Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal Orlando is closing down another attraction tonight. Terminator 2: 3-D, one of the oldest existing attractions at Universal Studios Florida, will end its 21-year run after the park closes on Sunday.
A theme park rarely closes an attraction unless it has plans for something better in its place. Comcast hasn't spilled all of the beans, but it did reveal the closure will pave the way for an "all-new live action experience based on a high-energy Universal franchise" that will open in 2019.
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I'll be back
Many of the currently popular Universal franchises already have existing rides or attractions at Universal Orlando. The Fast and the Furious is getting a new ride next year, but Universal can tap into one of the animated properties it acquired with its DreamWorks Animation purchase to expand its kid-geared offerings.
The replacement will probably be a show, taking advantage of the existing theater space. There may not be enough room for a full-blown dark ride. However, it's not the only thing Universal Orlando has in the works for 2019. Last month, Comcast closed Dragon Challenge, the dual coasters at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure. A less intense family-friendly ride themed to Harry Potter will make its debut in 2019.
There are also rumblings about what may happen with the large theater that currently hosts the Fear Factor Live and Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure shows. Universal Orlando announced that Bill & Ted won't be back next year, fueling speculation that the site will be another Potter-themed ride by 2019 if not 2020.
Comcast is making 2019 a year to remember at Universal Orlando with at least two new attractions. It's probably not a coincidence that 2019 is also the year that Disney (NYSE: DIS) is rolling out Star Wars Land, one of several new experiences that the theme-park giant has rolling out in the next four years. It's also not a surprise that 2019 is the year Disney CEO Bob Iger will be stepping down. If there are any hiccups in the leadership transition, Comcast wants to make sure it's in a good position to take advantage.
It could just be a coincidence that Universal is getting rid of a James Cameron-helmed attraction during the same year Disney's partnership with Cameron birthed an Avatar-themed addition. Then again, in this game of theme-park chess, it seems as if every move is calculated carefully.
A lot of people will be coming to Central Florida in two summers to check out Star Wars Land, and Universal Orlando is doing what it can to stand out as a reason for Disney World visitors to extend their stays to check out rival attractions. Closing older rides now to make room for new attractions makes sense. Comcast had just better hope that patrons keep coming during the rebuilding process.
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