Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Now that Universal owns the Harry Potter license for theme parks and that Comcast - owner of Universal - makes huge amount of money out of it the question is: what the hell are they waiting for to build a Universal Studios in Europe and bring back Harry Potter in its own land? But there IS a Universal Studios project in Moscow, you say. That's right, and it will be an indoor theme park. But i don''t count this one, i'm talking about "Europe, Europe" and i don't include Russia in it.
What you may or may not know is that in fact Universal had plans in the 1990's to build a Universal Studios in France, near Paris, on a land close to the town of Melun, just a few kilometers from Disneyland Paris Resort. And why they never built it, you ask? Well, Universal executives were in fact waiting to see how Disneyland Paris will work, and as DLP just a few years after its opening started to have financial difficulties Universal execs apparently thought that may be it was a wrong idea to build a Universal Studios in France.
Another problem didn't helped too: lot of US theme park "givens" doesn't seem to hold true in Europe. The Asian and US fascination with buying all kinds of souvenir merchandise is not nearly as profound in Europe. Disneyland Paris hope that this would be made up by a higher demand for finer dining also proved to be not true… Europeans are happy too with hot dogs or hamburgers as apparently, for most of them, when they come to the park it's to have fun, not to spend two hours having lunch!
That's what i was told by the person, a charming woman, who was at the head of Universal Parks back in 1999 when i did an interview of her during the opening of Islands of Adventure where i was invited. For the little story, while i was doing the interview of her i was also secretly charming her! In a "Warren Beaty" style, if i can say, i.e not by saying anything but only with the type of "energy" which was coming out of me ( which by the way, is the best way to seduce women, but that's another story ). Anyway, she started to realize what was happening and was destabilized during all the interview as the charm was working (!) It was hilarious...
Okay, let's come back to more serious things, i.e why Universal don't have a theme park in Europe, whether it's in France, in the U.K or elsewhere. Mind you, they did a try years ago when Universal was ruling Port Aventura in Spain - in which they introduced two E-Ticlet attractions, including the excellent Temple del Fuego show. Then, they sold back their shares and since... nothing. Which by the way has always been the luck of Disneyland Paris as DLP never had to face a competitor "next door" like Walt Disney World in Orlando. But, if we look at this on another angle, it has been also a "bad luck" for DLP as the fate of DLP would have been very different if a strong and even dangerous competitor had existed a few kilometers from the resort. You can be sure that if it had happened the WDC wouldn't have wait so long before starting a "marshall plan" to save DLP.
We're not going to rewrite history, but Universal did a big mistake when they cancelled their project in the mid 90's, thinking that a theme park could not make money in France. Why? because from the start DLP has been the most visited place in Europe with 11M + visitors and, as we know, it was the too many hotels and the financial setting of the company which has been responsible of this never ending financial mess. If Universal would have built a theme park with all their immensely popular E-Ticket of the 90's and only one hotel, it would have worked perfectly. Sure, at the start of DLP the french were a bit dubious with the theme park concept as it was new for them, but after a few years - and a famous "cultural" battle - almost everyone loved the concept. If Universal would have open a park at the end of the 90's i'm convinced it would have been successful. And by the way why all these european tourists going to Florida would love Universal at Orlando and not in France? Big mistake, so, and right now they probably have a new alibi, i.e to wait that the economy crisis in Europe will end, which might take some time, and of course their new investment in China for the new Universal Studios in Beijing, not to mention the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Hollywood and many others new attractions coming both at Universal Hollywood and Universal Orlando.
So, no need to say that building a Universal Studios in Europe is probably not their priority. But with a such strong and successful license like Harry Potter and knowing that a record of 32.8 million overseas visitors came to the U.K in 2013 may be it's time for the folks at Universal to reconsider the option and to finally decide to bring back Harry Potter in its own country, isn't it? C'mon, they have a Universal Studios in Singapore, they've built a Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, Japan and soon one in Beijing, China, and it wouldn't work in the U.K? Are you kidding me? By the way, Universal having the Potter license another option could be to partner with Warner Bros and build a Wizarding World with the excellent Harry Potter studio tour outside of London...
One more thing: Talking about Harry Potter in the U.K, one of my reader sent me a message two days ago, saying that he heard a rumor last week from someone who has been working on the Paramount park London project. The rumour is that it will include a Harry Potter hotel, in which guests can stay in the different house dorms of Hogwarts and explore the castle over the course of the evening, including a visit to the chamber of secrets and a dinner in the great hall. Another part of the rumour is that guests will board a real train from the real King's Cross station which has a train link directly to the site of the future Paramount park. Sounds exciting, yes, but there is one little problem in this rumor: it's Universal which owns the theme park rights for Harry Potter, NOT Paramount Parks, and if we except the possibility that Universal has the rights for Harry Potter for a use in a theme park but not for a hotel it's of course a bit hard to believe that a Harry Potter hotel looking like Hogwarts Castle could be include in a Paramount resort, isn't it? That said, i always give the benefit of the doubt to any rumors, and so do i for this one, even if it looks a bit hard to swallow and unlikely to happen!
Picture: copyright galleryhip.com