UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood, CA (Abbreviation: USH)
NBC Universal / Comcast
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(8/27/16) Terror Tram Details Uncovered for Halloween Horror Nights (MORE...)
(8/18/16) Halloween Horror Nights Ticket Options and More (MORE...)
(8/17/16) American Horror Story Comes To Life for Horror Nights (MORE...)
(8/9/16) HHN To Feature All Purge Themed Scare Zones (MORE...)
Read the Official Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2015 - CLICK HERE
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem - THE GRAND OPENING
General Park News - (6/26/16) So what did Universal Studios Hollywood announce this past week? A group of small announcements came out over the past few days including the launch of a new logo for the Hollywood park. The new logo isn't huge news, as you would really have to see them side by side to notice all the little changes that have resulted in a cleaner, crisper, new logo for the Hollywood theme park. They also announced that the multiplex theater in Citywalk would be undergoing a series of serious upgrades to make it the premier movie theater in the area. All 18 theaters will be upgraded to feature the same plush recliner seats offered in Hollywood private screening rooms. The projection systems will be upgraded to new Christie RGB Laser projectors and new Dolby Atmos sound systems with Christie Vive speakers. In the theater itself a bar / lounge area will be constructed on the second level too so you can arrive early or hang out after the film and hang out with friends to plot how you would make the sequel if only you were in charge.
An assortment of new restaurants and eateries are on the way, some already announced previously. The list includes LudoBird, Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, Dongpo Kitchen, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and California’s first VooDoo Doughnut.
Meanwhile in an exclusive to Variety, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed a new five year plan that will see a collection of 13 soundstages close to the theme park removed to allow for future theme park expansion, while building new replacement soundstages elsewhere on the eastern side of the backlot where they will replace Park Lake, home to the very old parting of the Red Seas attraction on the backlot tour. Two of the new soundstages are already under construction it seems, and the other 10 will follow over the next couple of years, though some are pending the selection of Los Angeles for the 2024 Summer Olympics which would be used as an international broadcast center during the games. While fewer soundstages will be built than removed, they will be larger, so there will be an overall increase in the square-footage of production space available on the background.
Nothing specific was mentioned about how the theme park will use the new space, we’ve already heard that groundwork may have begun next to Transformers for The Secret LIfe of Pets dark ride attraction, and the next project expected to go into the lower lot after this are expected to be for the future Nintendo land and attraction(s).
(6/16/16) Universal Studios Hollywood has sent early word that they will making a big announcement on the morning (7:30am PST) of June 21st about the future of the park. If I had to guess they could be ready to talk about The Secret Life of Pets dark ride, or perhaps given how early they announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, perhaps they will confirm that Diagon Alley is also on the way. We'll have to wait and see.
(5/19/16) Universal Hollywood has confirmed that California's first Voodoo Doughnut location will open in CityWalk this fall, bringing their signature and one-of-a-kind doughnuts to Universal guests. The location will be near the 5 Towers outdoor concert stage area and I imagine this will end up being a popular pre-stop for guests on the way to Halloween Horror Nights.
(5/16/16) According to this article a "Voodoo Doughnut" location is in the works for CityWalk and could open before the end of the year. I'm not familiar with the chain, but apparently it is from Oregon and to date has only opened a couple of locations outside the state, with sites also open in Denver, CO and Austin, TX, plus one international location in Tapei.
(3/26/16) CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood is opening a new restaurant this weekend (today actually) called LudoBird. It's from the mind of chef Ludo Lefebvre and his mobile LudoTruck concept with a menu featuring his signature take on buttermilk fried chicken. Sounds delicious to me.
(3/21/16) Time to get your Margaritta on, because a new Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant is coming to CityWalk in Hollywood, replacing Jillian's. You can find a picture of the new promotional artwork for Margaritaville on Jillian's doors posted to Inside Universal this week.
In other news, With the closing of the Universal museum attraction at the Hollywood park, many have wondered what will happen to the fully restored Back To The Future DeLoreans car that was a highlight of the park's collection. According to the local news the car will soon be leaving Hollywood hills behind to take up residence at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Blvd. on April 22.
