After an abysmal earnings call last week, it sounds like Epic Universe may be delayed indefinitely, as Comcast finds other ways to save money in the short term.
The global pandemic has affected different sectors of the economy in a multitude of negative ways, but the tourism industry may be one of the worst hit.
Universal Orlando has rolled out incredible ticket deals in an attempt to entice locals to visit the parks in the short term, but they’re taking desperate measures to help save money going forward as well.
Comcast released their second quarter earnings report last Thursday, and it should come as no surprise that the parks division was down quite a bit, especially since most of the theme parks were closed during that time.
There was a 94 percent drop in revenue over the same period last year.
Even though it’s no mystery as to why the numbers were so bad, there was, unfortunately, what some might consider an understandable response from Universal’s parent company in the days following.
According to rumors, the very next day Comcast demanded major cuts be made immediately to help mitigate the damage being caused during this unprecedented time.
An unspecified number of Team Members were laid off on Friday morning. Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said “We have again made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce to reflect current priorities and needs.”
Later that day the company also announced that six attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort would be closing “temporarily” beginning August 8th, although some claim they are set to remain closed at least through the end of year.
These attractions included shows and entertainment like (the already closed) Fear Factor Live, as well as A Day in the Park with Barney and Poseidon’s Fury. Two flat-rides are set to close: Storm Force Accelatron and Kang and Kodos Twirl and Hurl.
The most striking of all, the still fairly new Fast and Furious Supercharged was also included in this list.
These actions come after the resort reduced the parks’ operating hours by an hour beginning this week.
In a statement to the media, Tom Schroder also said “We are prioritizing daily operations and shorter-term projects and continuing our pause on longer-term projects such as Epic Universe as we allow the tourism industry to recover.”
Word of the pause on Epic Universe first came on April 30th, during Comcast’s last earnings call. Since that time smaller construction work around the Epic Universe site actually did continue.
It looks like that as of now, any work related to the third theme park itself is halted. They may still be referring to it as a pause, but many that were close to the project have described what happened on Friday as a “STOP.”
Many analysts believe it could take 4 to 5 years for the tourism industry to rebound from the damage caused by the ongoing global crisis… (And the estimate would be dependent on many factors including a vaccine or treatment plan becoming available in the near future.)
With Comcast reportedly looking to stop the bleeding from the Parks division as quickly as possible, while also hunkering down to prepare for a several-year drought, cancelling their multi-billion dollar theme park expansion project—at least for now—is likely the easiest way to do it.
According to people I have spoken to, Epic Universe as we knew it, is dead.
When (and if) they pick the project back up later this decade, everything about the design for the park could change.
The attractions, many of which were designed several years ago, would likely be completely reimagined for a new world. The properties chosen could be replaced with newer or more timeless ones.
Many years of hard work and designs could be locked away into Universal’s archives, never to be realized.
If the timetables being discussed pan out the way many believe they might, the new theme park’s internal “target date,” (if you could call it that,) is now somewhere around 2030.
One small problem with that, and this is again just a rumor, is that supposedly Universal wants to honor their agreement with Nintendo and build Super Nintendo World somewhere in Orlando within a reasonable, (or more importantly, foreseeable) time frame.
In other words, we may actually see those original Super Nintendo World plans to replace KidsZone at Universal Studios Florida be dusted off and put into action, and soon.
For those that may be hearing of this for the first time, Super Nintendo World was always planned to open first in Japan by 2020.
The next version of the land was going to open inside of Universal Studios Florida in 2021. They scrapped that concept once they started work on their new theme park, saving it for Epic Universe instead.
With the future of Epic Universe now in question, it’s possible that these original plans could be back on the table.
I feel it’s important to note that those original KidsZone plans were EXACTLY the same as the plans for the land at Epic Universe.
They were going to tear down the Curious George and Fievel play areas, the Animal Actors Stage, and the Barney show to make way for Super Nintendo World. (E.T. Adventure was to remain untouched.)
If these plans ARE in fact going forward, I would imagine that they may only build the phase one iteration, just like they have in Japan, with the Mario Kart and Yoshi rides, along with the Mushroom Kingdom area.
While there is room for the Donkey Kong coaster to be built as well, I assume it would be put off for quite awhile to save money and/or time.
If this rumor is true, the big question would be WHEN? Super Nintendo World is ready to open in Universal Studios Japan, whenever they feel the timing is right, (and with all that is going on in the world there is no telling when that may be).
A smaller variation of Super Nintendo World is also being built at Universal Studios Hollywood right now, and it looks to be coming along quickly.
Some believe they may put a rush on the Orlando version allowing them to open it at the same time as the Hollywood version, with a big promotional push on both coasts—presumably once the world has returned to some semblance of normalcy—in an effort to bring tourists back to the parks.
While they certainly could rush into it, it’s also possible that they wouldn’t want to start another massive project in Orlando until the unannounced Jurassic Coaster is completed over at Islands of Adventure.
In any case, we might see Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Orlando at some point within the next five years, even though Epic Universe likely won’t.
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Alicia is a lifelong Floridian and has been visiting the Orlando theme parks since the age of 3. Her years of experience, both working at and exploring theme parks, allows her a unique perspective for helping others plan and get the most out of their own visits to the Orlando parks.