UNIVERSAL GREAT BRITAIN RESORT
Universal Studios Theme Parks
New Theme Park Resort - (2/9/2024) According to an update posted to Blooloop, the local government in the UK is said to be in full support of Comcast’s plans to build a Universal Studios theme park resort in the town of Bedfordshire. Various government officials have now confirmed as having been fully briefed about the proposal and what it will mean to the area.
(1/10/2024) Theme Park Worldwide took a field trip to Bedform to take a look at the massive 480-site purchased by Comcast that could become home to Universal Studios Great Britain. The video includes some aerial drone footage of the property as it looks today, showing off a large and mostly flat piece of property that runs along the railway tracks, ripe for future development. There even is a railway stop in the middle of the property that could be expanded to better serve the resort if they move ahead with it.
(1/6/2024) While the news broke not long ago about how Universal was looking into building a new theme park resort in the UK, Screamscape is hearing that this isn’t the only project that Universal may be planning for the nation. While the potential Universal Studios Great Britain park is still a long way out, a smaller and more intimate attraction might be planned to arrive first in London.
Universal has a lot of irons in the fire right now with construction now taking place not only on the new Epic Universe theme park in Orlando, but for the smaller Universal Kids Resort in Texas and the Universal Horrors Unleashed stand-alone attraction in Las Vegas. Screamscape was the first to mention this later concept, long before Universal confirmed it at the start of 2023, but me sources had also confided in me that this was only the beginning. Comcast, the parent company behind Universal, was ready to kick off a series of expansions to grow their theme park attraction empire around the globe, and that we could expect more such projects to be revealed before too long.
While Universal quietly filed a trademark for their traditional “Halloween Horror Nights” brand in the UK way back in November 2022, this was followed by the unnoticed at the time filing for the “Universal Horror Unleashed” name in Jan. 2023. Universal had been filing for various trademarks in the UK for years, so this really didn’t seem like anything special until now. However, it is also worth noting that Universal filed for trademarks for a number of older film property names in December 2023 that likely don’t have anything to do with the new park, such as “American Pie”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “Sixteen Candles”, “Breakfast Club” and “The Big Lebowski”, but tucked away in that list of new filings were also some popular Universal HHN classic IPs, “The Purge” and “Chucky”.
So how could this all soon descend upon London? While the city has often proven to be resistant to large-scale attraction and amusement projects, it has also been known to be a favorable environment for smaller stand-alone attractions such as the London Dungeon, the London Eye, Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Shrek’s Adventure, London Bridge/London Tombs, etc…
In this case, rumor has it that London is being considered as a potential second site for a second “Universal Horror Unleashed” stand-alone attraction that would open long before the proposed theme park in Bedford. The thought is that a “Universal Horror Unleashed” attraction in London would serve not only as a good stand-alone attraction, but it would also be a good way to introduce the brand’s arrival in the UK. The site would also serve as a sort of test-ground for the kind of haunts and scares that Universal could eventually bring to the theme park resort in Bedford. It also goes without saying that a London location would also serve as a great “preview center” for the Bedford theme park park resort, once they decide to green-light the project since it is just a quick train-ride away from the city.
With construction on the Las Vegas attraction already under way, a London project could be ready to move forward shortly after Vegas is ready to open.
(12/29/2023) While this is a bit of very forward thinking, ScareTOURS has posted an interesting line of thought about what might happen to the current UK Scare attraction market (or in US-speak… Haunt attractions) if Universal Studios builds a park in the UK and if they opt to bring a seasonal Halloween Horror Nights event to this park once built.
A lot of things could happen, but there isn’t a Universal park on the planet right now that hasn’t brought forth a Halloween based scare attraction, so it’s safe to say that if Universal comes to the UK, then they will bring a Halloween Horror Nights attraction of some sort. Of course, this could also be done at a smaller scale, much like what Universal is building in Las Vegas with a specific year-round venue that will be focused entirely as an ever evolving scare/haunt themed attraction.
There is some great insight here as well about how “Scare” attractions in the UK are done, compared to how Universal has been doing things in the US market parks for the past several years in terms of trying to scare people. With that in mind, I will also say that if you’ve studied the kind of haunt experiences Universal has brought to the markets in Japan, Singapore and now China, they’ve evolved and modified those experiences to fit better into the culture, fears and phobias of those local markets. I have every reason to believe that Universal would continue to do so when the time came to build a scare attraction across the Atlantic… no matter if it is in the UK or in Spain if they opt to buy PortAventura.
(12/24/2023) After having a couple more days to process the idea of a Universal Studios park in the UK, I’ve also been hearing a number of comments about what kind of themed attractions people are hoping might come to the park.
In my first report I already covered a few of these ideas for you and in terms of the idea of bringing a Harry Potter attraction to this park, the answer I’m still hearing is that we shouldn’t expect this to happen. At least not on opening day… though this is very likely something that will be explored in a future expansion. As for the rest… well, it’s always a good idea to look at what Universal has built elsewhere, as there will likely some repeated themes that are very popular.
With this in mind, it may be best to look at Universal’s newest theme park, Universal Studios Beijing. This park features lands themed to Jurassic World, Transformers, Kung Fu Panda, Harry Potter and the Minions from Despicable Me, plus a version of the Waterworld stunt show. Lets skip over Potter for now, and Waterworld is never going to happen in the UK, so I’d like to think that the areas with the best chance to come over would be Minions, Jurassic and maybe Transformers. While Kung Fu Panda maybe possible, I’m thinking a more modern choice for the UK may perhaps be to follow in the footsteps of Epic Universal with something themed to How To Train Your Dragon. The fact that Universal is said to be working on a live-action version of How to Train Your Dragon that could hit theaters as early as 2025 only helps to back up this IP as a potential future contender. Another good possibility for a UK park would be to look into something with a Nintendo theme as well. If not another Super Nintendo World, then maybe a related property they haven’t used yet like Zelda or Pokemon.