(3/20/16) It has only been maybe a month and a half since Universal Studios Hollywood launched their latest price increase and more to the EZ Rez demand style pricing scheme, and it seems they have upped their prices once again as of this week. I haven't gotten a confirmation from the park yet, but based on what I can see from the official website today the walk-up price has risen from the previous price of $95 a person by a whopping $20 and is now showing a price of $115 for walk-up guests at the front gate as of Saturday, March 19th. Meanwhile the price of buying tickets in advance for future days that used to be between $75 and $90 a person is now only showing prices ranging between $95 and $105 (and mostly $105 all summer long) per day between now and September when the advanced purchase price drops a tiny bit more town to $90 on weekdays.
Meanwhile, Universal has also launched a brand new Platinum Annual Pass options for $589 that will be the only annual pass that has zero black-out dates AND includes free daytime parking, as well as some juicy other benefits like priority boarding for the Studio Tour, a free Halloween Horror Nights ticket good on select nights and more.
I figured it would only be a matter of time that a new top tier AP would be offered after the last revision of the pass program removed free parking options as well as not offering a single pass with zero black-out dates. But I'm more disturbed that they would raise their gate ticket prices so high all at once (and a $20 hike is quite a bit!) just because they are opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The extra merchandise sales along, if anything like what happened in Florida, should have been enough of a gain for them, especially when you are talking about a theme park that is, in all honestly, much smaller and has far fewer separate attractions than most of the other theme parks in Southern California.
Now onto another more fun topic, for my professional wrestling loving readers especially, it seem that Christopher Daniels (aka: The Fallen Angel, known to most for his time in TNA or Ring of Honor) has taken up a new steady day job at Universal, over in the Waterworld stunt show arena where he is now one of the stunt actors playing The Deacon. Check it out in the video below.
(2/26/16) Screamscape did some gazing into our crystal ball regarding the future of Universal’s theme parks, and while some aspects aren’t perfectly clear, we did get the basic masterplan that they are shooting for over the next five years. Scroll down to see all the details known about the future attractions ahead between now and 2020.
(2/3/16) Universal Studios Hollywood will launch a new demand based pricing system this year set as a way to try to handle the expected demand and higher crowds that will come with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this Spring. While walk-up guests will still find a basic $95 ticket price at the gate, you can find better deals by buying tickets online for dates before the Harry Potter themed section opens or on slower and off-season dates throughout the year, rather than on the busy weekend and summer dates. Based on the current pricing I see, it looks likes like the most expensive ticket is $90, which is a $5 savings over buying at the gate, with the slowest dates being priced as low as $75.
Buying tickets online ahead of time through Universal’s “EZ Rez” systemnot only helps the park better plan their staffing needs by predicting more crowded dates, but it does come with a good incentive for those wanting to visit the Wizarding World… as advanced ticket holders will be allowed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the rest of the park opens. Right now the system is allowing tickets to be purchased through the end of September 2016.
Fortunately the system is set up kind of the opposite way from hotels and airlines, where the demand based pricing options usually just go up as the occupancy rate gets higher.
Apr. 7, 2016 - Wizarding World of Harry Potter - (4/8/16) I’ve got to share the incredible video Steve shot of the opening ceremony performance put on during the VIP night on April 6th for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You can watch it below or on our Facebook page.
Universal Studios Hollywood held a special VIP opening night event at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Tuesday night and our man Steve was on site to take it all in. While I'm still waiting for the final report from Steve, he did send in a few photos of the event, looking at a few scenes from the amazing queue inside Hogwarts Castle, a look at Ollivander's wand shop and a few images taken during the spectacular grand opening ceremony that featured John Williams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in front of Hogwarts Castle, which was covered with lighting and projection mapping special effects as fireworks lit the night sky.
One final word of warning... if you haven’t already bought yours, then know that tickets to the opening day (April 7th) of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are officially SOLD OUT! For the first time ever, Universal says they had to halt online ticket sales. Special tickets, such as the VIP Experience and Front of Line tickets for April 7, as well as Friday, April 8th and Saturday, April 9th, are also sold out.
