As one of the most highly-anticipated theme park attractions in history, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has brought as large boost in attendance to Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park. But even with Potter’s magic, it will be a while before Universal topples the Disney giant down the road.
Recent articles (such as this one) are quick to point out that Islands of Adventure saw an influx of new visitors following the Wizarding World opening. Here’s an excerpt:
“In the quarter after the attraction opened, crowds at Universal parks swelled by 36 percent over the same stretch last year, while attendance at Disney’s Orlando parks stayed roughly the same.”
But what these articles fail to mention is that in 2009, prior to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter premiering, Islands of Adventure had dropped 13.8% in attendance from 2008, down to a mere 4.5 million visitors for the year. That’s just a hair more than a 1/4th of the number of guests who visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in the same year, at 17.2 million visitors.
So while an increase of 36% is certainly a step in the right direction for Universal, overcoming a 17th-place finish in the top 25 most-attended theme parks worldwide for 2009 is a tough battle to face. Even if that trend continues and gives Islands of Adventure a 36% boost for the whole year, that would still only bring their attendance to 6.12 million guests, on par with Disney’s least popular United States theme park, Disney California Adventure (which is currently receiving a $1 billion+ renovation to boost its attendance). Likewise, if Disney’s attendance remains flat in 2010 when compared to 2009, that will still leave its Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom parks in Orlando with significantly higher attendance than Islands of Adventure, even with Potter’s influence.
Rumors suggest a Wizarding World expansion is in planning stages for Islands of Adventure and with one more Harry Potter film still yet to hit theaters, there will likely be many more attendance increase for the park in the coming years. But even the finest wizards and witches of Hogwarts School can’t likely bring the park the 400% attendance increase it would need to surpass the attendance level of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the most popular theme park in the world.