LA County approves Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios Hollywood

Posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013 8:18 AM | Contributed by Jeff

NBCUniversal has been given the greenlight to move forward with plans to build a Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios Hollywood. The company was given the go ahead after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the company’s plan to invest in production and tourism projects over the next 25 years, worth $1.6 billion overall.

Read more from Variety.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:43 AM

I thought this was approved quite a while ago. I know the article said the plans have been in development for about seven years, but I thought the Harry Potter part was approved at least a year ago. Does anyone know if this was the case? I gathered from the article that this agreement also encompasses general improvements over the next 25 years, but just wondering about the Potter part. Also wondering about thoughts over whether or not the Potterverse will be relevant enough in the coming years to encourage development of more Potter attractions for the foreseeable (sp?) future. Years and years of films and books say yes, but I'm curious as to the general consensus.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013 1:55 PM

The novels are timeless. I think it has staying power and I wouldn't count out more stories in the future.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013 10:46 PM

A generation grew up with the Harry Potter novels. The magic of those stories will linger for many years. Much like Star Wars .... or My Little Pony.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 12:30 AM

Much like Star Wars (more so the 'classic' trilogy), the Harry Potter novels are of a timeless nature that make the exclusive theme park rights that Universal owns worth a ton of money over the next couple decades. One major part of the franchise's appeal is the immense detail and loose ends (that for the most part paid off) which J.K. Rowling wove into her narratives. Universal obviously realizes this with the level of theming at IOA with not only the rides but also the shops and food stands.

J.K.'s creative control also has a factor in maintaining the quality aspect of the universe that she created. Warner Bros could have easily made even more money using no-name actors in the movies due to the books' built-in popularity but she insisted on using proven experienced English actors/actresses in order to keep a level of integrity with the cinematic interpretations of her novels. Universal was obligated and agreed to maintain the same high level of quality for the theme park interpretation of the HP universe and it appears these standards will allow them to reap amazing returns for the foreseeable future.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 3:01 AM

I disagree, I think Harry Potter will go the way of The Hardy Boys, Beverly Cleary, and Nancy Drew. They may be timeless to the current generation, but there'll be something new to come along for future generations. Considering that the movies are done and over with, this might not be that wise of a move. Honestly, the first book and movie came out almost 15 years ago....

Then again, Universal has Dudley-Do-Right and Popeye themed areas, which as a 23-yr-old, I'm way too young for. So maybe they don't care.

Seriously, who is Dudley-do-right?

Last edited by bjames, Thursday, April 25, 2013 3:12 AM
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Thursday, April 25, 2013 6:38 AM

Go back and look at the IoA attendance numbers, then get back to me about how adding Potter isn't anything other than a great idea.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 8:21 AM

There will always be something new to come along, but it doesn't mean the old thing will be replaced. Harry Potter is the Star Wars of another generation, only better because there were books before the movies.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 8:32 AM

Bjames, that's what I was kind of thinking (look what happened to Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc). However, I am in the majority opinion that HP is a great story that will be remembered forever. Do people want to ride Star Wars rides? Yes. Will they want to ride Harry Potter rides forever? As much as I love Potter, I don't know.

All of that aside, if the rides they make for the future WWOHP are as amazing as the rides they have invented so far, I myself will ride them, but that has little to do with Harry Potter and more to do with Universal's amazing creative team.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 9:13 AM

Considering the Hardy Boys have been around since the late 1920s and I was reading them as a kid in the 80s, I'm not sure that's the best analogy to Potter.

Or maybe I was just a weird kid.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 9:23 AM

Vater said:
Considering the Hardy Boys have been around since the late 1920s and I was reading them as a kid in the 80s, I'm not sure that's the best analogy to Potter.