(12/7/11) Universal Studios Hollywood held a press conference a few hours ago to confirm that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will indeed be coming to the California park. Unfortunately, they were a little light on details… only mentioning that the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey thrill ride would be built, themed to look like the iconic Hogwarts Castle, but no timeline was given for the attraction to open. I contacted Universal for clarification on this, or to see if they could provide the year when it will open, but they responded that the exact timeline was not yet set at this point in time.
The press release had a few more minor details that confirmed that they were indeed building a themed land and not just the one ride structure. “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood will be as impressive as what has been created in Orlando – and is expected to transform tourism in Los Angeles for decades to come. It will be a fully immersive environment for the entire family that brings the stories of Harry Potter to life and is faithful to the visual landscape of the films, including a majestic Hogwarts castle to serve as the centerpiece of the themed environment. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood will be created with the same commitment to authenticity and the same level of talent and resources as its Orlando counterpart.”
In another report I read elsewhere (sorry, can’t find the link) the reporter asked Ron Meyer about where they would build it because the park was land locked, to which he responded that “We’re not land locked! We’ve got 400 acres on this lot and 200 of them are still not developed.” So that got me to thinking… could Universal possibly be rethinking some of that once proposed Vision Plan (later revised in 2009 as the Evolution Plan)? Could they now be realizing the value of all that property they hold, and what else they could do with it is they choose to expand the theme park side of the business instead of selling off the land for new housing developments? We can dream…
In the meantime, a LA County Supervision did comment in this other report, confirming the rumors we had been hearing, that the Gibson Amphitheater would be scrapped to make way for the Wizarding World, possibly opening as early as late 2014.
If your not quite sure just what to expect from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, then be sure to read through Screamscape’s official two part coverage of the grand opening of the Orlando park’s version.
Halloween Horror Nights 2016 - (8/27/16) The details on this year's Terror Tram has been released as Eli Roth presents this year's Terror Tram. The story this year is about "the fabled legacy of serial killer clown “Hollywood Harry,” the story of a former jovial celebrity clown turn depraved murderer, and the minefield of carnage he left behind."
“I’m thrilled to be part of ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ again,” said Eli Roth. “We wanted to completely fabricate an original story that brings together our absolute freakiest, scariest most disturbing ideas. The ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ team is the best in the business. Their production and execution is unmatched and I know this ‘Terror Tram’ experience will blow away all expectations, and haunt guests for the rest of their lives. ‘Halloween Horror Nights is the must-see event for any horror movie fan—it’s like the Super Bowl for scary movies, and is my favorite event of the year.”
The all-new “Terror Tram” experience will tell the sordid tale of former Angeleno resident Harold Kappowitz whose alter ego “Koodles the Clown” went from cheerful circus performer, to the lovable star of his own children’s network television show…before he was overcome by his genuine “killer instincts.”
By the 1990s, hard knocks took a deadly toll on Kappowitz, and the onetime endearing clown found himself exiled by the very Hollywood entertainment community that once adored him. With an all-consuming anger and hatred, Kappowitz—a now crazed and disheveled recluse—took refuge from society by hiding out at Universal Studios, emerging as notorious serial killer clown, “Hollywood Harry.” Recurring murders began to dominate the studio, as “Hollywood Harry” drew strength from recruiting other outcast former clowns who, together, took revenge on Studio Tour guides and visitors alike, ceremoniously killing them, and leaving behind a deadly trail of terror.
I've got a couple of videos about Hollywood Harry below to share. Enjoy!
(8/18/16) Tickets to Halloween Horror Nigths at Universal Studios Hollywood are now on sale. In addition to regular tickets they have introduced a special “After 2pm Day/Night Combo ticket that will let you into the park after 2pm for some daytime fun, and then you can stay to enjoy all the horrors of the night. There is also a Frequent Fear Pass, which allows you to visit Halloween Horror Nights several times instead of just once, for those who just can’t get enough.
While the park still hasn’t released the theme of this year’s Terror Tram, the notice did confirm that the Jabbawockeez live show will from last year will return once again.
