It's no secret that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been a game changer, not just for Universal parks and resorts around the world, but for the theme park industry as a whole. However, even though it would be easy for Universal to look at its three Wizarding Worlds and pat themselves on the back for a job well done, the future actually holds quite a lot for the Harry Potter franchise inside Universal parks, both in Orlando and abroad. Here's what's next for the Wizarding World
1. Comcast quietly buys rights to the entire existing Harry Potter film franchise as well as future movies
While everyone was looking at attendance trends at Walt Disney World and lamenting the looming budget cuts that have been confirmed to be coming to the resort in the coming months, Universal Orlando Resort’s parent company Comcast made a quiet move that could have severe implications for the resort in the future: acquiring the rights to both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series from Warner Bros.
In the short term, this means that the networks of NBCUniversal (which include USA, Telemundo, Syfy and more) can air all of these films on basic cable (so say goodbye to Harry Potter Weekends on Freeform!). However, this move also has major implications at Universal-owned theme parks, specifically regarding the park’s special events.
Though the A Celebration of Harry Potter annual event has drawn in thousands of fans every year for demonstrations, film panels and more, this recent deal paves the way for Universal to make events at Universal much bigger. As part of the seven-year agreement, which begins in July 2018, Universal theme parks (not just Universal Orlando Resort) are now able to host movie screenings and promotional activities tied to both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and will have greater freedom when it comes to what kinds of activities they can plan at these events (more on that in a moment).
While this won’t affect 2017’s event, expect A Celebration of Harry Potter to grow exponentially (perhaps to more than one weekend) in the coming years, and for it to include movie marathons and more. It’s also very likely that when new films come out, Universal will now be able to promote them in the parks in the same way Walt Disney World promotes new films with exclusive clips, teasers and of course plenty of pre-release merchandise.
And though the potential for bigger and better events is certainly exciting, there’s something else Harry Potter-related in the pipeline that could affect Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure specifically in the very near future…
2. Are Dragon Challenge’s days numbered?
Back when the rear section of Islands of Adventure was called The Lost Continent, it was home to Dueling Dragons, which was one of the few “dueling” roller coasters in existence at the time. However, when Universal opened the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter back in 2010, this ride was given a light re-theme and renamed “Dragon Challenge” to reflect the Harry Potter license.
However, on the exact same day that the aforementioned deal with Warner Bros. and Comcast was announced, reports from well-placed sources indicated that Universal was going to be closing this ride before the end of the year, with a new attraction (possibly another roller coaster or even a dark ride) based on the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them film series beginning construction next year.
While Universal has yet to confirm such a development, considering the age of Dragon Challenge as well as the timing of this rumor, it seems very plausible, and we wouldn’t be surprised if an official announcement came from Universal later this fall confirming this development