Photographer: Dan Porges/Getty Images

Harry Potter Broom Ride Leads to 21% Fare Hike at Universal Park

  • California park fans can lower $115 tab by buying ahead online
  • Upgraded attraction could attrach 1 million more visitors

Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios Hollywood raised the price of a one-day pass by 21 percent to $115 as the Los Angeles theme park prepares for the April 7 opening of its Harry Potter attractions.

The price applies to one-day admissions that can be used anytime, according to the park’s website. With new on-demand pricing introduced in February, customers can buy tickets for less by planning ahead. Admissions through April, for instance, range from a weekday low of $95 to $105, according to the website.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which features a giant castle, magic wand shops and a stomach-churning ride that simulates flying on a broomstick, should bring 1 million more guests to the park, according to Gary Goddard, a theme-park designer based in North Hollywood, California, who didn’t work on the project.

“For Universal it’s a big step up,” he said. “It signals management is really behind the theme-park operation.”

Comcast, which acquired control of NBCUniversal in 2011, was originally more interested in the company’s TV networks and film studios than its theme parks, Steve Burke, chief executive officer of the company’s entertainment businesses, acknowledged in an employee memo in January.

Underestimated Parks

“Initially, we underestimated the theme parks business,” said Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal. “Once we understood its potential we jumped in and increased our investment in new attractions and hotels.”

The Harry Potter attractions will make Universal Studios Hollywood a more significant competitor to Walt Disney Co.’s parks in Anaheim, California. Universal’s Los Angeles park drew 6.8 million guests in 2014, compared with 16.8 million for Disneyland and 8.8 million for the adjacent Disney’s California Adventure, according to the Themed Entertainment Association, a Burbank, California-based trade group.

Universal’s first Harry Potter attraction, which opened at its Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida, in 2010, boosted attendance at that park by 76 percent to 8.1 million guests in 2014. A second attraction, at neighboring Universal Studios Florida, led to seven-hour waits when it opened in 2014.

New Generation

The original Potter attraction is considered one of the first of a new generation of lands that fully immerse visitors in movie themes by going beyond one ride to include related streets and shops. Disney now has “Avatar” and “Star Wars” lands under construction at its U.S. parks.

The Harry Potter Hollywood attraction is part of a multiyear, $1.6 billion investment in Comcast’s facilities there that include consolidating and upgrading its TV and film studios. The company agreed in 2013 to spend $100 million on nearby transit improvements for the park, building an on-ramp to the 101 freeway, creating five vehicle lanes at the main entrances and installing a pedestrian bridge to a subway station. White-gloved traffic officers will be in place to maintain traffic flow, the company said.

In addition to higher attendance, Universal stands to make more money off Harry Potter merchandise, some which is already on sale. Items include $110 robes, $32 ties and $48 interactive wands that cause objects to move in shop windows in the park.

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