(8/17/16) Universal Studios Hollywood announced American Horror Story as the theme of the final maze to be announced this year. So all together there are seven mazes this year: The Exorcist, The Walking Dead, Freddy vs Jason, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween 2, Krampus and American Horror Story. The only things left to announce for Hollywood would be the theme of the Terror Tram and any live shows they are planning.
The American Horror Story maze will blend the scenes from three of the shows popular seasons: Murder House (Season 1), Freakshow (Season 4) and Hotel (Season 5).
(8/9/16) Universal Studios Hollywood announced over the weekend that all of the park's scare zones would be themed to The Purge: Election Year. Actually, not just the new film, but they will bring to live scenes and characters from all three films, as well as some stuff they are creating just for the scare zones as well.
(8/5/16) Krampus has been confirmed as a new Halloween Horror Nights maze for both Universal Studios Holywood and Orlando. Based on the Universal film, which was based on the European legend about the evil opposite of Santa Claus, described as a half-goat / half-demon like creature who comes for all the naughty children at Christmas-time. Like Santa has his elves and helpers, the Krampus does not come alone either, as he is aided by his own Dark Elves and evil Gingerbread Men. So you better watch out... you better not cry... you better be good... because Krampus is coming!
(7/28/16) Universal Studios Hollywood announced two Halloween Horror Nights mazes a few hour ago: “Freddy vs. Jason” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers”. Mix in the already announced Halloween 2 themed maze and they’ve collected the four greatest iconic horror film slashers all into one event for the first time ever.
Unlike the Halloween 2 themed maze however, since these subjects have been done up as mazes so many times before in the past, this time Universal’s horror gurus are taking the source material and inventing their own stories for each.
For example, in this version of “Freddy vs Jason”, after being sent to hell at the end of the first film, when Freddy escapes and returns for vengeance he brings a friend along with him… Jason Voorhees. Before too long Freddy realizes that Jason’s killstreak is rising as quickly as his own, so obviously Jason needs to go back to Hell and he’s going to send him. The battle between the titans will rage from Camp Crystal Lake to Elm Street with the final showdown taking place in the very boiler room where Freddy was first killed. Who will win in the end? You’ll have to visit and see for yourself.
This version of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers” takes place 5 years after the events of the first film (but before the events of the second film). As the story goes… the killers were never caught, nor was the farmhouse ever found. Choptop, Leatherface’s brother who we saw in the second film has just returned from Vietnam and the family is ready to expand the family business, showing off the previously unseen events that take place between the two films.
(7/7/16) Halloween Horror Nights - Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Universal just confirmed that little "Halloween 2" themed rumor we heard about awhile back, where the masked Michael Myers will return to terrorize guests in a recreation of the film Halloween 2. Look for this new maze to play out to HHN guests in both Hollywood and Orlando, where the majority of the film takes place in the Haddonfield hospital.
(4/27/16) Another rumor comes true as Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and at Universal Studios Hollywood will bring The Exorcist to life as a new intense haunted maze experience this fall. For many, The Exorcist represents one of the most frightening movies of all time, so it should be interesting to see how they opt to tell the story and make the horror personal, especially when much of the film's most intense moments all take place in the same little bedroom.
(4/9/16) HHNUnofficial has posted some detective speculation work based on the twitter postings and travels of the head-honcho's of HHN in Hollywood (Murdy) and Orlando (Aiello) which met in Hollywood this week for pitch meetings (and the opening of Potter in Hollywood) followed by HHN Orlando's Mike Aiello stopping in Vegas before returning home. This last bit ties in nicely to previous rumors that may see the return of Penn & Teller to HHN this fall. Meanwhile other rumors they have posted about also tie up nicely with some of Screamscape's previous rumors that would see a Leatherface/Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze and a Krampus maze. If what HHNUnofficial is hearing is also on the right track, we may add a maze themed to The Conjuring to the mix as well this year.
(4/1/16) According to Screamscape sources the rumors of a Tremors themed haunt or scare zone for Halloween Horror Nights are false. Instead they tell us that haunts based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist are in the works however. While I'm good with seeing Leatherface once again, rumor has it they may try to theme the haunt to the very first film... which in my opinion was a little "Meh..." compared to the utter carnage and chaos we saw from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where the family complex and underground bunker would make for a much better haunt theme in my opinion.