Indeed, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories are still being written today! I don't think they ever had the effect on young people and adults that Harry Potter has. The analogy to Star Wars is a good one, people who grew up with Star Wars are having kids, those kids love Star Wars and more Star Wars movies are now being made.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 9:42 AM

I tend to think that as long as the theme is iconic in some way (and Harry Potter has hit that level I would think) it doesn't really matter if it's still the "it thing" down the road.

It's not unlike the chats we've had about Cedar Fair's use of the Peanuts vs Nick Universe. Nick Universe is way more relevant to today's kids growing up, but kids are aware enough (thanks in part to their parents) of the Peanuts because they are still iconic...even if Gonch doesn't want to believe it. ;-)

Those Planet Snoopy areas look awfully busy even if the kids identify more today with Dora the Explorer or whatever. I would imagine the same would be true with Harry Potter.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:22 AM

Do people want to ride Star Wars rides? Yes. Will they want to ride Harry Potter rides forever? As much as I love Potter, I don't know.

They don't need to: the investment will be paid back long before then. I suspect that for Orlando, they are already in the black. Once that happens there are only two questions that matter. 1: Does the area cost less to run than the "value" it adds to the average guest's day? 2: If we have to tear something down to build something new, is this the thing we could most easily do without?

I'm going to guess that the answers to those two questions will be a definitive yes and resounding no for dozens of years.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:23 AM
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Thursday, April 25, 2013 12:17 PM

I estimate the staying power of Harry Potter is enormous. Compare that to themes from the former Paramount parks and it's not even funny (or maybe it's hilarious, depending on your perspective). Days of Thunder? Wayne's World? Outer Limits? Talk about flashes in the pan. How long did it take for Paramount to remove the themeing--or the attraction altogether--in those cases?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 12:55 PM

Carrie J. said:

It's not unlike the chats we've had about Cedar Fair's use of the Peanuts vs Nick Universe. Nick Universe is way more relevant to today's kids growing up, but kids are aware enough (thanks in part to their parents) of the Peanuts because they are still iconic...even if Gonch doesn't want to believe it. ;-)

Yeah, and I haven't jumped into this conversation for the same reason. I don't get Potter at all and I can't imagine it being anything like Star Wars or Peanuts or whatever is still popular long after it's shelf life. However, too many of you do to ignore it, so I simply sit back and shut up.

But I have been thinking what Brian said - even if it doesn't resonate with people 20 years from now, the return on the investment will still have been worth it.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:38 PM

JK Rowling is still relatively young. I know she has said that the Potter franchise is done but if her other book ideas fall flat (as one already has apparently) then I wouldn't be surprised if she returned to the saga and either did some prequels or some sequels. If that happens then I wouldn't be surprised if it surpasses Star Wars and becomes something ridiculously huge.Not something I think Avatar has a chance of becoming by the way.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:43 PM

Given the storyline as far as I know it (familiar, not "engaged") - it seems like Rowling set the stage for a prequel when introducing Harry's parents and the origin of his scar.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:50 PM

Prequel and sequels, I would say. Like Star Wars. But hopefully much better.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 5:00 PM

rollergator said:

Given the storyline as far as I know it (familiar, not "engaged") - it seems like Rowling set the stage for a prequel when introducing Harry's parents and the origin of his scar.

There is definitely room for a prequel. Harry's war with Voldemort is the "second - coming" of Voldemort, the story of the first war was never told.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 5:04 PM

I think part of the beauty of Uni's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is this: people, like my friend Amy, who are deeply versed in the world of Potter, love it.

People who have seen a couple of the movies, who have a vague sense of what the whole Potter thing is about, can get wrapped up in the comprehensive theming.

And people who would say "Harry who?", still enjoy the area and the Harry Potter ride absent any knowledge of the Potterverse, thanks to the amazing job Uni did creating the environment.

It's kind of like Star Trek. Some people can tell you when during a season an episode was filmed by how chubby Bill Shatner is (as the seasons progressed he worked out less), and others know that it's a show with Dr Spock and a grumpy doctor -- but everybody knows Star Trek.

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