.S. and China’s OCT and Chimelong that operate amusement parks in smaller markets.
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The smaller scale theme park “extensions” could fuel growth at Universal’s larger destination parks in California, Florida, China, Japan and Singapore, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said on the earnings call.
Universal’s smaller scale family-oriented theme park concept near Dallas “will work in a lot of places around the world that may not support a full-scale theme park like we have in Orlando or Beijing, but could support something else,” Shell said on the call.
The proposed 97-acre Universal Kids resort will include attractions based on DreamWorks and Illumination films, according to the earnings call. Concept art shows themed lands and attractions dedicated to Shrek, Trolls and Jurassic World.
The Halloween Horror Nights experience coming to Las Vegas could be expanded to a number of locations around the world, Shell said on the call.
Universal’s library of classic horror characters includes Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf of London, Wolf Man and The Mummy. Halloween Horror Nights has also worked with a new generation of horror filmmakers like Jason Blum (“Insidious,” “The Purge”), Jordan Peele (“Nope,” “Us”) and James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”).
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Universal’s theme park division expects to increase capital spending in 2023 as work begins on the Horror Nights and Universal Kids theme park extensions and continues on the new Universal Beijing theme park in China and the upcoming Epic Universe theme park in Florida.
“The required investment to develop these extensions is nowhere near the scale of Epic or Universal Beijing, but rather enable us to leverage our already large market opportunity and could serve as a model that contributes even higher growth at theme parks in the future,” Comcast President Mike Cavanagh said on the earnings call.