Meanwhile... The Exorcist... sorry but I've got to say "Meh" on that one too. Personal choice, but I never found that film to be the least bit frightening. Intense? Yes... but scary? Nope... though I've found that how scary the film is to a person usually depends on how intense of a religious family upbringing you had as a child.
Either way, sounds like both of these projects could come to life in both Hollywood and Orlando this fall.
(2/22/16) HHN Hollywood creative mastermind, John Murdy, is at it again... working feverishly to come up with a new crop of haunted mazes for HHN 2016, and as the first few themes are locking themselves in, he has once again released a couple of codenames for the first two mazes: "Wisconsin" and "Doris Day".
To be honest, I've long since given up trying to break John's twisted code logic, as it has been far easier for me to tap into the Screamscape spy network to get a glimpse as what the themes for each year will be. For example, it is extremely likely that Krampus will be one of them, along with the return of The Walking Dead universe yet again. Personally, I'm crossing my fingers we'll also see Ash VS Evil Dead brought to life, as we've never really been treated to a full blown mazes themed to the classic Evil Dead world, only the Ash free mazes from 2013 themed to the rebooted film version. Oh, and don't forget that the third Purge film (The Purge: Election Year) is coming out this July. The Purge has been a fun theme for scare zones and mazes for HHN in the past, and as a Universal branded film (much like Krampus) it makes it a likely candidate.
So what else may be a good fit? It's hard to say, and some things could be tapped for HHN Hollywood and not HHN Orlando, or vise-versa, but if you look into the list of upcoming films that sound interesting a few names stand out to me that could be interesting. For example we will soon see the return of the Cloverfield universe, with new added human drama, Rob Zombie has an interesting project coming out called 31 that sounds perfect as the theme for an HHN Maze (captured people forced to play a 12-hour survival game called 31 against clown themed maniacs) though at the heart, it may be too similar to what Purge has become. A rebooted Hellraiser film is said to soon grace the screens once again, written by Cliver Barker and Universal is tied to an interesting Legendary Pictures project called Spectral that is about a high tech, military version of a Ghostbusters concept to battle supernatural forces invading our world. This later one could be a winner as well, as it would fill the gap of a more modern or sci-fi themed haunt experience nicely, and Universal has done some great work with this genre over the past few years with Aliens Vs Predator, The Thing, and Cabin In The Woods (in Orlando) and I'd like to see more.
In any case, it is still fun to occasionally try and break one of John's codes. Our friends at Behind the Thrills usually have a better handle on these than I do, so make the jump and see where they've gotten so far with the first two clues.
2016 - The Walking Dead Attraction - A Year-Round Walk-Through Experience -
The Walking Dead Attraction - Universal Studios Hollywood
(6/30/16) Screamscape was lucky enough to be invited out to Universal Studios Hollywood to take part in a special preview opening tour of the new walk-through attraction themed to AMC’s The Walking Dead. One of our local spies took on the challenge and sent in a bunch of cool photos as well as a complete description of what lies inside. Check it out below!
The exterior of the attraction nicely blends with its surroundings, aside from the crashed helicopter mounted above the entrance. Wisely, Universal chose to add a sign declaring The Walking Dead “A Walk Through Attraction”, making it a bit easier for guests to determine what lies inside.
Entry and Queue: Hospital
Entering under the wreckage of a crashed helicopter, entry into the queue area is by way of a long outdoor alley between two buildings. Evidence of the zombie apocalypse is strewn about, including inhabited body bags and medical supplies. “WOLVES NOT FAR” is scrawled along the wall.
At this point, guests turn a corner and enter the main queue, inside the hospital. The building is abandoned and lights are flickering all over. Bloody handprints and gunshot spray dot the walls. Turning the corner, we encounter the iconic “Don’t Open - Dead Inside” twin doors from the first episode. The doors are barricaded shut with and chains and a plank of wood. Visitors who wait around a bit will eventually witness the doors being pried open and walker hands poking through the open spaces. Switchbacks fill much of the room, and distant screams punctuate the foreboding music and radio transmissions being piped in over the sound system.
