February 18, 2013 – Things here in Hollywood have been a little quiet since the end of last year – at least on the surface. Things behind the scenes are a different story! With new plans moving forward faster than anticipated, old favorites suddenly returning, and new ownership shakeups, 2013 is already looking to be quite the year for Universal Studios Hollywood.
Comcast Buys Out General Electric’s Remaining Shares of NBCUniversal
In a move that came seemingly out of nowhere, Comcast bought out the remaining shares of NBCUniversal held by General Electric. This now gives Comcast full ownership of NBCUniversal, and the deal is expected to close soon. Comcast’s purchase shows great faith in the NBCUniversal brand, and the company has already shown a great willingness to invest money and time in the theme park itself.
This ownership change looks to be good for the Universal theme parks and studios, as General Electric’s more conservative approach to business never really mixed well with the high-risk nature of running a theme park and film studio. So far, Comcast has noted the success of the NBC networks – as well as the theme park branch of Universal. If Comcast believes in the profitability of the Parks and Resorts Division of NBCUniversal as strongly as it seems they do, then we could see various improvements to the quality of existing attractions as well as exciting changes in the parks on both coasts.
Could Comcast’s full ownership be what rejuvenates the Hollywood park, and bring us into a new sort of Universal Golden Era? Only time will tell, so the coming year will be crucial in determining just what the Comcast buyout means for us USH fans.
But as we wait to see what Comcast will do as a leader, we do have ideas forming about what Universal Studios Hollywood will look like in the years to come…
NBCUniversal Evolution Plan Moving Fast
As previously reported on the site, the NBCUniversal Evolution Plan – the roadmap of the park’s expansion and development over the next 5-10 years – is moving through the approval processes much quicker than anticipated. With each city council approval, the plan comes closer to final approval.
There are still a few stages of approval that the plan must undergo, but a recent vote of approval by the local city council is a very good sign for the plan’s eventual full success. This is the same plan that is bringing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Hollywood, so the plan’s approval with the full amount of space and construction permits required for it is crucial to the development of that area.
Be sure to see our previous article regarding the recent updates to the Evolution Plan for an idea of what’s in store for the park. It would appear that other portions of the development within the park boundaries have already begun, such as the closure of Terminator 2:3D for the all-but-confirmed Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride and the construction going on in the old Wild West Arena.
Speaking of the old West…
Central Park Coming to the Wild West Area
We’ve mentioned previously that current rumors point to a Central Park area replacing the Wild West streets, but until now that rumor was still just a rumor. With the current clearing out of the area and the other work occurring behind the themed work walls, this rumor has moved from possible to probable. We have it on good authority that flowers, grass, and small shrubbery have already started getting planted in the newly cleared space.
We’re still unsure of what this area could possibly be in the long term, but for now it seems it will stay whatever it becomes for at least the next few years. If they turn to this space for a new attraction in the future, it won’t be till at least some of the short-term Evolution Plan goals are met. For now, here’s an interesting flyer that we’ve received that might give you a hint at what’s to come:
We’ll have our eyes open for the road ahead of course. But for the most exciting news out of Hollywood right now, we don’t need roads. Why is that? Because right now, Universal is going back in time!
Update: February 19, 2013 – A reader has notified us that this flyer is probably referring to existing picnic areas already scattered throughout the lot. While this is definitely true, we more or less thought it was interesting that Universal appeared committed to the picnic idea in the long term. Thanks to Schmosby from the forums!
The DeLorean ReturnsHome to Universal Studios Hollywood
Gone but not forgotten, Back to the Future is still present at Universal Studios Hollywood with the recent addition of the fully restored A-Car DeLorean to the NBCUniversal Experience on the lower lot, right next door to Transformers: The Ride 3D. This is one of the original cars used in the film, the main vehicle in fact! It has been fully restored 100% to screen accuracy and now has a permanent home inside the Experience. For this Back to the Future fan, having the DeLorean back home in the park is an enormous event.
Not only is the franchise a key Universal franchise, but it also gives the park a much needed link to a classic attraction that helped to define the park throughout the 90s. Check out our photos from the exhibit on the site and on our Facebook page, and feel free to send us your own photos!
Studio Tour tram catches fire at the entrance of King Kong 360 – 3D
Rounding out our news from inside the park this time is the report of a fire on the studio tour – and this one wasn’t planned! During one of the tours last week, there was a small engine fire on one of the trams entering the King Kong 360 3D attraction. The fire was small and easily contained, causing some smoking from the engine and a bit of damage, but nothing severe. There were no injuries, though Universal operated “King Kong Express” to compensate, as one reader noted:
@insideuniversal no one will say what happened but they are making a special King Kong only run between 6-630
— William MacGregor(@thesaurusboy688) February 17, 2013
Still, the idea of a fire on the backlot is very frightening, considering the history of the backlot and fires – most notably, the fire of 2008 that burned down the original King Kong. Is the spirit of the great ape looking for revenge? Or does Universal just have awful fire safety habits? Whatever the reason, we just can’t keep things from catching fire in this park. Here’s to hoping that insurance is paid up for quite a while!
That’s all the news this month!
Be sure to check back with us for new features coming soon! As usual, thank you for making us your source for all things Universal!
Adriana Morgan – also known by her internet handle Miss Betty Juice – is an editor and one of the field reporters for Inside Universal.
Adriana made her first trip to Universal in 1995 during Nickelodeon’s Big Help-A-Thon, and was hooked from day one. Since that first trip, her passion for films and for Universal Studios has grown, and she continues to enjoy the park and its history today as an annual passholder and a reporter for Inside Universal. Her areas of Universal expertise include Jurassic Park, the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, and the Studio Tour.
Adriana currently resides in Los Angeles. You can reach her at her blog on Tumblr at MyUniversalExperience.tumblr.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.