Halloween Horror Comes Early To Universal

Move over, Crypt Keeper! The Recession Debt Monster is here.

The Orlando Sentinel has the grim news.

Orlando’s No. 2 theme-park resort is warning that it could face a cash crunch by next spring, as turmoil in the credit markets — and an obscure clause in its long-standing contract with famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg — complicate its efforts to restructure nearly $1 billion of debt.

If Universal Orlando is unable to rework the loans in coming months, it could be forced to slash spending on new attractions, seek more money from its owners or even put a piece of the resort up for sale.

Actually, it’s not as bad as the article, in the finest journalistic tradition, makes it sound.

Later, the reporter, Jason Garcia, notes:

Moody’s and other analysts say a bankruptcy filing is unlikely. They say the Orlando resort’s business, which produced $180 million in operating profit last year, is fundamentally strong and stands to benefit from the opening of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster later this year and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. They also say the resort’s co-owners have incentive to preserve their investments in the resort — particularly NBC Universal, because of the theme parks’ strategic ties to that company’s movie and television studios.

And the “Spielberg clause”?

Apparently, director Steven Spielberg has a long-running consulting deal. He got $20 million last year alone. In 2010, he has the right to demand a buyout of “several hundred millions.”

Would Spielberg do something that horrible? It’d be like letting Jeff Goldblum get eaten at the end of the movie.


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