Visitors are divided into small groups and appropriately enter the show area through the Neurology department. At this point, the show is standard haunt maze, but the sets are much more thought out that the previous House of Horrors formerly in this space. Attention to detail is on a scale similar to Disney or the recent Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands. There is much more open space that permits visitors to roam around the environments a bit more.
Hospital Corridor: A short hallway that exits into the park scene.
Public Park: Includes the bicycle and crawling walker torso from the first episode. This scene is small, but uses a very convincing animatronic that crawls toward and reaches out to guests.
Burning Cabin: This scene uses some of the best fire effects I’ve ever witnessed. A walker runs out from inside the cabin to lunge at unsuspecting guests.
West Georgia Correctional Facility: As visitors make their way down the middle of the cell block, a gunman protects them with machine gun cover as walkers approach from all directions.
Loading Dock: Two trucks are backed up to the Del Arno Foods loading dock, with a human actor shooting at a walker on the dock. A couple of walkers furiously gnaw at remains from inside the back of a truck while a human provides cover with gunfire from atop. The next truck houses an assortment of walker torsos, still alive as they hang on meat hooks.
Narrow Corridor and Exit: Guests exit through the most narrow portion of the show, along chain-link cages containing walkers as they reach out at guests through gaps. This is the tightest room so far and it unceremoniously dumps out into street.
Most impressive is the attention to detail and pacing of this attraction. Universal have clearly stepped up their game over the last few years, and the Walking Dead continues that philosophy. Particular attention has been paid to the sound design during the experience. There are many audio cues to alert visitors where they are and what they should be feeling. There is more space to move around than the average haunt maze, and that allows guests to take in the environments a bit more. Just as many of us would love to walk through dark rides and devote more attention to the sets and design, this experience allows guest to do just that, assuming that they aren't chased out by a walker, that is. I gather there were about a dozen live actors inhabiting the experience, though I suspect that will vary with each walk through. The final scene is actually the least inspired and has the roughest ending transition of the experience. Perhaps a recovery room would have eased the transition back into the "real" world. That’s about my only issue with this show though. If lines are manageable, I imagine this will be a very repeatable experience. This is a very well done and contemporary progression from the old House of Horrors.
(6/27/16) Universal Studios Hollywood has sent out a new preview video about The Walking Dead Attraction opening soon. Check it out below.
(5/19/16) Universal Studios Hollywood has posted a new preview video for the new The Walking Dead attraction, talking with Greg Nicotero about the creation of authentic Walking Dead Walkers for the new attraction. Oh... and the new walk through attraction will open the gates to the public starting July 4th!!
2017 - Pitch Perfect - Rumor - (5/29/16) Screamscape sources tell us that Universal Studios Hollywood is working on a new muscial show concept for the park to open in 2017. No... this wont be another Spider-Man or Creature from the Black Lagoon... instead this one makes a lot of more sense and will tie into a successful Universal movie franchise just in time for the next film to drop in Summer 2017. Keep an eye out for a live Pitch Perfect themed show next year, though I'm not exactly sure where they will put it.
2017/2018 - Jurassic World Enhancement - Rumor - (2/26/16) To help promote and make ties with last year’s Jurassic World film and the upcoming Jurassic World 2 film hitting theaters in Summer 2018, I’m hearing there is a plan to “enhance” and rebrand the park’s existing Jurassic Park ride into a slightly new “Jurassic World” experience. The ride system itself will remain unchanged, just look for some enhanced scenes, effects, and new Jurassic World branding.
2018 - The Secret Life of Pets Dark Ride - Rumor - (7/11/16) With The Secret Life of Pets dark ride already in development (and possibly already under construction in the Hollywood park next to Transformers) long before the movie was released in theaters, it was clear Universal was not only taking a bit of a risk here, but it was also a strong show of their confidence in not only the property itself but also in the people making it.
Now the opening weekend is complete and it does seem that NBCUniversal's confidence in The Secret Life of Pets was justified as the film toppled Disney's Finding Dory out of the top spot and settled into #1 by pulling in $103.2 million domestically. The Legend of Tarzan (from WB) hung on to their #2 spot and Finding Dory from Disney/Pixar dropped to 3rd place, taking in another $20.4 million, for a total of $422.6 million after four weeks in theaters.