In the end, I’m told that while there is enough land to go big, this park will be built at first on a more modest budget than compared to Epic Universe or even Universal Beijing. Again… we are rumored to be looking at a park opening with just four themed lands to start with. Again, I’m still hearing a goal is to bring some unique creations to life that would resonate to the local market, other than Harry Potter.
So what would it be? There are a number of ideas people immediately throw out when it comes to UK inspired entertainment IPs. Perhaps the biggest one people may expect right away could be James Bond. While Bond would be a huge win to get, I’ve also heard that the IP is fiercely protected by some current deals in place between MGM and Paramount that are likely to block any such plan. Other popular UK based IPs that could end up being popular in a park like this could be things like Paddington, Sherlock Holmes or even Dr. Who.
In the end, the idea would be to choose a mix of some proven IPs from the existing parks, while building some new and unique attractions custom designed for the new park in the UK so to give potential guests a reason to visit the UK and American parks. Again, another thing to consider is that they’ll want to have a good number of indoor attractions and locations to allow the park to function all year round.
Since we’ve got a long time to wait until they make up their mind about building the park at all, a lot of different concepts could be pitched and put into development, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
(12/22/2023) In the aftermath of the surprise confirmation that Universal may be considering building a theme park resort in the UK, they released an official statement to the local residents of Bedford. Included were some very open statements about the state of the project and their intentions.
Included in the letter was an introduction to the residents about the company and how Universal Destinations and Experiences was part of the greater Comcast Corporation. They confirmed that Comcast had already purchased the land, but that they were “in the very early stages of exploring the possibility of a potential park and resort experience at this location.” As such it may still ‘be many months before we decide whether to proceed with the project.”
“Our destinations around the world - from the United States to Japan and China - are beautifully designed and landscaped resorts that offer world-class service and feature immersive experiences that invite people to step into the stories they have imagined in their hearts and minds. They also create thousands of jobs and generate significant positive economic impact, both locally and further afield. We are also committed to enhancing natural beauty and protecting the ecology of the areas where we operate.”
So far they have been encouraged with the positive conversations they’ve had with various national and local stakeholders, including the Bedford Borough Council and Mayor. In an effort to continue to keep communication open with the community about the project, they have also launched an official website where updates will be posted going forward at www.universalukproject.co.uk.
You can read the rest of the letter in its entirety on the website, where it has also been posted for all to see.
(12/19/2023) In January 2023 Universal surprised the world when they confirmed that not only were they really working on the rumored Halloween Horror Nights attraction in Las Vegas, but a mini theme park for families with young children in Texas. While I had heard the rumors about the Haunt attraction for months, the Texas park was a complete surprise to me. A few months later one of my sources shared with me that Universal wasn’t done yet. The message passed on was that under Comcast’s ownership, Universal was ready to keep on expanding in a variety of ways, throughout the globe. This would take the form of micro focused attractions like HHN Las Vegas, ideas for Mini theme parks in new markets, and even plans to continue to grow the theme park empire with more new full sized theme parks as well.
While my gaze over the European market has been more focused in watching for signs of a potential purchase of the PortAventura theme park resort in Spain by Universal, the company surprised most of us again today by confirming that they are working up plans to build a new Universal theme park in England!
While it is too early to tell much, it was confirmed in the news by a spokesperson for Universal Destinations & Experience that the company has indeed purchased some property in Bedford, located about 60 miles north of central London and Heathrow Airport. It is worth noting that the location of the property has also been confirmed, and it has easy access from both highways as well as by rail service. (fun note for the Harry Potter fans, the train to Bedford from London loads at St Pancras International, just across the street from Kings Cross station)
The site chosen for the potential future “Universal Great Britain Resort” is said to consist of 480-acres, giving ample space for both a full scale theme park as well as resort properties. Universal has stated that while they have purchased the property, they have not yet committed to building a theme park there. Currently they are focused on the possibilities of what they could do, and are not yet ready to share their potential plans at this time.
With that in mind, we had already heard a few rumors about what might be built, as well as some comments about what they are NOT planning on building. For example, I’m told that we should not expect to see any Harry Potter themed attractions at this park, or at least not when it first opens. One major reason is that I believe the nearby Warner Bros. Studio Tour attractions may have an exclusive use of the Harry Potter IP when it comes to themed attractions.
It is also worth mentioning that I believe Universal wants this to be a year-round attraction, and with the region known for the potential of cold and wet weather, any potential theme park built here may have a heavy focus on indoor attraction spaces and dark rides. This isn’t to say that they won’t have some fun outdoor rides and roller coasters as well, I’m just saying to expect more indoor spaces. The all indoor Kung-Fu Panda land built for Universal Studios Beijing is a perfect example of something that Universal may attempt to build in the UK, that would allow for year-round operations.
While you can definitely expect to see some of Universal’s most well known IPs represented at this park, I’m also hearing that Universal has quietly been making deals with other studios to bring some potentially new attraction themes into this park. In particular, the park may have a couple of IPs that may really resonate with the local UK market. I don’t know if they’ve signed the final contracts for anything just yet, so I’m not going to say any one thing or another is locked in just yet, but I’m sure many of you can imagine some really good possibilities that would fit right in with a Universal style theme park experience, where you can “Ride the Movies”.