Universal Parks & Resorts, also known as Universal Studios Theme Parks or solely Universal Theme Parks, is the theme park subsidiary of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast. The subsidiary, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, operates Universal theme parks and resort properties around the world. Universal Parks & Resorts is best known for attractions and lands based on famous classic and modern pop culture properties (movies, television, literature, cartoons, comics, video games, music, etc.) from not only NBCUniversal, but also third-party companies, for all of its parks.
It started as a touring attraction in the 1910s at the Universal Studios Lot in Universal City near Los Angeles, California, and in 1964 turned into a Universal Studios Hollywood theme park destination, where guests can look behind the scenes of motion pictures and television programs, produced by Universal Pictures and occasionally others, and ride the attraction based on the world's favorite feature films and television shows. The popularity of Universal Studios Hollywood had led Universal to build parks in Florida and overseas.
In 2017, approximately 49,458,000 guests visited Universal Studios theme parks, making it the third-largest amusement park operator in the world. It is a major competitor of Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, and Merlin Entertainments.
Current theme parks
Universal Studios Hollywood
- Main article: Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood became the first Universal Studios theme park when it opened its doors on July 15, 1964, long after it was originated as a studio tour in 1915, after the Universal original founder, Carl Laemmle, opened Universal City, California near Los Angeles. In May 1993, Universal CityWalk opened outside the gates of the theme park, featuring 65 entertainment-themed restaurants, nightclubs, shops, and entertainment spots. It also contains the AMC Universal CityWalk Cinemas, offering 19 screens including an IMAX Theatre and stadium-style seating. Approximately 415 acres (1.7 km²) is within and around the surrounding area of Universal City, including its theme park and the film studio adjacent nearby.
Universal Orlando Resort
- Main article: Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort (formerly called Universal Studios Escape) opened to the public on June 7, 1990, in Orlando, Florida, starting at Universal Studios Florida. It features themed areas and attractions based on the film industry.
On May 28, 1999, Universal Orlando had expanded into a vacation resort, with the opening of Islands of Adventure theme park, featuring various themed islands which emphasized adventures and characters embodied in the attractions. Simultaneously, Universal CityWalk was added to accommodate the guests within the resort leading to the two parks. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando hotel opened at Universal Orlando Resort in September 1999, followed by Hard Rock Hotel in December 2000, Loews Royal Pacific Resort in February 2001, Cabana Bay Beach Resort on March 31, 2014, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort on July 7, 2016.
In 1998, Universal Orlando acquired Wet 'n Wild water park (founded in 1977 by Seaworld founder George Millay) and was the company's main water park until it closed on December 31, 2016, where it was replaced by another water park Volcano Bay, which opened on May 25, 2017. The new water park consists of 18 attractions, including slides, 2 lazy rivers and raft rides. The park includes two volcano themed rides: the Ko'okiri Body Plunge, a 70-degree-angle, 125-foot water slide; and the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, a canoe ride traveling among the peaks and valleys of the central volcano in the park. The park also gives each visitor a wristband when they buy their ticket. The wristband allows guests to check in for rides and circumvents having to stand in line.
Universal Studios Japan
- Main article: Universal Studios Japan
After almost three years of construction, Universal Studios Japan opened on March 31, 2001, in the Konohana-ku district of Osaka, Japan, and was the first Universal Studios theme park to open outside of the U.S. It was also the first theme park to operate within the Asian region. The park incorporates attractions from both Universal Orlando and Hollywood and features a CityWalk district, a shopping mall with multiple official Universal hotels and many restaurants and shops, including stores selling Universal Studios merchandise and Osaka souvenirs. The theme park occupies an area of 108 acres and is the most visited amusement park in Japan after its rival Tokyo Disney Resort.
Universal Studios Singapore
- Main article: Universal Studios Singapore
Construction of the Singapore park began within Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa, Singapore on April 19, 2008. Universal Studios Singapore was given a soft opening on March 18, 2010 and later a wide opening on May 28, 2011. It was the second Universal Studios theme park to operate on Asia and also the first in Southeast Asia. Like other Universal theme parks, it features attractions from various Universal and other studio companies' properties, including Jurassic Park, Madagascar, Shrek, The Mummy, Waterworld, Transformers, and others. It currently sits on is 20 hectares (49 acres) in size, which occupies the easternmost part of the 49-hectare (120-acre) Resorts World Sentosa, and is marketed as a "one-of-its-kind theme park in Asia". However, it has no Universal CityWalk District since it already has a resort shopping mall and restaurants adjacent near the park. Unlike other Universal theme parks, Singapore is entirely run by Genting Group with the licensing approval from Universal Parks & Resorts.