(6/22/16) NBCUniversal's CEO, Steve Burke, let it slip the other day that they are indeed working on a dark ride themed to The Secret Life of Pets. He didn't go into specifics about which park, but this is the first official confirmation that the project is on the way.
(2/26/16) I’m told that this major new family dark ride has been locked into opening at the Hollywood park in 2018. While there have been some rumors about it taking over the Mummy building, last I heard this would go into a new structure built to the left of Transformers on the lower lot. Also, look for this ride to feature a good number of classic animatronics.
(1/8/16) Several sites have been talking about a possible removal rumor for the Revenge of the Mummy attraction, as they expect it to be replaced by the 2017 attraction project. However, Screamscape sources have previously told us that this is not the case at all. The new attraction is expected to be a new dark ride experience of some kind, themed to Universal’s upcoming animated film, “The Secret Life of Pets”, hitting theaters in Summer 2016 and from the brains behind the Despicable Me series.
As for the location of this attraction… I was told to expect to see it built inside a new structure that would be built next to the Transformers building, which I’m assuming would be in the same basic area where the demolished Soundstage 28 (aka: Phantom of the Opera stage) was located. Remember, there was a lot of history and some interesting lore (some say it was haunted) surrounding the history of Soundstage 28, but it was removed in 2014 for a reason, and the proximity of the site to the “theme park” side of things is no coincidence.
As for Revenge of the Mummy... if the park was thinking of closing this indoor coaster, I really don't think it would happen until after they open a Hollywood version of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, along with Diagon Alley.
(12/9/15) I don’t know much about this one yet, but I’m told that Universal has plans for a new attraction in the lower lot expected to open as early as Summer 2017. If they keep that timeline, construction would likely have to begin within the next 3 months or so, so keep your eyes open for signs of something new.
2019 - Nintendo Land - Rumor - (2/26/16) A Nintendo themed area is expected to open in the lower lot by 2019. Due to size limitations, expect this area to be compact, but it should feature at least one major attraction that can feature a number of the famous Nintendo characters all at the same time, which is likely to be themed to the Mario Kart game. Placement may be tricky, but last I heard is that it would likely go where a few a couple of small soundstages are behind the Transformers building.
2020 - Diagon Alley - Planning - (2/26/16) The plans to expand the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a Diagon Alley are said to be locked in for a 2020 opening, which should see it open and go head to head with Disneyland’s Star Wars Land. Diagon Alley will take over the current site of the Waterworld stunt show, but there will be one major difference between it and the counterpart in Orlando… there will not be a Hogwarts Express attraction, just the “Escape From Gringotts” attraction.
Being build right next to the current Hogsmeade / Hogwarts area, there is no need to have a Hogwarts Express train to run between the two, plus even in Orlando they have to separate Diagon Alley from a recreation of England and the Kings Cross train station where the train departs from, and there simply isn’t room for that, while in Orlando it was a necessary addition to link the two theme parks and Potter themed attraction areas together.
(1/16/16) Even though the Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t even open yet, that has done little to stop the flood of rumors regarding the eventual addition of Diagon Alley. Now from what I’ve been hearing the west coast version of Diagon Alley will include an Escape From Gringotts ride for sure, but I haven't been able to lock down if it will include a Hogwarts Express or not. It seems this has become something of a major design issue that they are going back and forth on, but I did get one very interesting bit of information about it.
If the expansion does choose to include a Hogwarts Express experience… the interior experience will be a similar to what we’ve seen in Florida, but enhanced to be even better somehow. But Outside? Well… lets just say that the train itself won't actually move anywhere this time around.
This makes sense as there really is no room to add a functional train style ride experience like they did in Florida, but the idea of a simulated Hogwarts Express ride does intrigue me, especially when it comes to the idea of how they will allow guests to depart from one station and appear to arrive at another.
Now the only question is, will they build it or not?
