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Is Harry Potter Heading to Universal Studios Florida?


With the closing of Jaws and the Amity section of Universal Studios Florida (USF) on January 2, there has been a flurry of speculation about possible expansion of the Harry Potter franchise at Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal has revealed no details about what is planned for this sizable chunk of real estate, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from operating full tilt. Perhaps because Universal has announced that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP) will be recreated at Universal Studios Hollywood in California, much of the speculation has centered around Harry and friends putting in an appearance at USF.

One rumor has it that the USF attraction (or attractions) would be based on the London themes from the Harry Potter movies. Ricky Brigante of InsideTheMagic.net has suggested that WWHP could expand into Universal Studios’ space via a Hogwarts Express.

Linking Islands of Adventure (IOA) and Universal Studios Florida the way Brigante imagines would be especially problematic in terms of admission costs, especially for those who purchased only one-park access. Ticket packages cover a single park admission and a two-park admission. The Lost Continent seems a more logical candidate for the expansion, a possibility Brigante also mentioned.

Still, the idea of Potter at USF has undeniable appeal. IOA is sucking an awful lot of traffic, leaving USF something of an afterthought.

But even if a Universal Studios outpost for Harry and friends were to be a standalone affair, there could be other problems.

There could be risks involved in spreading the boy wizard between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It could cause brand confusion, alienate some travelers who may be forced to buy two-park tickets to experience Potter, or make Universal Orlando even more dependent on a franchise that NBCUniversal does not control.

Universal Orlando has been debating about ways to beef up attendance at Universal Studios in light of the success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Construction is under way on “Despicable Me” and with the closing of Amity/Jaws, Universal promises “an exciting, new experience.”

“We’ve kept a steady focus on adding great guest experiences to Universal Studios Florida over the past few years,” Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said. “We have a long-term plan for growth across our entire destination, and we are continuing to move that plan forward.”

There’s also been talk of a new nighttime show, as seen in construction around the parks’ central lagoon.

Details of the expansion would be shared “over time.”

Attendance at Universal Orlando increased by 20 percent (to 11.2 million) in 2010 — WWHP didn’t open until June — and by 52 percent (6.4 million) during the first half of 2011. However, the popularity of Islands of Adventure versus Universal Studios can be seen in the larger number of blackout dates at Islands, 66 in 2011, and just seven at Universal Studios.

 




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