Steven Spielberg's relationship with Universal Parks & Resorts
Famed director Steven Spielberg has a long-time collaboration with Universal Parks & Resorts due to his relationship with Universal Studios while working as a Universal intern staff in the late 1960s as well as the films/franchises he directed or produced for the studio, such as Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, The Land Before Time, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, and others. In March 1987, Spielberg signed on to be a creative consultant for Universal theme parks when the Music Corporation of America (MCA)—then owner of Universal Studios—was planning to build its first full-fledged theme park in Orlando in effort to compete with Walt Disney World. Universal Parks Chairman and CEO Thomas L. Williams stated in regards to praising the Universal Creative team and a few popular people for the new Florida park:
- “Take, for example, Steven Spielberg. He was the creative consultant on our first [full] theme park, Universal Studios Florida. Steve was the guy who came up with that park’s core concept, that we were going to put our Guests in their favorite scene from their favorite film. Ride the Movies, if you will.”
- ―Thomas L. Williams, Chairman and CEO of Universal Pictures
Since 1987, Spielberg has consulted on a dozen attractions, included E.T. Adventure, Jaws, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. In exchange, he receives 2% of all park ticket revenue and a portion of park concession receipts generated by Universal theme parks in Florida, Japan, and Singapore in perpetuity, valued at up to $30 to 50 million a year; the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles isn't covered under the Spielberg deal. The director also got the opportunity to trigger a June 2017 exit deal clause and collect a lump sum payment equal to the value of the contracts. Comcast, the current parent company of Universal, acknowledged that this payment could already be worth as much as $535 million. Some analysts predicted that the one-time payment could ultimately be $1 billion. The deal also prevents any film Spielberg worked as a director to go to any rival theme park but Universal; the exception is the Indiana Jones movies, which Spielberg directed, but with the story entirely created, written, and held by his long-time friend George Lucas, who regularly worked with Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products as their creative consultant in attractions like Star Tours, Captain EO, Indiana Jones Adventure, and ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.
Future theme parks
Universal Studios Beijing
- Main article: Universal Studios Beijing
Universal Studios Beijing is the upcoming Universal theme park that will open around 2020 in Beijing, China. It will feature rides and attractions themed primarily to Universal-owned movies, TV shows, animation, and music, and as well as licensed properties from other companies (e.g. Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, etc.). The project was announced on October 13, 2014, with more than 20 billion RMB being invested into the project. It will be jointly owned by Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Co., Ltd. (BSH Investment), a consortium of four state-owned companies, and Universal Parks & Resorts. As of 2017, the park is currently in construction.
Universal Studios Moscow
- Main article: Universal Studios Moscow
Universal Studios Moscow is an indoor theme-park and shopping complex that has been scheduled to open in 2022 in Moscow, Russia. It will home rides and attractions based on worldwide well-known pop-culture properties, like Universal-owned library and third-party properties. It is to be the first ever indoor Universal theme park, due to the fact that Russia is a country considered to be too cold during winter.
Universal Studios South Korea
- Main article: Universal Studios South Korea
Universal Studios South Korea is a theme park to be located in Hwaseong, South Korea. It has been a problematic project, having been cancelled three times with the most recent cancelation being in 2017. However the project re-opened in 2018 with a planned opening of 2021.
Cancelled or former parks
- Universal Studios Dubailand, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Broke ground 2008, no construction since 2009)
- Universal Mediterránea, Salou, Spain (1997–2004)
- Costa Caribe Aquatic Park, Salou, Spain (2002–2004)
- Wet 'n Wild Orlando (Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida, United States; wholly owned) (1977–2016)
Theme park attractions and lands
Universal Studios incorporates replicas of attractions and lands in multiple parks around the world. The pages linked above contain comprehensive lists of the attractions and lands at Universal theme parks. Most of the attractions and lands are based on Universal licenses and other licensed properties.