Friday, January 6, 2017

Universal Studios Hollywood Beginning to See Record-Breaking Attendance in 2017

Since its creation, Disney Parks and Resorts has held the lead based on annual attendance among amusement park corporations, both in California as well as the world. While Universal Studios has come in second place in California and third in the world (behind Merlin Entertainment Group, a UK-based company), it was never a close competition. Disney's parks have regularly seen triple the number of visitors as Universal's, but this year, the gap may be closing. As discussed in Hugo Martin's L.A. Times article, attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood has been growing rapidly, so much so that the park reached its maximum capacity and had to close its gates to incoming guests this week.

It will take much more than a single good week (especially one during winter break, when many people have time off of school and work) for Universal to see greater attendance than Disney. In fact, it is unlikely that Universal will take the lead any time in the near future, mainly due to size and capacity limitations, but the increased demand has shown that Universal's recent investments into new attractions are starting to pay off. after the huge success of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at their Orlando park, Universal finished construction on the smaller Los Angeles version last year, which led to a massive surge in the park's popularity.

Harry Potter World has brought in many more visitors as well as thousands of dollars in spending on souvenirs and food. However, that new portion of the park is not the only thing that has increased the park's popularity. Since 2014, Universal has invested over $1.4 billion in revamping and improving their Hollywood-based theme park. Their new Fast and Furious ride has caused improvement among some demographics, and their Minions/ Despicable Me attractions gathered interest on the other end of the spectrum. One of the biggest attractions to the park, besides The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, has been a haunted maze themed after AMC's popular show, "The Walking Dead." Universal has been making changes throughout the park, targeting all of their demographics, which seems to be a good strategy to help them get an edge on the competition.

New Year's Day at Universal Studios Hollywood saw record-breaking numbers, but those records were broken again and again throughout the week. In 2015, the park had seen an average of 20,000 visitors per day, but the number has been rising in leaps and bounds over the past year. This week, when demand was higher than ever before, wait times ranged anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours for their most popular attractions. While those numbers are nowhere near as high as those at Disney's parks, Universal may need to look at addressing the issue if they don't want to upset too many potential customers. However, studies have shown that people prefer waiting in long lines rather than not being allowed in the park at all, so closing the gates (except for reasons of legal capacity) may not be the best solution either.

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