Disney, Universal playing high-stakes poker for theme park dominance

Pull up a chair and get ready to enjoy one of the highest-stakes game of poker you’ve ever seen. Disney and Universal are pushing billions of dollars into the center of the table, and if all goes well, theme park fans will walk away as the winners.

This game has been going on for years, starting when Jay Stein and Universal Studios decided to take on Disney in Orlando. Disney responded by green-lighting a studio-themed park of its own, opening what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, one year before Universal Studios Florida debuted.

Universal added a second gate — Islands of Adventure — to its Universal Orlando Resort in 1999, the year after Walt Disney World expanded to four parks with its Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Universal continued to lag Disney until 2010, when the challenger found its own brand of magic by opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure.

And that is when this game of corporate poker got interesting.

Harry Potter didn’t just save the Universal theme parks, transfiguring them into a cash cow for Universal’s owner, Comcast. Like a Legilimency spell, The Wizarding World got into Disney management’s head. That many fans and critics (including yours truly) called Universal’s Wizarding World the world’s best theme park land challenged Disney’s pride as the undisputed decades-long leader in themed entertainment business.

So after years of work and billions of dollars, Disney has countered with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. But the Galaxy’s Edge that Disneyland fans have been visiting all summer and fall isn’t the final project. Disney fans in Florida are seeing that for the first time this week, as Walt Disney World opens Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — the ambitious new dark ride that anchors the land. (Rise of the Resistance …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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