(12/9/15) According to the latest rumors, the clock may be ticking for the Waterworld show at Universal Studios Hollywood. While I haven’t heard about exactly WHEN the end will come for Waterworld, I have heard that the reason it will depart is to connect it to the Wizarding World of Happy Potter to become a west coast version of Diagon Alley along with a copy of Escape From Gringots attraction.
With Diagon Alley being located so close to the Hogsmeade Village / Hogwarts area, will there still be a need to have a Hogwarts Express train? Apparently, that is the question still being discussed. Now don’t look for Diagon to open right away mind you… as I'm told that there is another attraction in the works elsewhere in the park that could open as early as 2017. With that in mind however, I have heard from one little bird that Comcast may be willing to fast-track Diagon Alley to open as early as 2018... simply because they would love to get it open before Disneyland can finish their new Star Wars land.
(6/8/15) Would you believe Diagon Alley could be added to Universal Studios Hollywood and kept on the upper lot? According to the very end of this article by the LA Times, a set of plans were drawn up that would place Diagon Alley on the site of the current Waterworld stunt show. I can see this being a more budget friendly concept compared to the idea of building it on the lower lot, with access only from a Hogwarts Express train ride.
I've yet to confirm if either version has truely been given the green light to go ahead, which I doubt would happen until they open Wizarding World itself next year anyway. So at this point I think Universal may simply be weighing their options in terms of both budget, and how best to manage the available property that they can use.
(6/6/15) I mentioned this all two years ago (see below) as being the rumored long-term plan for the Harry Potter franchise in Hollywood, but according to the latest post at Disney & More's Facebook page the advanced planning has begun full force to make way for an eventual Diagon Alley / Hogwarts Express expansion to the Wizarding World in California. The early prediction is that it could be ready as early as 2020.
How will they do it? Well the basic plan I've heard all along was to use a Hogwarts Express style transportation attraction to move guests from Hogwarts on the Upper Lot to a Diagon Alley attraction area to be built somewhere on the Lower Lot. While I don't know exactly where it might go, based on the layout and landscape of the park, I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up not too far away from the new Fast & Furious - Supercharged attraction area at the end run of the Backlot Tour.
(6/17/13) For the record, don’t think that they are done with the Wizarding World once the first phase opens in 2016. While obviously nothing will be decided and made official for years to come, there is a loose plan to possible create an expansion. Since land space is a major issue at the Hollywood park, they may take a nod from what is being built at Orlando right now, and look into building a Hogwarts Express ride that guests can ride out into a section of the backlot where another Diagon Alley would be built, complete with a copy of the Gringott’s Bank coaster ride. Don’t look for Phase 2 to happen until at least 2020 however… and only if the Harry Potter money machine is still alive and well for them by then.
???? - Resort Hotel - Rumor - (3/27/14) Inside Universal takes a look at the pending demolition for the old Fung Lum Chinese restaurant just down the hill from the Universal parking structure with the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem built on top. According to the NBCUniversal Evolution Plan, the site is earmarked to become home to a 500-room hotel, so it looks like they may be ready to move forward on this project later this year, as the Fung Lum Restaurant has sat closed and abandoned since the late 90s.
(1/2/14) According to one Screamscape source, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke has made a number of announcements, internal broadcasts and town hall meetings to Universal staff on both coasts and has been apparently referring to the ongoing construction of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando has the largest current hotel construction project in the US during each of these. That said, it seems entirely possible that the use of this phrasing for the Hollywood property may have been a mistake.
Despite this, I have been told elsewhere that a hotel / resort project for the Hollywood is still on the way, though the timeline is unknown.
(12/31/13) According to Screamscape sources, Steve Burke (NBCUniversal CEO) made a curious comment in a holiday message to the staff of Universal Studios Hollywood the other day. Possibly overlooked by many, but mixed in with comments regarding a great number of things, Steve also mentioned that “the largest hotel project in the U.S. is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood!”
Errrr… Excuse me? We know Universal’s newly approved Evolution plan for the property does give them clearance to build three on-site resort hotels at the Hollywood property. So clearly they are planning to start this off with a bang by building something very large. If I had to guess, they are going to want to have at least the first phase of this unknown new hotel ready to take advantage of the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled.