Disney World’s best rival takes a step back

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These aren’t always shiny new additions to major theme parks across the country. Comcast‘s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal Orlando will close one of its oldest attractions in a few months. Shrek 4D – an effects-packed 3D show in theaters – will end in January, right after the seasonal peak of holiday crowds returns home.

Themed with one of the most lucrative franchises in animation history, Shrek 4D debuted in 2002 – the year after the first of four Shrek movies have reached the big screen. It’s not one of the park’s most popular attractions, but it’s an interesting removal, with Disney (NYSE: DIS) rolling out new rides and experiences to commemorate Disney World’s 50th anniversary earlier this month.

The photoshoot with the characters will remain, but the 3D show and the adjacent gift shop will disappear in January. Image source: Universal Orlando.

Ogres are like onions

It’s a layered initiative from Comcast’s theme park in central Florida that will actually reduce its capacity of two high-volume attractions in January. Revenge of the Mummy – a popular indoor roller coaster – will also close in January for a multi-month renovation. It plans to reopen next summer.

It’s not fair to say that Comcast is backing down. Just a few months ago, VelociCoaster opened at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park. It’s a large, white-fingered roller coaster that has garnered rave reviews since its debut in late spring. He is also working on a brand new theme park. The potentially high epic universe is expected to open in early 2025 after a construction delay linked to COVID-19.

The attractions aren’t meant to last forever, but Shrek 4D has been a park staple for almost two decades. It looks dated compared to some of Universal’s new attractions with more sophisticated bells and whistles, but it’s still surprising to see the family spectacle disappear. Shrek 4D opened as a licensed DreamWorks Animation attraction in the park, but five years ago Comcast acquired the computer animation studio. The move opened the door to more rides and attractions themed around the popular versions of DreamWorks Animation.

Another interesting decision is the shutting down of Revenge of the Mummy for about six months. It’s a richly themed interior coaster with some heavy theatrical elements. The biggest Disney World opening in 2022 will be a guardians of the galaxy– themed indoor roller coasters that will also pass through richly detailed performance stages. Unless Universal Orlando dramatically upgrades its own indoor ride to compete, it might seem odd to shut it down when its rival’s new ride opens.

Ultimately, you can’t blame Comcast for next year’s disruption schedule. He had his hour earlier this year, with his jurassic park-themed screaming machine, but now the spotlight has moved a few miles southwest to Disney World. It will be difficult to prevent tourists from discovering Disney World and all the new rides, attractions and experiences it will unveil during the Golden Anniversary celebration. It will be when the party wears off in early 2023 that Comcast will be ready to return to center stage. If Comcast is smart, it’ll make sure it has a new rides or two to introduce in the spring and summer of 2023, whetting the appetite ahead of the Epic Universe debut less than two years later.

Disney and Comcast are not pure theme park operators. They represent a third of the 6 large media companies. However, their closed attractions are brilliant outlets for promoting their theatrical franchises to the tens of millions of visitors who visit their theme parks each year in Florida and California. They know when to get attention. They also know when to give in to the competition.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.


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